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THE SECOND EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS - Chapter 1 - Verse 24
Verse 24. Not for that we have dominion, etc. The sense of this passage I take to be this: "The course which we have pursued has been chosen, not because we wish to lord it over your faith, to control your belief, but because we desired to promote your happiness. had the former been our object, had we wished to set up a lordship or dominion over you, we should have come to you with our apostolical authority, and in the severity of apostolic discipline. We had power to command obedience, and to control your faith. But we chose not to do it. Our object was to promote your highest happiness. We, therefore, chose the mildest and gentlest manner possible; we did not exercise authority in discipline, we sent an affectionate and tender letter." While the apostles had the right to prescribe the articles of belief, and to propound the doctrines of God, yet they would not do even that in such a manner as to seem to "lord it over God's heritage," (ou kurieuomen;) they did not set up absolute authority, or prescribe the things to be believed in a lordly and imperative manner; nor would they make use of the severity of power to enforce what they taught. They appealed to reason; they employed persuasion; they made use of light and love to accomplish their desires.
Are helpers of your joy. This is our main object, to promote your joy. This object we have pursued in our plans; and in order to secure this, we forbore to come to you, when, if we did come at that time, we should have given occasion perhaps to the charge that we sought to lord it over your faith.
This seems to be a kind of proverbial expression, stating a general truth, that it was by faith that Christians were to be established or confirmed. The connexion here requires us to understand this as a reason why he would not attempt to lord it over their faith; or to exercise dominion over them. That reason was, that thus far they had stood firm, in the main, in the faith, (1 Co 15:1;) they had adhered to the truths of the gospel, and in a special manner now, in yielding obedience to the commands and entreaties of Paul in the first epistle, they had showed that they were in the faith, and firm in the faith. "It was not necessary or proper, therefore, for him to attempt to exercise lordship over their belief; but all that was needful was to help forward their joy, for they were firm in the faith. We may observe,
(1.) that it is a part of the duty of ministers to help forward the joy of Christians.
(2.) This should be the object even in administering discipline and reproof.
(3.) If even Paul would not attempt to lord it over the faith of Christians, to establish a domination over their belief, how absurd and wicked is it for uninspired ministers now— for individual ministers, for conferences, conventions, presbyteries, synods, councils, or for the pope—to attempt to establish a spiritual dominion in controlling the faith of men. The great evils in the church have arisen from their attempting to do what Paul would not do; from attempting to establish a dominion which Paul never sought, and which Paul would have abhorred. Faith must be free, and religion must be free, or they cannot exist at all.
REMARKS on 2nd Corinthians Chapter One
In view of this chapter we may remark,
(1.) God is the only true and real source of comfort in times of trial, 2 Co 1:3. It is from him that all real consolation must come, and he only can meet and sustain the soul when it is borne down with calamity. All persons are subjected to trial, and, at some periods of their lives, to severe trial, Sickness is a trial; the death of a friend is a trial; the loss of property or health, disappointment, and reproach, and slander, and poverty, and want, are trials to which we are all more or less exposed. In these trials, it is natural to look to some source of consolation; some way in which they may be borne. Some seek consolation in philosophy, and endeavour to blunt their feelings and destroy their sensibilities, as the ancient stoics did. But "to destroy sensibility is not to produce comfort." —Dr. Mason. Some plunge deep into pleasures, and endeavour to drown their sorrows in the intoxicating draught; but this is not to produce comfort to the soul, even were it possible in such pleasures to forget their sorrows. Such were the ancient epicureans. Some seek consolation in their surviving friends, and look to them to comfort and sustain the sinking heart. But the arm of an earthly friend is feeble, when God lays his hand upon us. It is only the hand that smites that can heal; only the God that sends the affliction that can bind up the broken spirit. He is the "Father or mercies," and he "the God of ALL consolation;" and in affliction there is no true comfort but in him.
(2.) This consolation in God is derived from many sources.
(a.) He is the "Father of mercies," and we may be assured, therefore, that he does nothing inconsistent with MERCY.
(b.) We may be assured that he is right—always right—and that he does nothing but right. We may not be able to see the reason of his doings, but we may have the assurance that it is all right, and will yet be seen to be right.
(c.) There is comfort in the fact that our afflictions are ordered by an intelligent Being, by one who is all-wise and all-knowing. They are not the result of blind chance; but they are ordered by one who is wise to know what ought to be done, and who is so just that he will do nothing wrong. There could be no consolation in the feeling that mere chance directed our trials; nor can there be consolation except in the feeling that a Being of intelligence and goodness directs and orders all. The true comfort, therefore, is to be found in religion, not in atheism and philosophy.
(3.) It is possible to bless God in the midst of trials, and as the result of trial. It is possible so clearly to see his hand, and to be so fully satisfied with the wisdom and goodness of his dealings, even when we are severely afflicted, as to see that he is worthy of our highest confidence and most exalted praise, 2 Co 1:3. God may be seen, then, to be the "Father of mercies;" and he may impart, even then, a consolation which we never experienced in the days of prosperity. Some of the purest and most elevated joys known upon earth, are experienced in the very midst of outward calamities; and the most sincere and elevated thanksgivings which are offered to God, are often those which are the result of sanctified afflictions. It is when we are brought out from such trials, where we have experienced the rich consolations and the sustaining power of the gospel, that we are most disposed to say with Paul, "Blessed be God;" and can most clearly see that he is the "Father of mercies." No Christian will ever have occasion to regret the trials through which God has brought him. I never knew a sincere Christian who was not finally benefited by trials.
(4.) Christian joy is not apathy, it is comfort, 2 Co 1:4,6. It is not insensibility to suffering; it is not stoical indifference. The Christian feels his sufferings as keenly as others. The Lord Jesus was as sensitive to suffering as any one of the human family ever was; he was as susceptible of emotion from reproach, contempt, and scorn, and he as keenly felt the pain of the scourge, the nails, and the cross, as any one could. But there is positive joy, there is true and solid comfort. There is substantial, pure, and elevated happiness, Religion does not blunt the feelings, or destroy the sensibility, but it brings in consolations which enable us to bear our pains, and to endure persecution without murmuring. In this, religion differs from all systems of philosophy. The one attempts to blunt and destroy our sensibilities to suffering; the other, while it makes us more delicate and tender in our feelings, gives consolation adapted to that delicate sensibility, and fitted to sustain the soul, notwithstanding the acuteness of its sufferings.
(5.) Ministers of the gospel may expect to be peculiarly tried and afflicted, 2 Co 1:5. So it was with Paul and his fellow-apostles; and so it has been since. They are the special objects of the hatred of sinners, as they stand in the way of the sinful pursuits and pleasures of the world; and they are, like their Master, especially hated by the enemy of souls. Besides, they are, by their office, required to minister consolation to others who are afflicted; and it is so ordered in the providence of God, that they are subjected to peculiar trials often, in order that they may be able to impart peculiar consolations. They are to be the examples and the guides of the church of God; and God takes care that they shall be permitted to show by their example, as well as by their preaching, the supporting power of the gospel in times of trial.
(6.) If we suffer much in the cause of the Redeemer, we may also expect much consolation, 2 Co 2:5. Christ will take care that our hearts shall be filled with joy and peace. As our trials in his cause are, so shall our consolations be. If we suffer much, we shall enjoy much; if we are persecuted much, we shall have much support; if our names, are cast out among men for his sake, we shall have increasing evidence that they are written in his book of life. There are things in the Christian religion which can be learned only in the furnace of affliction; and he who has never been afflicted on account of his attachment to Christ, is a stranger yet to much, very much of the fulness and beauty of that system of religion which has been appointed by the Redeemer, and to much, very much, of the beauty and power of the promises of the Bible. No man will ever understand all the Bible who is not favoured with much persecution and many trials.
(7.) We should be willing to suffer, 2 Co 1:3-5. If we are willing to be happy, we should also be willing to suffer. If we desire to be happy in religion, we should be willing to suffer. If we expect to be happy, we should also be willing to endure much. Trials fit us for enjoyment here, as well as for heaven hereafter.
God designs that we should thus be mutual aids. And he comforts a pastor in his trials, that he may, by his own experience, be able to minister consolation to the people of his charge; he comforts a parent, that he may administer consolation to his children; a friend, that he may comfort a friend. He who attempts to administer consolation should be able to speak from experience; and ,God, therefore, afflicts and comforts all his people, that they may know how to administer consolation to those with whom they are connected.
(9.) If we have experienced peculiar consolations ourselves in times of trial, we are under obligations to seek out and comfort others who are afflicted. So Paul felt. We should feel that God has qualified us for this work; and having qualified us for it, that he calls on us to do it. The consolation which God gives in affliction is a rich treasure which we are bound to impart to others; the experience which we have of the true sources of consolation is an inestimable talent which we are to use for the promotion of his glory. No man has a talent for doing more direct good than he who can go to the afflicted, and bear testimony, from his own experience, to the goodness of God. And every man who can testify that God is good, and is able to support the soul in times of trial,—and what Christian cannot do it who has ever been afflicted?—should regard himself as favoured with a peculiar talent for doing good, and should rejoice in the privilege of using it to the glory of God. For there is no talent more honourable than that of being able to promote the Divine glory, to comfort the afflicted, or to be able, from personal experience, to testify that God is good—always good. "The power of doing good, always implies an obligation to do it."—Cotton Mather.
(10.) In this chapter, we have a case of a near contemplation of death, 2 Co 1:8,9. Paul expected soon to die. He had the sentence of death in himself. He saw no human probability of escape. He was called, therefore, calmly to look death in the face, and to contemplate it as an event certain and near. Such a condition is deeply interesting; it is the important crisis of life. And yet it is an event which all must soon contemplate. We all, in a short period, each one for himself, must look upon death as certain, and as near to us; as an event in which we are personally interested, and from which we cannot escape. Much as we may turn away from it in health, and unanxious as we may be then in regard to it, yet by no possibility can we long avert our minds from the subject. It is interesting, then, to inquire how Paul felt when he looked at death; how we should feel; and how we actually shall feel when we come to die.
(11.) A contemplation of death as near and certain, is fitted to lead us to trust in God. This was the effect in the case of Paul, 2 Co 1:9. He had learned in health to put his trust in him; and now, when the trial was apparently near, he had nowhere else to go, and he confided in him alone. He felt that if he was rescued, it could be only by the interposition of God; and that there was none but God who could sustain him if he should die. And what event can there be that is so well fitted to lead us to trust in God as death And where else can we go in view of that dark hour? For
(a.) we know not what death is. We have not tried it; nor do we know what grace may be necessary for us in those unknown pangs and sufferings; in that deep darkness, and that sad gloom.
(b.) Our friends cannot aid us then. They will, they must, then give us the parting hand; and as we enter the shades of the dark valley, they must bid us farewell. The skill of the physician then will fail Our worldly friends will forsake us when we come to die. They do not love to be in the room of death, and they can give us no consolation if they are there. Our pious friends cannot attend us far in the dark valley. They may pray, and commend us to God, but even they must leave us to die alone. Who but God can attend us? Who but he can support us then?
(c.) God only knows what is beyond death. How do we know the way to his bar, to his presence, to his heaven? How can we direct our own steps in that dark and unknown world? None but God our Saviour can guide us there; none else can conduct us to his abode.
(d.) None but God can sustain us in the pain, the anguish, the feebleness, the sinking of the powers of body and of mind in that distressing hour. He can uphold us then; and it is an unspeakable privilege to be permitted then, "when heart and flesh faint," to say of him, God is the strength of our heart, and our portion for ever, Ps 73:26.
(12.) We should regard a restoration from dangerous sickness, and from imminent peril of death, as a kind of resurrection. So Paul regarded it, 2 Co 1:9. We should remember how easy it would have been for God to have removed us; how rapidly we were tending to the grave; how certainly we should have descended there, but for his interposition. We should feel, therefore, that we owe our lives to him as really and entirely as though we had been raised up from the dead; and that the same kind of power and goodness have been evinced as would have been had God given us life anew. Life is God's gift; and every instance of recovery from peril, or from dangerous illness, is as really an interposition of his mercy as though we had been raised up from the dead.
(13.) We should, in like manner, regard a restoration of our friends from dangerous sickness, or peril of any kind, as a species of resurrection from the dead. When a parent, a husband, a wife, or a child has been dangerously ill, or exposed to some imminent danger, and has been recovered, we cannot but feel that the recovery is entirely owing to the interposition of God. With infinite ease he could have consigned them to the grave; and had he not mercifully interposed, they would have died. As they were originally his gift to us, so we should regard each interposition of that kind as a new gift, and receive the recovered and restored friend as a fresh gift from his hand.
(14.) We should feel that lives thus preserved, and thus recovered from danger, belong to God. He has preserved them. In the most absolute sense they belong to him, and to him they should be consecrated. So Paul felt; and his whole life shows how entirely he regarded himself as bound to devote a life often preserved in the midst of peril, to the service of his kind Benefactor. There is no claim more absolute than that which God has on those whom he has preserved from dangerous situations, or whom he has raised up from the borders of the grave. All the strength which he has imparted, all the talent, learning, skill which he has thus preserved, should be regarded in the most absolute sense as his, and should be honestly and entirely consecrated to him. But for him we should have died; and he has a right to our services and obedience, which is entire, and which should be felt to be perpetual. And it may be added, that the right is not less clear and strong to the service of those whom he keeps without their being exposed to such peril, or raised up from such beds of sickness. A very few only of the interpositions of God in our behalf are seen by us. A small part of the perils to which we may be really exposed are seen. And it is no less owing to his preserving care that we are kept in health, and strength, and in the enjoyment of reason, than it is that we are raised up from dangerous sickness. Man is as much bound to devote himself to God for preserving him from sickness and danger, as he is for raising him up when he has been sick, and defending him in danger.
(15.) We have here an instance of the principle on which Paul acted, 2 Co 1:12. In his aims, and in the manner of accomplishing his aims, he was guided only by the principles of simplicity and sincerity, and by the grace of God. He had no sinister and worldly purpose; he had no crooked and subtle policy by which to accomplish his purposes. He sought simply the glory of God and the salvation of man; and he sought this in a manner plain, direct, honest, and straightforward. He admitted none of the principles of worldly policy which have been so often acted on since in the church; he knew nothing of "pious frauds," which have so often disgraced the professed friends of the Redeemer; he admitted no form of deception and delusion, even for the promotion of objects which were great, and good, and desirable. He knew that all that ought to be done could be accomplished by straightforward and simple-hearted purposes; and that a cause which depended on the carnal and crooked policy of the world was a bad cause; and that such policy would ultimately ruin the best of causes. How happy would it have been if these views had always prevailed in the church!
(16.) We see the value of a good conscience, 2 Co 1:12. Paul had the testimony of an enlightened conscience to the correctness and uprightness of his course of life everywhere. He felt assured that his aims had been right; and that he had endeavoured in all simplicity and sincerity to pursue a course of life which such a conscience would approve. Such a testimony, such an approving conscience, is of inestimable value. It is worth more than gold, and crowns, and all that the earth can give. When like Paul we are exposed to peril, or trial, or calamity, it matters little, if we have an approving conscience. When like him we are persecuted, it matters little, if we have the testimony of our own minds that we have pursued an upright and an honest course of life. When like him we look death in the face, and feel that we "have the sentence of death in ourselves," of what inestimable value then will be an approving conscience! How unspeakable the consolation if we can look back then on a life spent in conscious integrity—a life spent in endeavouring to promote the glory of God and the salvation of the world!
(17.) Every Christian should feel himself sacredly bound to maintain a character of veracity, 2 Co 1:19,20. Christ was always true to his word; and all that God has promised shall be certainly fulfilled. And as a Christian is a professed follower of Him who was "the Amen and the true witness," he should feel himself bound by the most sacred obligations to adhere to all his promises, and to fulfil all his word. No man can do any good who is not a man of truth; and in no way can Christians more dishonour their profession, and injure the cause of the Redeemer, than by a want of character for unimpeachable veracity. If they make promises which are never fulfilled; if they state that as true which is not true; if they overload their narratives with circumstances which had no existence; if they deceive and defraud others; and if they are so loose in their statements that no one believes them, it is impossible for them to do good in their Christian profession. Every Christian should have—as he easily may have—such a character for veracity that every man shall put implicit confidence in all his promises and statements; so implicit that they shall deem his word as good as an oath, and his promise as certain as though it were secured by notes and bonds in the most solemn manner. The word of a Christian should need no strengthening by oaths and bonds; it should be such that it could really not be strengthened by anything that notes and bonds could add to it.
(18.) All Christians should regard themselves as consecrated to God, 2 Co 1:21. They have been anointed, or set apart to his service. They should feel that they are as really set apart to his service as the ancient prophets, priests, and kings were to their appropriate offices by the ceremony of anointing. They belong to God, and are under every sacred and solemn obligation to live to him, and him alone.
(19.) It is an inestimable privilege to be a Christian, 2 Co 1:21,22. It is regarded as a privilege to be an heir to an estate, and to have an assurance that it will be ours. But the Christian has an "earnest," a pledge, that heaven is his. He is anointed of God; he is sealed for heaven. Heaven is his home; and God is giving to him daily evidence in his own experience that he will soon be admitted to its pure and blissful abodes.
(20.) The joys of the Christian on earth are of the same nature as the joys of heaven. These comforts are an "earnest" of the future inheritance; a part of that which the Christian is to enjoy for ever. His joys on earth are "heaven begun;" and all that is needful to constitute heaven is that these joys should be expanded and perpetuated. There will be no other heaven than that which would be constituted by the expanded joys of a Christian.
(21.) No one is a Christian, no one is fitted for heaven, who has not such principles and joys as being fully expanded and developed would constitute heaven. The joys of heaven are not to be created for us as some new thing; they are not to be such as we have had no foretaste, no conception of; but they are to be such as will be produced of necessity, by removing imperfection from the joys and feelings of the believer, and carrying them out without alloy, and without interruption, and without end. The man, therefore, who has such a character that, if fairly developed, would not constitute the joys of heaven, is not a Christian. He has no evidence that he has been born again; and all his joys are fancied and delusive.
(22.) Christians should be careful not to grieve the Holy Spirit. Comp. Eph 4:30. It is by that Spirit that they are "anointed" and "sealed," and it is by his influences that they have the earnest of their future inheritance. All good influences on their minds proceed from that Spirit; and it should be their high and constant aim not to grieve him. By no course of conduct, by no conversation, by no impure thought, should they drive that Spirit from their minds. All their peace and joy is dependent on their cherishing his sacred influences; and by all the means in their power they should strive to secure his constant agency on their souls.
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