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2 Corinthians 8:8-12

8. I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love.

8. Non secundum imperium loquor, sed per aliorum sollicitudinem, et vestrae dilectionis sinceritatem approbans.

9. For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.

9. Nostis enim gratiam Domini nostri Iesu Christi, quod propter vos pauper factus sit, quum esset dives: ut vos illius paupertate ditesceretis.

10. And herein I give my advice: for this is expedient for you, who have begun before, not only to do, but also to be forward a year ago.

10. Et consilium in hoc do: nam hoc vobis conducit: qui quidem non solum facere, verum etiam velle coepistis anno superiore.

11. Now therefore perform the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to will, so there may be a performance also out of that which ye have.

11. Nunc autem etiam illud quod facere coepistis, perficite: ut quemadmodum voluntas prompta fuit, ita et perficiatis ex eo quod suppetit.

12. For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.

12. Etenim si iam adest animi promptitudo, ea iuxta id quod quisque possidet, accepta est: non iuxta id quod non possidet.


8. I speak not according to commandment Again he qualifies his exhortation, by declaring that he did not at all intend to compel them, as if he were imposing any necessity upon them, for that is to speak according to commandment, when we enjoin any thing definite, and peremptorily require that it shall be done. Should any one ask — “Was it not lawful for him to prescribe what he had by commandment of the Lord?” The answer is easy — that God, it is true, everywhere charges us to help the necessities of our brethren, but he nowhere specifies the sum; 669669     “Combien nous leur deuons donner;” — “How much we ought to give them.” that, after making a calculation, we might divide between ourselves and the poor. He nowhere binds us to circumstances of times, or persons, but calls us to take the rule of love as our guide.

At the same time, Paul does not here look to what is lawful for him, or unlawful, but says, that he does not command as if he reckoned that they required to be constrained by command and requirement, as though they refused to do their duty, unless shut up to it by necessity. He assigns, on the other hand, two reasons why he, notwithstanding, stirs them up to duty: first, Because the concern felt by him for the saints compels him to do so; and, secondly, Because he is desirous, that the love of the Corinthians should be made known to all. For I do not understand Paul to have been desirous to be assured of their love, (as to which he had already declared himself to be perfectly persuaded,) 670670     “Bien persuade et asseure;” — “Well persuaded and assured.” but he rather wished that all should have evidence of it. At the same time, the first clause in reference to the anxiety of others, admits of two meanings — either that he felt an anxiety as to the individuals, which did not allow him to be inactive, or that, yielding to the entreaties of others, who had the matter at heart, he spoke not so much from his own feeling, as at the suggestion of others.

9. For ye know the grace. Having made mention of love, he adduces Christ as an all perfect and singular pattern of it. “Though he was rich,” says he, “he resigned the possession of all blessings, that he might enrich us by his poverty.” He does not afterwards state for what purpose he makes mention of this, but leaves it to be considered by them; for no one can but perceive, that we are by this example stirred up to beneficence, that we may not spare ourselves, when help is to be afforded to our brethren.

Christ was rich, because he was God, under whose power and authority all things are; and farther, even in our human nature, which he put on, as the Apostle bears witness, (Hebrews 1:2; Hebrews 2:8,) he was the heir of all things, inasmuch as he was placed by his Father over all creatures, and all things were placed under his feet. He nevertheless became poor, because he refrained from possessing, and thus he gave up his right for a time. We see, what destitution and penury as to all things awaited him immediately on his coming from his mother’s womb. We hear what he says himself, (Luke 9:58,)

The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests: the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.

Hence he has consecrated poverty in his own person, that believers may no longer regard it with horror. By his poverty he has enriched us all for this purpose — that we may not feel it hard to take from our abundance what we may lay out upon our brethren.

10. And in this I give my advice. The advice he places in contrast with the commandment of which he had spoken a little before. (2 Corinthians 8:8.) “I merely point out what is expedient in the way of advising or admonishing.” Now this advantage is not perceived by the judgment of the flesh; for where is the man to be found, who is persuaded that it is of advantage to deprive himself of something with the view of helping others? It is, indeed, the saying of a heathen — “What you have given away is the only riches that you will always have; 671671     Calvin, it is to be observed, quotes the same sentiment, when commenting on 1 Corinthians 16:2, (see p. 69,) but in the present instance he takes occasion, most appropriately to his particular purpose, to notice the connection in which the poet introduces it, which is as follows: —
   “Callidus effracta nummos fur auferet arca;
Prosternet patrios impia flamma Lares.
Extra fortunam est, quicquid donatur amicis;
Quas dederis, solas semper habebis opes

   “The dexterous thief will break open your chest, and carry off your money; a fire, raised by a base incendiary, will lay in the dust your paternal mansion; but whatever has been given to friends is placed beyond all risk. What you have given away is the only wealth that you will always retain.” — MARTIAL, Ephesians 5:39-42.

   It is mentioned by Dr. Bennett, in his Lectures on Christ’s Preaching, (p. 104,) that on the tomb of Robert of Doncaster, there was the following inscription — “What I gave, I have; what I kept I lost.” — Ed.
but the reason is, that whatever is given to friends is placed beyond all risk.” The Lord, on the other hand, would not have us influenced by the hope of a reward, or of any remuneration in return, but, on the contrary, though men should be ungrateful, so that we may seem to have lost what we have given away, he would have us, not- withstanding, persevere in doing good. The advantage, however, arises from this — that

“He that giveth to the poor (as Solomon says in Proverbs 19:17) lendeth to the Lord,”

whose blessing, of itself, is to be regarded as a hundredfold more precious than all the treasures of the world. The word useful, however, is taken here to mean honorable, or at least Paul measures what is useful by what is honorable, because it would have been disgraceful to the Corinthians to draw back, or to stop short in the middle of the course, when they had already advanced so far. At the same time it would also have been useless, inasmuch as everything that they had attempted to do would have come short of acceptance in the sight of God.

Who had begun not only to do. As doing is more than willing, the expression may seem an improper one; but willing here is not taken simply, (as we commonly say,) but conveys the idea of spontaneous alacrity, that waits for no monitor. For there are three gradations, so to speak, as to acting. First, we sometimes act unwillingly, but it is from shame or fear. Secondly, we act willingly, but at the same time it is from being either impelled, or induced from influence, apart from our own minds. Thirdly, we act from the prompting of our own minds, when we of our own accord set ourselves to do what is becoming. Such cheerfulness of anticipation is better than the actual performance of the deed. 672672     “Vne telle promptitude de s’auancer a faire sans estre incite ou aduerti d’ailleurs, est plus que le faict mesme;” — “Such promptitude in being forward to act, without requiring to be stirred up or admonished by any one, is more than the deed itself”

11. Now what ye have begun to do. It is probable, that the ardor of the Corinthians had quickly cooled down: otherwise they would, without any delay, have prosecuted their purpose. The Apostle, however, as though no fault had as yet been committed, gently admonishes them to complete, what had been well begun.

When he adds — from what you have, he anticipates an objection; for the flesh is always ingenious in finding out subterfuges. Some plead that they have families, which it were inhuman to neglect; others, on the ground that they cannot give much, make use of this as a pretext for entire exemption. Could I give so small a sum? All excuses of this nature Paul removes, when he commands every one to contribute according to the measure of his ability. He adds, also, the reason: that God looks to the heart — not to what is given, for when he says, that readiness of mind is acceptable to God, according to the individual’s ability, his meaning is this — “If from slender resources you present some small sum, your disposition is not less esteemed in the sight of God, than in the case of a rich man’s giving a large sum from his abundance. (Mark 12:44.) For the disposition is not estimated according to what you have not, that is, God does by no means require of thee, that thou coldest contribute more than thy resources allow.” In this way none are excused; for the rich, on the one hand, owe to God a larger offering, and the poor, on the other hand, ought not to be ashamed of their slender resources.

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