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Ministers of the New Covenant
Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Surely we do not need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you or from you, do we?
1. Do we begin It appears that this objection also was brought forward against him — that he was excessively fond of publishing his own exploits, and brought against him, too, by those who were grieved to find that the fame, which they were eagerly desirous to obtain, was effectually obstructed in consequence of his superior excellence. They had already, in my opinion, found fault with the former Epistle, on this ground, that he indulged immoderately in commendations of himself. To commend here means to boast foolishly and beyond measure, or at least to recount one’s own praises in a spirit of ambition. Paul’s calumniators had a plausible pretext — that it is a disgusting 359359 “Mal sonnante aux aureilles;” — “Sounding offensively to the ears.” and odious thing in itself for one to be the trumpeter of his own praises. Paul, however, had an excuse on the ground of necessity, inasmuch as he gloried, only because he was shut up to it. His design also raised him above all calumny, as he had nothing in view but that the honor of his apostleship might remain unimpaired for the edification of the Church; for had not Christ’s honor been infringed upon, he would readily have allowed to pass unnoticed what tended to detract from his own reputation. Besides, he saw that it was very much against the Corinthians, that his authority was lessened among them. In the first place, therefore, he brings forward their calumny, letting them know that he is not altogether ignorant as to the kind of talk, that was current among them.
Have we need? The answer is suited (to use a common expression) to the person rather than to the thing, though we shall find him afterwards saying as much as was required in reference to the thing itself. At present, however, he reproves their malignity, inasmuch as they were displeased, if he at any time reluctantly, nay even when they themselves constrained him, made mention of the grace that God had bestowed upon him, while they were themselves begging in all quarters for epistles, that were stuffed entirely with flattering commendations. He says that he has no need of commendation in words, while he is abundantly commended by his deeds. On the other hand, he convicts them of a greedy desire for glory, inasmuch as they endeavored to acquire favor through the suffrages of men. 360360 “Par la faueur et recommandation des hommes;” — “By the favor and recommendation of men.” In this manner, he gracefully and appropriately repels their calumny. We must not, however, infer from this, that it is absolutely and in itself wrong to receive recommendations, 361361 “Letres recommandatoires;” — “Recommendatory letters.” provided you make use of them for a good purpose. For Paul himself recommends many; and this he would not have done had it been unlawful. Two things, however, are required here — first, that it be not a recommendation that is elicited by flattery, but an altogether unbiassed testimony; 362362 “Enucleatum testimonium;” — “Vn vray tesmoignage rendu d’vn iugement entier auec prudence et en verite;” — “A true testimony, given with solid judgment, with prudence, and with truth.” Cicero makes use of a similar expression, which Calvin very probably had in his eye — “Enucleata suffragia;” — “Votes given judiciously, and with an unbiassed judgment.” — (Cic. Planc. 4.) — Ed. and secondly, that it be not given for the purpose of procuring advancement for the individual, but simply that it may be the means of promoting the advancement of Christ’s kingdom. For this reason, I have observed, that Paul has an eye to those who had assailed him with calumnies.
2. Ye are our Epistle. There is no little ingenuity in his making his own glory hinge upon the welfare of the Corinthians. “So long as you shall remain Christians, I shall have recommendation enough. For your faith speaks my praise, as being the seal of my apostleship.” (1 Corinthians 9:2.)
When he says — written in our hearts, this may be understood in reference to Silvanus and Timotheus, and in that case the meaning will be: “We are not contented with this praise, that we derive from the thing itself. The recommendations, that others have, fly about before the eyes of men, but this, that we have, has its seat in men’s consciences.” It may also be viewed as referring in part to the Corinthians, in this sense: “Those that obtain recommendations by dint of entreaty, have not in the conscience what they carry about written upon paper, and those that recommend others often do so rather by way of favor than from judgment. We, on the other hand, have the testimony of our apostleship, on this side and on that, engraven on men’s hearts.”
Which is known and read It might also be read — “Which is known and acknowledged,” owing to the ambiguity of the word ἀναγινωσκεσαι, 363363 Calvin has had occasion to notice the double signification of this word when commenting on 2 Corinthians 1:13. An instance of the ambiguity of the word occurs in Matthew 24:15, where the words ὁ ἀναγινώσκων νοείτω are understood by Kypke as the words, not of the evangelist, but of Christ, and as meaning — “He who recognises this, (that is, the completion of Daniel’s prophecy by the ‘abomination of desolation standing where it ought not,’) let him take notice and reflect, while most other interpreters consider the words in question as an admonition of the evangelist to the reader — “Let him that readeth understand or take notice.” — Ed. and I do not know but that the latter might be more suitable. I was unwilling, however, to depart from the common rendering, when not constrained to do so. Only let the reader have this brought before his view, that he may consider which of the two renderings is the preferable one. If we render it acknowledged, there will be an implied contrast between an epistle that is sure and of unquestionable authority, and such as are counterfeit. 364364 “Celles qui sont attitrees et faites à plaisir;” — “Such as are procured by unfair means, and are made to suit convenience.” And, unquestionably, what immediately follows, is rather on the side of the latter rendering, for he brings forward the Epistle of Christ, in contrast with those that are forged and pretended.