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4. Treasures in Jars of Clay
1Therefore seeing we have this ministry, even as we obtained mercy, we faint not: 2but we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by the manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. 3And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled in them that perish: 4in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should not dawn upon them. 5For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. 6Seeing it is God, that said, Light shall shine out of darkness, who shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 7But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the exceeding greatness of the power may be of God, and not from ourselves; 8we are pressed on every side, yet not straitened; perplexed, yet not unto despair; 9pursued, yet not forsaken; smitten down, yet not destroyed; 10always bearing about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be manifested in our body. 11For we who live are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12So then death worketh in us, but life in you. 13But having the same spirit of faith, according to that which is written, I believed, and therefore did I speak; we also believe, and therefore also we speak; 14knowing that he that raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also with Jesus, and shall present us with you. 15For all things are for your sakes, that the grace, being multiplied through the many, may cause the thanksgiving to abound unto the glory of God. 16Wherefore we faint not; but though our outward man is decaying, yet our inward man is renewed day by day. 17For our light affliction, which is for the moment, worketh for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory; 18while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.
1. Having this ministry. He now returns to a commendation of himself personally, from which he had digressed into a general discussion, in reference to the dignity of the gospel. As, therefore, he has been treating of the nature of the gospel, so he now shows how faithful and upright a minister of it he is. He has previously shown, what is the true gospel of Christ. He now shows what he preaches to be such. “Having,” says he, “this ministry” — that ministry, the excellence of which he had extolled in terms so magnificent, and the power and usefulness of which he had so abundantly shown forth. Hence, in order that he may not seem to extol himself too much, he premises that it was not by his own efforts, or by his own merits, that he had reached such a pinnacle of honor, but had been led forward by the mercy of God exclusively. Now there was more implied in making the mercy of God the reason of his Apostleship, than if he had attributed it to the grace of God. We faint not 423423 Instead of οὐκ ἐκκακοῦμεν, we faint not, ἐγκακοῦμεν, we act not wickedly, is the reading of ADFG, and some others. Wakefield thinks it the genuine reading; it certainly makes a very good sense with what goes before and what follows. If we follow this reading, the whole verse may be read thus — ‘Wherefore, as we have obtained mercy, or been graciously entrusted, ἠλεήθημεν, with this ministry, we do not act wickedly, but have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty.” — Dr. A. Clarke. — Ed. that is, we are not deficient in our duty, 424424 “Nous n’omettons rien de ce qui est de nostre office;” — “We do not omit any thing of what belongs to our office.” so as not to discharge it with fidelity.
2. But renounce the hidden things. While he commends his own sincerity, 425425 “Sa droiture et syncerite;” — “His own uprightness and sincerity.” he, on the other hand, indirectly reproves the false Apostles, who, while they corrupted by their ambition the genuine excellence of the gospel, were, nevertheless, desirous of exclusive distinction. Hence the faults, from which he declares himself to be exempt, he indirectly imputes to them. By the hidden things of disgrace, or concealments, some understand the shadows of the Mosaic law. Chrysostom understands the expression to mean the vain show, by which they endeavored to recommend themselves. I understand by it — all the disguises, with which they adulterated the pure and native beauty of the gospel. For as chaste and virtuous women, satisfied with the gracefulness of natural beauty, do not resort to artificial adornings, while harlots never think themselves sufficiently adorned, unless they have corrupted nature, so Paul glories in having set forth the pure gospel, while others set forth one that was disguised, and covered over with unseemly additions. For as they were ashamed of the simplicity of Christ, or at least could not have distinction 426426 “Ne pouuoyent pas estre excellens et en estime;” — “Could not be eminent, and be held in estimation.” from true excellencies of Apostles, they framed a new gospel, not unlike a profane philosophy, swelled up with empty bombast, while altogether devoid of the efficacy of the Spirit. Spurious ornaments of this nature, 427427 “Ces couleurs fausses, et ces desguisemens;” — “Those false colors, and those disguises.” by which the gospel is disfigured, he calls the concealments of disgrace, because the nakedness of those, who have recourse to concealments and disguises, must of necessity be dishonorable and disgraceful.
As to himself, he says that he rejects or disdains disguises, because Christ’s face, the more that it is seen opened up to view in his preaching, shines forth so much the more gloriously. I do not, however, deny, that he alludes at the same time to the veil of Moses, (Exodus 34:33,) of which he had made mention, but he ascribes a quite different veil to the false Apostles. For Moses covered his face, because the excessive brightness of the glory of the law could not be endured by tender and blear eyes. They, 428428 “Les faux apostres;” — “The false apostles.” on the other hand, put on a veil by way of ornament. Besides, as they would be despicable, nay, infamous, if the simplicity of the gospel shone forth, they, on this account, hide their shame under ever so many cloaks and masks.
Not walking in craftiness. There can be no doubt, that the false Apostles delighted themselves greatly in the craftiness that Paul reproves, as though it had been a distinguished excellence, as we see even at this day some, even of those who profess the gospel, who would rather be esteemed subtile than sincere, and sublime rather than solid, while in the mean time all their refinement is mere childishness. But what would you do? It delights them to have a name for acuteness, and they have, under that pretext, applause among the ignorant. 429429 “Enuers les gens simples, et qui ne scauent pas iuger des choses;” — “Among simple people, and those that do not know how to judge of things.” We learn, however, in what estimation Paul holds this appearance of excellence. Craftiness he declares to be unworthy of Christ’s servants.
As to what follows — nor handling deceitfully — I am not sure that this sufficiently brings out Paul’s meaning; for the verb δολοῦν does not so properly mean acting fraudulently, as what is called falsifying 430430 The verb δολοῦν is applied by Lucian (in Hermot. 59) to vintners adulterating wine, in which sense it is synonymous with καπηλέυειν, made use of by Paul in 2 Corinthians 2:17. Beza’s rendering of the clause exactly corresponds with the one to which Calvin gives the preference — “Neque falsantes sermonem Dei;” — “Nor falsifying the word of God.” Tyndale (1534) renders the clause thus — “Nether corrupte we the worde of God.” The rendering in the Rheims version (1582) is — “Nor adulterating the word of God.” — Ed. as horse-jockeys 431431 “Et frippiers;” — “And brokers.” are wont to do. In this passage, at least, it is placed in contrast with upright preaching, agreeably to what follows.
But by manifestation of the truth He claims to himself this praise — that he had proclaimed the pure doctrine of the gospel in simplicity and without disguise, and has the consciences of all as witnesses of this in the sight of God. As he has placed the manifestation of the truth in contrast with the disguised 432432 “Fardee et desguisee;” — “Painted and disguised” doctrine of the sophists, so he appeals the decision to their consciences, and to the judgment-seat of God, whereas they abused the mistaken judgment of men, or their corrupt affection, and were not so desirous to be in reality worthy of praise as they were eager to appear so. Hence we infer, that there is a contrast here between the consciences of men and their ears. Let the servants of Christ, therefore, reckon it enough to have approved their integrity to the consciences of men in the sight of God, and pay no regard to the corrupt inclinations of men, or to popular applause.
3. But if our gospel is hid It might have been an easy thing to pour calumny upon what he had said as to the clearness of his preaching, because he had many adversaries. That calumny he repels with stern authority, for he threatens all who do not acknowledge the power of his gospel, and warns them that this is a token of reprobation and ruin. “Should any one affirm that he does not perceive that manifestation of Christ of which I boast, he clearly shows himself, by this very token, to be a reprobate, 433433 “Il ne pourra mieux monstrer signe de sa reprobation, que par la;” — “He could not give a clearer evidence of his reprobation than this.” for my sincerity in the work of instructing 434434 “La syncerite et droiture que ie tien a enseigner;” — “The sincerity and uprightness that I maintain in teaching.” is clearly and distinctly perceived by all that have eyes. Those, therefore, from whom it is hid, must be blind, and destitute of all rational understanding.” The sum is this — that the blindness of unbelievers detracts nothing from the clearness of his gospel; for the sun is not less resplendent, that the blind do not perceive his light. 435435 See Calvin on Corinthians, vol.1, p. 116. — Ed
But some one will say that this applies equally to the law, for in itself it is a lamp 436436 “Vne lanterne ardente;” — “A lantern burning.” to guide our feet, (Psalm 119:105,) enlightens the eyes, (Psalm 19:8,) etc., and is hid only from those that perish. I answer that, when Christ is included in the law, the sun shines forth through the midst of the clouds, so that men have light enough for their use; but when Christ is disjoined from it, there is nothing left but darkness, or a false appearance of light, that dazzles men’s eyes instead of assisting them. It is, however, a token of great confidence, that he ventures to regard as reprobates all that reject his doctrine. It is befitting, however, that all that would be looked upon as ministers of God’s word should be endued with the like confidence, that with a fearless confidence they may unhesitatingly summon all the adversaries of their doctrine to the judgment-seat of God, that they may bring thence a sure condemnation.
4. Whose minds the god of this world He intimates, that no account should be made of their perverse obstinacy. “They do not see,” says he, “the sun at mid-day, because the devil has blinded their understandings.” No one that judges rightly can have any doubt, that it is of Satan that the Apostle speaks. Hilary, as he had to do with Arians, who abused this passage, so as to make it a pretext for denying Christ’s true divinity, while they at the same time confessed him to be God, twists the text in this way — “God hath blinded the understandings of this world.” In this he was afterwards followed by Chrysostom, with the view of not conceding to the Manicheans their two first principles. 437437 The Manicheans, so called from Manes their founder, held the doctrine of two first principles, a good and an evil, thinking to account in this way for the origin of evil. See Calvin’s Institutes, volume 1 — Ed. What influenced Ambrose does not appear. Augustine had the same reason as Chrysostom, having to contend with the Manicheans.
We see what the heat of controversy does in carrying on disputes. Had all those men calmly read Paul’s words, it would never have occurred to any one of them to twist them in this way into a forced meaning; but as they were harassed by their opponents, they were more concerned to refute them, than to investigate Paul’s meaning. But what occasion was there for this? For the subterfuge of the Arians was childish — that if the devil is called the god of this world, the name of God, as applied to Christ, does not express a true, eternal, and exclusive divinity. For Paul says elsewhere, many are called gods, (1 Corinthians 8:5;) but David, on the other hand, sings forth — the gods of the nations are demons. 438438 “Les dieux des Gentils sont diables;” — “The gods of the Gentiles are devils.” Calvin here, as in many other instances, quotes according to the sense, not according to the words. The passage referred to is rendered by Calvin — “All the gods of the nations are vanities,” (“ou, idoles,” “or idols,”) the Hebrew word being, as he notices, אלילים, (elilim,) mere nothings, (1 Corinthians 8:4,) instead of אלהים, (elohim,) gods. (See Calvin on the Psalms, vol. 4, pp. 50, 51.) There can be no doubt that Calvin, in quoting this passage here, has an eye to what is stated by Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:20. — Ed. (Psalm 96:5.) When, therefore, the devil is called the god of the wicked, on the ground of his having dominion over them, and being worshipped by them in the place of God, what tendency has this to detract from the honor of Christ? And as to the Manicheans, this appellation gives no more countenance to the Manicheans, than when he is called the prince of this world. (John 14:30.) 439439 Calvin, when commenting on the passage referred to, remarks, that “the devil is called the prince of this world, not because he has a kingdom separated from God, (as the Manicheans imagined,) but because, by God’s permission, he exercises his tyranny over the world.” — Calvin on John, volume 2. — Ed.
There is, therefore, no reason for being afraid to interpret this passage as referring to the devil, there being no danger in doing so. For should the Arians come forward and contend, 440440 “Tant qu’ils voudront;” — “As much as they please” that Christ’s divine essence is no more proved from his having the appellation God applied to him, than Satan’s is proved from its being applied to him, a cavil of this nature is easily refuted; for Christ is called God without any addition, 441441 Calvin obviously means by this clause — without anything being added having a tendency to qualify or limit the appellation. In accordance with this he says in the Institutes, (volume 1,) that the “title,” God, “is not conferred on any man without some addition, as when it is said that Moses would be a god to Pharaoh.” (Exodus 7:1.) — Ed. nay, he is called God blessed for ever. (Romans 9:5.) He is said to be that God who was
in the beginning, before the creation of the world.
The devil, on the other hand, is called the god of this world, in no other way than as Baal is called the god of those that worship him, or as the dog is called the god of Egypt. 442442 A variety of animals, besides the dog, were worshipped by the Egyptians, and even some vegetable substances, growing in their gardens, were adored by them as deities! Calvin, when commenting on 1 Corinthians 8:5, speaks of the Egyptians as having rendered divine homage to “the ox, the serpent, the cat, the onion, the garlic.” — Calvin on Corinthians, vol. 1, p. 277. — Ed. The Manicheans, as I have said, for maintaining their delusion, have recourse to other declarations of Scripture, as well as this, but there is no difficulty in refuting those also. They contend not so much respecting the term, as respecting the power. As the power of blinding is ascribed to Satan, and dominion over unbelievers, they conclude from this that he is, from his own resources, the author of all evil, so as not to be subject to God’s control — as if Scripture did not in various instances declare, that devils, no less than the angels of heaven, are servants of God, each of them severally in his own manner. For, as the latter dispense to us God’s benefits for our salvation, so the former execute his wrath. Hence good angels are called powers and principalities, (Ephesians 3:10,) but it is simply because they exercise the power given them by God. For the same reason Satan is the prince of this world, not as if he conferred dominion upon himself, or obtained it by his own right, or, in fine, exercised it at his own pleasure. On the contrary, he has only so much as the Lord allows him. Hence Scripture does not merely make mention of the good spirit of God, and good angels, but he also speaks of evil spirits of God. An evil spirit from God came upon Saul. (1 Samuel 16:14.) Again, chastisements through means of evil angels. (Psalm 78:49.)
With respect to the passage before us, the blinding is a work common to God and to Satan, for it is in many instances ascribed to God; but the power is not alike, nor is the manner the same. I shall not speak at present as to the manner. Scripture, however, teaches that Satan blinds men, 443443 “Les reprouuez;” — “The reprobate.” not merely with God’s permission, but even by his command, that he may execute his vengeance. Thus Ahab was deceived by Satan, (1 Kings 22:21,) but could Satan have done this of himself? By no means; but having offered to God his services for inflicting injury, he was sent to be a
lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.
(1 Kings 22:22.)
Nay more, the reason why God is said to blind men is, that after having deprived us of the right exercise of the understanding, and the light of his Spirit, he delivers us over to the devil, to be hurried forward by him to a reprobate mind, (Romans 1:28,) gives him the power of deception, and by this means inflicts just vengeance upon us by the minister of his wrath. Paul’s meaning, therefore, is, that all are possessed by the devil, who do not acknowledge his doctrine to be the sure truth of God. For it is more severe to call them slaves of the devil, 444444 “The god of this world. O that we could consider this, according to what it doth import and carry in it of horror and detestableness! It is a thing that we do not yet believe, that a world inhabited by reasonable creatures, God’s own offspring, is universally fallen into a confederacy and combination with another god, with an enemy — god, an adversary — god, against the living and true God! Men have changed their God. And what a fearful choice have they made! Fallen into a league with those wicked creatures that were weary of his government before, and that were, thereupon, thrown down into an abyss of darkness, and bound up in the chains thereof, unto the judgment of the great day. But doth the Scripture say this in vain? or hath it not a meaning when it calls the devil the god of this world? O with what amazement should it strike our hearts, to think that so it is, that the whole order of creatures is gone off from God, and fallen into a confederacy with the devil and his angels, against their rightful sovereign Lord.” — Howe’s Works. (London, 1834.) p. 1206. — Ed. than to ascribe their blindness to the judgment of God. As, however, he had a little before adjudged such persons to destruction, (2 Corinthians 4:3,) he now adds that they perish, for no other reason than that they have drawn down ruin upon themselves, as the effect of their own unbelief.
Lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ should shine upon them. This serves to confirm what he had said — that if any one rejected his gospel, it was his own blindness that prevented him from receiving it. “For nothing,” says he, “appears in it but Christ, and that not obscurely, but so as to shine forth clearly.” He adds, that Christ is the image of God, by which he intimates that they were utterly devoid of the knowledge of God, in accordance with that statement —
He that knoweth not me knoweth not my Father.
This then is the reason, why he pronounced so severe a sentence upon those that had doubts as to his Apostleship — because they did not behold Christ, who might there be distinctly beheld. It is doubtful whether he employed the expression, the gospel of the glory of Christ, as meaning the glorious gospel, agreeably to the Hebrew idiom; or whether he means by it — the gospel, in which Christ’s glory shone forth. The second of these meanings I rather prefer, as having in it more completeness.
When, however, Christ is called the image of the invisible God, this is not meant merely of his essence, as being the “co-essential of the Father,” as they speak, 445445 Calvin manifestly refers to an expression made use of by the Council of Nice, A.D. 325, to express unity of essence in the first and second persons of the Trinity, the Son having been declared to be ὁμοούσις τῷ Πατρὶ — co-essential with the Father. “It had been used in the same sense by some writers before the meeting of the Council. It is remarkable, however, that it had been rejected by the Council of Antioch, A.D. 263, on account of the inference which Paul of Samosata pretended to draw from it, namely, that if Christ and the Spirit were consubstantial with the Father, it followed that there were three substances — one prior and two posterior — derived from it. To guard against this inference, the Council declared that the Son was not ὁμοούσιος τῷ Πατρὶ (consubstantial with the Father.) “Paul” (of Samosata) “seems to have explained the term as signifying specific, or of the same species; and it is certain that this sense had sometimes been given to it. Thus Aristotle calls the stars ὁμοούσια meaning that they were all of the same nature. But in the creed of Nice it is expressive of unity of essence, and was adopted, after considerable discussion, as proper to be opposed to the Arians, who affirmed that the essence of the Son was different and separate from the Father.” — Dick’s Theology, volume 2. The reader will also find the same expression largely treated of by Calvin in the Institutes, volume 1 — 1. See also Institutes, volume 2, and Calvin on John, vol. 1, p. 417. — Ed. but rather has a reference to us, because he represents the Father to us. The Father himself is represented as invisible, because he is in himself not apprehended by the human understanding. He exhibits himself, however, to us by his Son, and makes himself in a manner visible. 446446 “Christ is the image of God, as a child is the image of his father; not in regard of the individual property which the Father hath distinct from the child, and the child from the father, but in respect of the same substance and nature, derived from the father by generation. Christ is here called the image of God, (2 Corinthians 4:4,) ‘not so much,’ saith Calvin, in relation to God, as the Father is the exemplar of his beauty and excellency, as in relation to us, as he represents the Father to us in the perfections of his nature, as they respect us and our welfare, and renders him visible to the eyes of our minds.” — Charnock’s Works, (Lond. 1684,) volume 2, p. 476. — Ed. I state this, because the ancients, having been greatly incensed against the Arians, insisted more than was befitting on this point — how it is that the Son is inwardly the image of the Father by a secret unity of essence, while they passed over what is mainly for edification — in what respects he is the image of God to us, when he manifests to us what had otherwise been hid in him. Hence the term image has a reference to us, as we shall see again presently 447447 See on verse 6. The epithet invisible, though omitted in some Greek manuscripts, I have preferred to retain, as it is not superfluous. 448448 Three manuscripts (as stated by Poole in his Synopsis) have ἀοράτου (invisible,) but it is generally believed to have been an interpolation from Colossians 1:15. — Ed.
5. For we preach not ourselves Some make this to be an instance of Zeugma, 449449 Zeugma is a figure of speech, in which two subjects are used jointly (the term being derived from ξεύηνυμι to join) with the same predicate, which strictly belongs only to one. — Ed. in this manner: We preach not ourselves to be lords, but God’s only Son, whom the Father has set over all things, to be the one Lord. 450450 “Auquel le Pere a baillé superintendance sur toutes choses;” — “To whom the Father has given superintendence over all things.” I do not, indeed, find fault with that interpretation, but as the expression is more emphatic (εμφατικωτερα) and has a more extensive signification, 451451 “Comme ainsi soit que la facon de parler est de plus grand poids, et s’estend plus loin;” — “As it is a form of expression that has greater weight, and is more extensive.” when it is said, that one preaches himself. I am more inclined to retain this interpretation, especially as it is almost unanimously approved of. For there are other ways in which men preach themselves, than by arrogating to themselves dominion, as for example, when they aim at show, rather than at edification — when they are desirous in any way to have distinction — when, farther, they make gain of the gospel. Ambition, therefore, and avarice, and similar vices in a minister, taint the purity of his doctrine, so that Christ has not there the exclusive distinction. Hence, he that would preach Christ alone, must of necessity forget himself.
And ourselves your servants. Lest any one should mutter out the objection—”But in the mean time you say many things respecting yourself,” he answers, that he desires nothing farther, than that he should be their servant. “Whatever things I declare respecting myself (so loftily, and boastfully, in your opinion) have this object in view — that I may in Christ serve you advantageously.” It follows, that the Corinthians are excessively proud and ungrateful, if they reject this condition. Nay more, it follows, that they had been previously of a corrupt judgment, inasmuch as they had not perceived his holy affection.
Here, however, all pastors of the Church are admonished as to their state and condition, for by whatever title of honor they may be distinguished, they are nothing more than the servants of believers, and unquestionably, they cannot serve Christ, without serving his Church at the same time. An honorable servitude, it is true, this is, and superior to any principality, 452452 “Plus heureuse que toutes les principautez du monde;” — “Happier than all the principalities of the world.” but still it is a servitude, so that Christ alone may be elevated to distinction — not encumbered by the shadow of a single rival 453453 “N’estant nullement empesché par l’ombre de quelque autre qui luy seroit donne pour compagnon;” — “In no degree hindered by the shadow of any other, that might be given him as a companion.” Hence it is the part of a good pastor, not merely to keep aloof from all desire of domineering, but to regard it as the highest pitch of honor, at which he aspires — that he may serve the people of God. It is the duty of the people, on the other hand, to esteem the servants of Christ first of all on the ground of the dignity of their Master, and then farther on account of the dignity and excellence of their office, that they may not despise those, whom the Lord has placed in so illustrious a station.
6. God who commanded light to shine out of darkness. I see that this passage may be explained in four different ways. In the first place thus: “God has commanded light to shine forth out of darkness: that is, by the ministry of men, who are in their own nature darkness, He has brought forward the light of His gospel into the world.” Secondly, thus: “God has made the light of the gospel to take the place of the law, which was wrapt up in dark shadows, and thus, He has brought light out of darkness.” Those that are fond of subtleties, would be prepared readily to receive expositions of that sort, but any one, who will examine the matter more closely, will perceive, that they do not correspond with the Apostle’s intention. The third exposition is that of Ambrose: “When all things were involved in darkness, God kindled up the light of His gospel. For mankind were sunk in the darkness of ignorance, when God on a sudden shone forth upon them by his gospel.” The fourth is that of Chrysostom, who is of opinion, that Paul alluded to the creation of the world, in this way: “God, who by his word created light, drawing it, as it were, out of the darkness 454454 “Du profond des tenebres;” — “Out of the depth of darkness.” — that same Being has now enlightened us in a spiritual manner, when we were buried in darkness.” This transition, 455455 Anagoge. The Reader will find in the Harmony (vol. 1, p. 436, n. 1,) a lucid view of the import of the word anagoge, or rather ἀναγωγὴ as employed, on the one hand, by “divines of the allegorizing school,” and on the other by Calvin, whose reverence for the inspired oracles would not permit him to give way to mere fancy in the interpretation of them, even in a single instance. — Ed. from light that is visible and corporeal to what is spiritual, has more of elegance, and there is nothing forced in it. The preceding one, 456456 “La troisieme exposition;” — “The third exposition.” however, is not unsuitable. Let every one follow his own judgment.
Hath shined in our hearts. He speaks of a twofold illumination, which must be carefully observed — the one is that of the gospel, the other is secret, taking place in our hearts. 457457 “Interieurement en nos coeurs;” — “Inwardly in our hearts.” For as God, the Creator of the world, pours forth upon us the brightness of the sun, and gives us eyes to receive it, so, as the Redeemer, in the person of his Son, He shines forth, indeed, upon us by His gospel, but, as we are blind, that would be in vain, if He did not at the same time enlighten our understandings by His Spirit. His meaning, therefore, is, that God has, by His Spirit, opened the eyes of our understandings, so as to make them capable of receiving the light of the gospel.
In the face of Jesus Christ. In the same sense in which he had previously said that Christ is the image of the Father, (2 Corinthians 4:4) he now says, that the glory of God is manifested to us in his face. Here we have a remarkable passage, from which we learn that God is not to be sought out (Job 11:7) in His unsearchable height,
(for He dwells in light that is inaccessible, 1 Timothy 6:16,)
but is to be known by us, in so far as He manifests himself in Christ. Hence, whatever men desire to know respecting God, apart from Christ, is evanescent, for they wander out of the way. True, indeed, God in Christ appears in the first instance to be mean, but he appears at length to be glorious in the view of those, who hold on, so as to come from the cross to the resurrection. 458458 “Ceux, qui ont la patience de venir de la croix ... la resurrection;” — “Those, who have the patience to come from the cross to the resurrection.” Again we see, that in the word person 459459 The original expression is προσώπῳ ᾿Ιησοῦ Χριστοῦ — in the person of Jesus Christ. — Ed. there is a reference made to us, 460460 “Ce qui est dit de Dieu, c’est pour le regard de nous;” — “What is said respecting God, is in relation to us.” because it is more advantageous for us to behold God, as He appears in His only-begotten Son, than to search out His secret essence.
7. But we have this treasure. Those that heard Paul glorying in such a magnificent strain as to the excellence of his ministry, and beheld, on the other hand, his person, contemptible and abject in the eyes of the world, might be apt to think that he was a silly and ridiculous person, and might look upon his boasting as childish, while forming their estimate of him from the meanness of his person. 464464 “Ils le iugeoyent selon l’apparence de sa personne, qui estoit petite et contemptible;” — “They judged of him according to the appearance of his person, which was small and contemptible.” The wicked, more particularly, caught hold of this pretext, when they wished to bring into contempt every thing that was in him. What, however, he saw to be most of all unfavorable to the honor of his Apostleship among the ignorant, he turns by an admirable contrivance into a means of advancing it. First of all, he employs the similitude of a treasure, which is not usually laid up in a splendid and elegantly adorned chest, but rather in some vessel that is mean and worthless; 465465 “The term σκεῦος (vessel), from σχέω to hold, has an allusion to the body’s being the depository of the soul. ́̓Οστρακον properly signifies a shell, (of which material, probably, the primitive vessels were formed,) and, 2dly, a vessel, of baked earth. And as that is proverbially brittle, ὀστράκιος denoted weak, fragile, both in a natural and a metaphorical sense; and therefore was very applicable to the human body, both as frail, and as mean.” — Bloomfield. — Ed. and then farther, he subjoins, that the power of God is, by that means, the more illustrated, and is the better seen. “Those, who allege the contemptible appearance of my person, with the view of detracting from the dignity of my ministry, are unfair and unreasonable judges, for a treasure is not the less valuable, that the vessel, in which it is deposited, is not a precious one. Nay more, it is usual for great treasures to be laid up in earthen pots. Farther, they do not consider, that it is ordered by the special Providence of God, that there should be in ministers no appearance of excellence, lest any thing of distinction should throw the power of God into the shade. As, therefore, the abasement of ministers, and the outward contempt of their persons give occasion for glory accruing to God, that man acts a wicked part, who measures the dignity of the gospel by the person of the minister.”
Paul, however, does not speak merely of the universal condition of mankind, but of his own condition in particular. It is true, indeed, that all mortal men are earthen vessels Hence, let the most eminent of them all be selected, and let him be one that is adorned to admiration with all ornaments of birth, intellect, and fortune, 466466 “De tous ornamens, de race, d’esprit, de richesses, et toutes autres choses semblables;” — “With all ornaments of birth, intellect, riches, and all other things of a like nature.” still, if he be a minister of the gospel, he will be a mean and merely earthen depository of an inestimable treasure Paul, however, has in view himself, and others like himself, his associates, who were held in contempt, because they had nothing of show.
8. While we are pressed on every side. This is added by way of explanation, for he shows, that his abject condition is so far from detracting from the glory of God, that it is the occasion of advancing it. “We are reduced,” says he, “to straits, but the Lord at length opens up for us an outlet; 467467 “We are troubled on every side. In respect of the nature of it, (the trouble,) it is plain it was external trouble. The very word there used, Θλιβόμενοι, signifies dashing a thing from without. As the beating and allision of the waves against a rock make no trouble in the rock, no commotion there, but a great deal of noise, clamor, and tumult round about it. That is the sort of trouble which that word in its primary signification holds forth to us, and which the circumstances of the text declare to be the signification of the thing here meant. [...] The word στενοχωρούμενοι expresseth such a kind of straitening as doth infer a difficulty of drawing breath; that a man is so compressed, that he cannot tell how to breathe. That is the native import of the word. As if he had said, ‘We are not reduced to that extremity by all the troubles that surround us, but we can breathe well enough for all that.’ Probably there are meant by this thing desired, two degrees or steps of inward trouble... Either it is a trouble that reacheth not the heart, or if it doth, it does not oppress or overwhelm it.” — Howe’s Works, (London, 1834), p. 706. — Ed. we are oppressed with poverty, but the Lord affords us help. Many enemies are in arms against us, but under God’s protection we are safe. In fine, though we are brought low, so that it might seem as if all were over with us, 468468 “There is an allusion,” says Dr. Bloomfield, “to an army so entirely surrounded and hemmed in στενοῖς, (in straits,) as the Roman army at the Caudinae Furc’, that there is left no hope of escape.” — Ed. still we do not perish.” The last is the severest of all. You see, how he turns to his own advantage every charge that the wicked bring against him. 469469 “Pour le rendre contemptible;” — “To render him contemptible.”
10. The mortification of Jesus 470470 “Mortificationem.” — Such is Calvin’s rendering of the original term νέκρωσιν, and it is evidently employed to convey the idea of putting to death, the main idea intended to be expressed being, as our author shows, that the apostles were, for the sake of Christ, subjected to humiliating and painful sufferings, which gave them, in a manner, an outward conformity to their Divine Master in the violent death inflicted upon him. The term mortification, when taken in strict accordance with its etymology, in the sense of putting to death, appears to bring out more fully the apostle’s meaning, than the word “dying,” made use of in our authorized version. Beza, who gives the same rendering as Calvin, subjoins the following valuable observations: — “Mortificationem τὴν νέκρωσιν — Sic vocat Paulus miseram illam conditionem fidelium, ac pr’sertim ministrorum (de his enim proprie agitur) qui quotidie (ut ait David) occiduntur, quasi destinationem ad coedem dicas: additurque Domini Iesu, vel, (ut legit vetus interpres) Iesu Christi, tum ut declaretur causa propter quam mundus illos ita persequitur; tum etiam quia hac quoque in parte Christo capiti sunt conformes, Christusque adeo ipse quodammodo in iis morte afficitur. Ambrosius maluit mortem interpretari, nempe quia in altero membro sit mentio vitoe Christi. At ego, si libuisset a Pauli verbis discedere, coedem potius exposuissem: quia non temere Paulus ςέκρωσιν maluit scribere quam θάνατον, quoniam etiam Christus hic considerandus nobis est non ut simpliciter mortuus, sed ut interemptus. Verum ut modo dixi νέκρωσις nec mortem nec coedem hic significat, sed conditionem illam quotidianis mortibus obnoxiam, qualis etiam fuit Christi ad tempus;” — “Mortification τὴν νέκρωσιν This term Paul makes use of to denote that miserable condition of believers, and more especially of ministers, (for it is of them properly that he speaks,) who are, as David says, killed every day — as though you should say a setting apart for slaughter; and it is added — of the Lord Jesus, or (as the old interpreter renders it) of Jesus Christ, partly with the view of explaining the reason why the world thus persecutes them, and partly because in this respect also they are conformed to Christ, the Head, and even Christ himself is, in them, in a manner put to death. Ambrose has preferred to render it death, for this reason, that in the other clause mention is made of the life of Christ. For my own part, however, were I to depart from Paul’s words, I would rather render it slaughter, inasmuch as Paul did not rashly make use of νέκρωσιν rather than θάνατον, since Christ also is to be viewed by us here, not simply as having died, but as having been put to death. But, as I said a little ago, νέκρωσις here does not mean death nor slaughter, but a condition which exposed every day to deaths, such as Christ’s, also, was for a time.” — Ed. He says more than he had done previously, for he shows, that the very thing that the false apostles used as a pretext for despising the gospel, was so far from bringing any degree of contempt upon the gospel, that it tended even to render it glorious. For he employs the expression — the mortification of Jesus Christ — to denote everything that rendered him contemptible in the eyes of the world, with the view of preparing him for participating in a blessed resurrection. In the first place, the sufferings of Christ, 471471 By the “sufferings of Christ,” here, Calvin obviously means — not the sufferings of our Redeemer personally, but sufferings endured for Christ in the persons of his members, as in Colossians 1:24. — Ed. however ignominious they may be in the eyes of men, have, nevertheless, more of honor in the sight of God, than all the triumphs of emperors, and all the pomp of kings. The end, however, must also be kept in view, that we suffer with him, that we may be glorified together with him. (Romans 8:17.) Hence he elegantly reproves the madness of those, who made his peculiar fellowship with Christ a matter of reproach. At the same time, the Corinthians are admonished to take heed, lest they should, while haughtily despising Paul’s mean and abject appearance, do an injury to Christ himself, by seeking an occasion of reproach 472472 “Matiere d’opprobre et deshonneur;” — “Matter of reproach and dishonor.” in his sufferings, which it becomes us to hold in the highest honor.
The word rendered mortification, 473473 Wiclif (1380) renders the expression as follows: “euermore we beren aboute the sleyng of Ihesus in oure bodi.” — Ed. is taken here in a different sense from what it bears in many passages of Scripture. For it often means self-denial, when we renounce the lusts of the flesh, and are renewed unto obedience to God. Here, however, it means the afflictions by which we are stirred up to meditate on the termination of the present life. To make the matter more plain, let us call the former the inward mortification, and the latter the outward. Both make us conformed to Christ, the one directly, the other indirectly, so to speak. Paul speaks of the former in Colossians 3:5, and in Romans 6:6, where he teaches that
our old man is crucified, that we may walk in newness of life
He treats of the second in Romans 8:29, where he teaches, that we were predestinated by God to this end — that we might be conformed to the image of his Son. It is called, however, a mortification of Christ only in the case of believers, because the wicked, in the endurance of the afflictions of this present life, share with Adam, but the elect have participation with the Son of God, so that all those miseries that are in their own nature accursed, are helpful to their salvation. All the sons of God, it is true, have this in common, that they bear about the mortification, of Christ; 474474 “Here we have a strong mode of expressing the mortal peril to which he was continually exposed; (as in 1 Corinthians 15:31, καθ ᾿ ἡμέραν ἀποθνήσκω, I die daily,) together with an indirect comparison of the sufferings endured by himself and the other apostles, with those endured by the Lord Jesus even unto death. The genitive τοῦ Κυριου (of the Lord,) is, as Grotius remarks, a genitive of likeness. The sense is — ‘bearing about — continually sustaining, perils and sufferings, like those of the Lord Jesus.’” — Bloomfield, — Ed. but, according as any one is distinguished by a larger measure of gifts, he, in that proportion, comes so much the nearer to conformity with Christ in this respect.
That the life of Jesus. Here is the best antidote to adversity — that as Christ’s death is the gate of life, so we know that a blessed resurrection will be to us the termination of all miseries, 475475 “La fin et l’issue de toutes miseres et calamitez;” — “The end and issue of all miseries and calamities.” inasmuch as Christ has associated us with himself on this condition, that we shall be partakers of his life, if in this world we submit to die with him.
The sentence that immediately follows may be explained in two ways. If you understand the expression delivered unto death as meaning to be incessantly harassed with persecutions and exposed to dangers, this would be more particularly applicable to Paul, and those like him, who were openly assailed by the fury of the wicked. And thus the expression, for Jesus’ sake, will be equivalent to for the testimony of Christ. (Revelation 1:9.) As, however, the expression to be daily delivered unto death, means otherwise — to have death constantly before our eyes, and to live in such a manner, that our life is rather a shadow of death, 476476 Calvin manifestly alludes to the expression which occurs in Psalms 23:4, the valley of the shadow of death, which he explains in a metaphorical sense, as denoting deep afflication. — See Calvin on the Psalms, vol. 1, pp. 394-396. — Ed. I have no objection, that this passage, also, should be expounded in such a way as to be applicable to all believers, and that, too, to every one in his order. Paul himself, in Romans 8:36, explains in this manner Psalm 44:22. In this way for Christ’s sake would mean — because this condition is imposed upon all his members. Erasmus, however, has rendered it, with not. so much propriety, we who live. The rendering that I have given is more suitable — while we live. For Paul means that, so long as we are in the world, we resemble the dead rather than the living.
12. Hence death indeed. This is said ironically, because it was unseemly that the Corinthians should live happily, and in accordance with their desire, and that they should, free from anxiety, take their ease, while in the mean time Paul was struggling with incessant hardships. 477477 “Eust ... combatre contre tant de miseres et calamitez;” — “Had to struggle against so many miseries and calamities.” Such an allotment would certainly have been exceedingly unreasonable. It was also necessary that the folly of the Corinthians should be reproved, inasmuch as they contrived to themselves a Christianity without the cross, and, not content with this, held in contempt the servants of Christ, because they were not so effeminate. 478478 “Comme eux;” — “As they.” Now as death denotes all afflictions, or a life full of vexations, so also life denotes a condition that is prosperous and agreeable; agreeably to the maxim: “Life is — not to live, but to be well.” 479479 “Non est vivere, sed valere, vita.” — Martial. Ep. 6:70. — Ed.
13. Having the same spirit. This is a correction of the foregoing irony. He had represented the condition of the Corinthians as widely different from his own, (not according to his own judgment, but according to their erroneous view,) inasmuch as they were desirous of a gospel that was pleasant and free from all molestation of the cross, and entertained less honorable views of him, because his condition was less renowned. Now, however, he associates himself with them in the hope of the same blessedness. “Though God spares you, and deals with you more indulgently, while he treats me with somewhat more severity, this diversity, nevertheless, will be no hinderance in the way of the like glorious resurrection awaiting both of us. For where there is oneness of faith, there will, also, there be one inheritance.” It has been thought, that the Apostle speaks here of the holy fathers, who lived under the Old Testament, and represents them as partakers with us, in the same faith. This, indeed, is true, but it does not accord with the subject in hand. For it is not Abraham, or the rest of the fathers, that he associates with himself in a fellowship of faith, but rather the Corinthians, whereas they separated themselves from him by a perverse ambition. “However my condition,” says he, “may appear to be the worse for the present, we shall, nevertheless, one day be alike participants in the same glory, for we are connected together by one faith.” Whoever will examine the connection attentively, will perceive, that this is the true and proper interpretation. By metonymy, he gives the name of the spirit of faith 481481 Calvin adverts to this form of expression in the Institutes, (volume 2) as an evidence that faith is implanted by the Divine Spirit. — Ed. to faith itself, because it is a gift of the Holy Spirit.
As it is written What has given occasion for the mistake 482482 “Que i’ay dit;” — “That I have mentioned.” Calvin refers to the mistake of supposing that Paul alludes to the Old Testament believers. — Ed. is, that he quotes the testimony of David. It ought, however, to be taken in connection with the confession — not with the oneness of faith, or if you prefer it, it agrees with what follows — not with what goes before, in this way: “Because we have an assured hope of a blessed resurrection, we are bold to speak and preach what we believe, as it is written, I believed, therefore have I spoken ” Now, this is the commencement of Psalm 116, 483483 “The Septuagint, and some other ancient versions, make the latter part of the 116th Psalm” (commencing with the Psalm 116:10 — I believed, therefore have I spoken) “a distinct Psalm, separate from the former, and some have called it the Martyr’s Psalm, I suppose for the sake of Psalm 116:15.” — Henry’s Commentary. — Ed. where David acknowledges, that, when he had been reduced to the last extremity, he was so overpowered that he almost gave way, but, having soon afterwards regained confidence, he had overcome that temptation. Accordingly, he opens the Psalm thus: I believed, therefore will I speak. For faith is the mother 484484 “Comme la mere;” — “As it were, the mother.” of confession. Paul, it is true, stirring himself up to imitate him, 485485 “S’accourageant... imiter cest exemple de Dauid;” — “Stirring himself up to imitate this example of David” exhorts the Corinthians to do the same, and, in accordance with the common Greek translation, has used the preterite instead of the future, but this is of no consequence 486486 “I believed, for I did speak, (Psalm 116:10) — which is a sure proof of the presence of faith. Confession and faith are inseparably connected. Compare 2 Corinthians 4:13. The Apostle places, after the example of the Septuagint, therefore instead of for: ‘I believed, therefore I spake,’ without any material alteration of the sense.” — Hengstenberg on the Psalms, (Edin. 1848,) volume 3 p. 372. — Ed. For he simply means to say, that believers ought to be magnanimous, and undaunted, in
Let now our pretended followers of Nicodemus 488488 “There were also at this time” (about the year 1540) “certain persons who, having renounced the Protestant faith through dread of persecution, flattered themselves, that there was no harm in remaining in the external communion of the Church of Rome, provided they embraced the true religion in their hearts. And because Calvin who condemned so pernicious a sentiment was considered by them as carrying his severity to an extreme, he showed clearly that his opinion was in unison, not only with those of the fathers of the Church, but also with the doctrine of the most learned theologians of the age, such as Melancthon, Bucer, and Martyr, as well as the ministers of Zurich; and so completely extinguished that error, that all pious persons censured the Nicodemites — a name given to those who defended their dissimulation by the example of Nicodemus.” — Mackenzie’s Life of Calvin, p. 59. See also Calvin on John, vol. 1, p. 317, Calvin on the Psalms, vol. 5, p. 481; [A reference to the entry for Nicodemites in the index, which states, “a class in the time of Calvin who professed to have embraced the gospel, but who concealed their sentiments, and joined in the superstitious observances of the Papists.” — sg.] and Calvin’s Tracts, volume 1, p. 49. — Ed. mark, what sort of fiction they contrive for themselves in the place of faith, when they would have faith remain inwardly buried, and altogether silent, and glory in this wisdom — that they utter, during their whole life, not a single word of right confession.
15. For all things are for your sakes He now associates himself with the Corinthians, not merely in the hope of future blessedness, but also in these very afflictions, in which they might seem to differ from him most widely, for he lets them know, that, if he is afflicted, it is for their benefit. Hence it follows, that there was good reason why they should transfer part of them to themselves. What Paul states, depends first of all on that secret fellowship, which the members of Christ have with one another, but chiefly on that mutual connection and relationship, which required more especially to be manifested among them. Now this admonition was fraught with great utility to the Corinthians, and brought with it choice consolation. For what consolation there is in this — that while God, sparing our weakness, deals with us more gently, those that are endowed with more distinguished excellence, are afflicted for the common advantage of all! They were also admonished, that, since they could not aid Paul otherwise, they should, at least, help him by their prayers and sympathy.
That the grace which hath abounded. That agreement 489489 “Ceste vnite et consentemente mutuel;” — “That unity and mutual agreement.” between the members of Christ he now commends on the ground of the fruit that springs from it — its tendency to advance the glory of God. By a metonymy, according to his usual manner, he means, by the term grace, that blessing of deliverance, of which he had made mention previously — that,
while he was weighed down, he was, nevertheless, not in anxiety: while oppressed with poverty, he was not left destitute, etc.,
(2 Corinthians 4:8, 9,)
and in fine, that he had a deliverance continually afforded him from every kind of evil 490490 “De toutes sortes de maux desquels il estoit assailli;” — “From all sorts of evils with which he was assailed.” This grace, he says, overflows. By this he means, that it was not confined to himself personally, so that he alone enjoys it, but it extends itself farther — namely, to the Corinthians, to whom it was of great advantage. When he makes the overflowing of God’s gift consist in gratitude, tending to the glory of its Author, he admonishes us, that every blessing that God confers upon us perishes through our carelessness, if we are not prompt and active in rendering thanks.
16. For which cause we faint not 491491 “For which cause we faint not. (οὐκ ἐκκακοῦμεν) Here we have the same various reading,” (as in verse 1,) “οὐκ ἐγκακοῦμεν — we do no wickedness; and it is supported by BDEFG, and some others; but it is remarkable that Mr. Wakefield follows the common reading here, though the various reading is at least as well supported in this verse as in verse first. The common reading, faint not, appears to agree best with the Apostle’s meaning.” — Dr. A. Clarke. — Ed. He now, as having carried his point, rises to a higher confidence than before. “There is no cause,” says he, “why we should lose heart, or sink down under the burden of the cross, the issue of which is not merely so desirable to myself, but is also salutary to others.” Thus he exhorts the Corinthians to fortitude by his own example, should they happen at any time to be similarly afflicted. Farther, he beats down that insolence, in which they in no ordinary degree erred, inasmuch as under the influence of ambition, they held a man in higher estimation, the farther he was from the cross of Christ.
Though our outward man. The outward man, some improperly and ignorantly confound with the old man, for widely different from this is the old man, of which we have spoken in Romans 4:6. Chrysostom, too, and others restrict it entirely to the body; but it is a mistake, for the Apostle intended to comprehend, under this term, everything that relates to the present life. As he here sets before us two men, so you must place before your view two kinds of life — the earthly and the heavenly. The outward man is the maintenance of the earthly life, which consists not merely in the flower of one’s age, (1 Corinthians 7:36,) and in good health, but also in riches, honors, friendships, and other resources. 492492 “Autres aides et commoditez;” — “Other helps and conveniences.” Hence, according as we suffer a diminution or loss of these blessings, which are requisite for keeping up the condition of the present life, is our outward man in that proportion corrupted. For as we are too much taken up with the present life, so long as everything goes on to our mind, the Lord, on that account, by taking away from us, by little and little, the things that we are engrossed with, calls us back to meditate on a better life. Thus, therefore, it is necessary, that the condition of the present life should decay, 493493 “De iour en iour;” — “From day to day.” in order that the inward man may be in a flourishing state; because, in proportion as the earthly life declines, does the heavenly life advance, at least in believers. For in the reprobate, too, the outward man decays, 494494 “Il est vray que l’homme exterieur tend ... decadence aussi bien es reprouuez et infideles;” — “It is true that the outward man tends to decay quite as much in reprobates and unbelievers.” but without anything to compensate for it. In the sons of God, on the other hand, a decay of this nature is the beginning, and, as it were, the cause of production. He says that this takes place daily, because God continually stirs us up to such meditation. Would that this were deeply seated in our minds, that we might uninterruptedly make progress amidst the decay of the outward man!
17. Momentary lightness. As our flesh always shrinks back from its own destruction, whatever reward may be presented to our view, and as we are influenced much more by present feeling than by the hope of heavenly blessings, Paul on that account admonishes us, that the afflictions and vexations of the pious have little or nothing of bitterness, if compared with the boundless blessings of everlasting glory. He had said, that the decay of the outward man ought to occasion us no grief, inasmuch as the renovation of the inward man springs out of it. As, however, the decay is visible, and the renovation is invisible, Paul, with the view of shaking us off from a carnal attachment to the present life, draws a comparison between present miseries and future felicity. Now this comparison is of itself abundantly sufficient for imbuing the minds of the pious with patience and moderation, that they may not give way, borne down by the burden of the cross. For whence comes it, that patience is so difficult a matter but from this, — that we are confounded on having experience of evils for a brief period, 495495 “En ce sentiment des maux qui passent tontesfois auec le temps;” — “In this feeling of evils, which nevertheless pass away with the occasion.” and do not raise our thoughts higher? Paul, therefore, prescribes the best antidote against your sinking down under the pressure of afflictions, when he places in opposition to them that future blessedness which is laid up for thee in heaven. (Colossians 1:5.) For this comparison makes that light which previously seemed heavy, and makes that brief and momentary which seemed of boundless duration.
There is some degree of obscurity in Paul’s words, for as he says, With hyperbole unto hyperbole, 496496 “A outrance par outrance;” — “From extreme to extreme.” “It is not merely eminent, but it is eminent unto eminence; excess unto excess; a hyperbole unto hyperbole — one hyperbole heaped on another; and the expression means, that it is exceeding exceedingly glorious; glorious in the highest possible degree. The expression is the Hebrew form of denoting the highest superlative, and it means, that all hyperboles fail of expressing that external glory which remains for the just. It is infinite and boundless. You may pass from one degree to another; from one sublime height to another; but still an infinity remains beyond. Nothing can describe the uppermost height of that glory, nothing can express its infinitude.” — Barnes. Chrysostom explains the words καθ ᾿ ὑπερβολὴν εἰς ὑπερβολὴν to be equivalent to μέγεθος ὑπερβολικῶς ὑπερβολικόν — a greatness exceedingly exceeding. “The repetition having an intensitive force, (like the Hebrew מאד מאד) it may be rendered infinitely exceeding.” — Bloomfield. — Ed. so the Old Interpreter, and Erasmus 497497 The words of the Vulgate are, “Supra modum in sublimitate;” — “Above measure in elevation.” The rendering of Erasmus is, “Mire supra modum;” — “Wonderfully above measure.” — Ed. have thought that in both terms the magnitude of the heavenly glory, that awaits believers is extolled; or, at least, they have connected them with the verb worketh out. To this I have no objection, but as the distinction that I have made is also not unsuitable, I leave it to my readers to make their choice.
Worketh out an eternal weight Paul does not mean, that this is the invariable effect of afflictions; for the great majority are most miserably weighed down here with evils of every kind, and yet that very circumstance is an occasion of their heavier destruction, rather than a help to their salvation. As, however, he is speaking of believers, we must restrict exclusively to them what is here stated; for this is a blessing from God that is peculiar to them — that they are prepared for a blessed resurrection by the common miseries of mankind.
As to the circumstance, however, that Papists abuse this passage, to prove that afflictions are the causes of our salvation, it is exceedingly silly; 498498 “C’est vn argument trop debile;” — “It is an exceedingly weak argument.” unless, perhaps, you choose to take causes in the sense of means, (as they commonly speak.) We, at least, cheerfully acknowledge, that
we must through many tribulations
“Per multas tribulationes;” — “Par beaucoup de tribulations;” — “By many tribulations.” This is the literal rendering of the original words made use of, διὰ πολλῶν θλίψεων. Wiclif (1380) renders as follows, “bi many tribulaciouns.” Rheims (1582) “by many tribulations.” — Ed.
enter into the kingdom of heaven, (Acts 14:22,)
and as to this there is no controversy. While, however, our doctrine is, that the momentary lightness of afflictions worketh out in us an eternal weight 500500 “St. Paul in this expression — βάρος δόξης— weight of glory, elegantly joins together the two senses of the Hebrews כבוד which denotes both weight and glory, i.e., shining or being irradiated with light.” — Parkhurst. — Ed. of life, for this reason, that all the sons of God are
predestinated to be conformed to Christ, (Romans 8:29,)
in the endurance of the cross, and in this manner are prepared for the enjoyment of the heavenly inheritance, which they have through means of God’s gracious adoption; Papists, on the other hand, imagine that they are meritorious works, 501501 “Que les afflictions sont oeuures meritoires;” — “That afflictions are meritorious works.” by which the heavenly kingdom is acquired.
I shall repeat it again in a few words. We do not deny that afflictions are the path by which the heavenly kingdom is arrived at, but we deny that by afflictions we merit the inheritance, 502502 “L’heritage eternel;” — “The everlasting inheritance.” which comes to us in no other way than through means of God’s gracious adoption. Papists, without consideration, seize hold of one little word, with the view of building upon it a tower of Babel, (Genesis 11:9,) — that the kingdom of God is not an inheritance procured for us by Christ, but a reward that is due to our works. For a fuller solution, however, of this question, consult my Institutes. 503503 See Institutes, volume 2. — Ed.
While we look not. Mark what it is, that will make all the miseries of this world easy to be endured, — if we carry forward our thoughts to the eternity of the heavenly kingdom. For a moment is long, if we look around us on this side and on that; but, when we have once raised our minds heavenward, a thousand years begin to appear to us to be like a moment. Farther, the Apostle’s words intimate, that we are imposed upon by the view of present things, because there is nothing there that is not temporal; and that, consequently, there is nothing for us to rest upon but confidence in a future life. Observe the expression, looking at the things which are unseen, 504504 “The word which is here rendered look signifies to take aim at, (σκοποῦντων ἡμῶν) This is a very steady intuition, which a man hath of the mark which he is aiming at, or the end which he designs; he must always have it in his eye. And by this looking, saith the Apostle, we find that, notwithstanding all the decays of the outward man, the inward man is reviewed day by day — life, and vigor, and spirit continually entering in at our eyes from that glorious aim which we have before us. This will need a very steady determination of mind unto such objects by a commanding light and glory that they carry with them, so that the soul feels not a disposition in itself to direct or look off.” — Howe’s Works, (Lond. 1834,) p. 543. — Ed. for the eye of faith penetrates beyond all our natural senses, and faith is also on that account represented as a looking at things that are invisible. (Hebrews 11:1.)