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2 Corinthians 7:8-11

8. For though I made you sorry with a letter, I do not repent, though I did repent: for I perceive that the same epistle hath made you sorry, though it were but for a season.

8. Quoniam et si contristavi vos in epistola, non me poenitet: etiamsi poenituerit. Video enim, quod epistola illa, et si ad tempus, vos contristavit.

9. Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing.

9. Nunc gaudeo: non quod sitis contristati, sed quod sitis contristati in poenitentiam, contristati enim estis secundum Deum, ita ut nulla in re damno affecti sitis ex nobis.

10. For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.

10. Nam quae secundum Deum est tristitia, poenitentiam ad salutem non poenitendam efficit: mundi autem tristitia mortem efficit.

11. For behold, this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge!

11. Ecce enim hoc ipsum, quod secundum Deum, contristati estis quantum produxit in vobis stadium! Imo defensionem, imo indignationem, imo timorem, imo desiderium, imo zelum, imo vindictam!


8. For though I grieved you. He now begins to apologize to the Corinthians for having handle them somewhat roughly in the former Epistle. Now we must observe, in what a variety of ways he deals with them, so that it might appear as though he sustained different characters. The reason is that his discourse was directed to the whole of the Church. There were some there, that entertained an unfavorable view of him — there were others that held him, as he deserved, in the highest esteem — some were doubtful: others were confident — some were docile: others were obstinate. 642642     “Obstinez et endurcis;” — ”Obstinate and obdurate.” In consequence of this diversity, he required to direct his discourse now in one way, then in another, in order to suit himself to all. Now he lessens, or rather he takes away altogether any occasion of offense, on account of the severity that he had employed, on the ground of its having turned out to the promotion of their welfare. “Your welfare,” says he, “is so much an object of desire to me, that I am delighted to see that I have done you good.” This softening-down is admissible only when the teacher 643643     “Le Docteur et Ministre;” — “The Teacher and Minister.” has done good so far as was needed, by means of his reproofs; for if he had found, that the minds of the Corinthians still remained obstinate, and had he perceived an advantage arising from the discipline that he had attempted, he would, undoubtedly, have abated nothing from his former severity. It is to be observed, however, that he rejoices to have been an occasion of grief to those whom he loved; for he was more desirous to profit, than to please them.

But what does he mean when he adds — though I did repent? For if we admit, that Paul had felt dissatisfied with what he had written, there would follow an inconsistency of no slight character — that the former Epistle had been written under a rash impulse, rather than under the guidance of the Spirit. I answer, that the word repent is used here in a loose sense for being grieved. For while he made the Corinthians sad, he himself also participated in the grief, and in a manner inflicted grief at the same time upon himself. “Though I gave you pain against my inclination, and it grieved me to be under the necessity of being harsh to you, I am grieved no longer on that account, when I see that it has been of advantage to you.” Let us take an instance from the case of a father; for a father feels grief in connection with his severity, when at any time he chastises his son, but approves of it, notwithstanding, because he sees that it is conducive to his son’s advantage. In like manner Paul could feel no pleasure in irritating the minds of the Corinthians; but, being conscious of the motive that influenced his conduct, he preferred duty to inclination.

For I see. The transition is abrupt; but that does not at all impair the distinctness of the sense. In the first place, he says, that he had fully ascertained by the effect, that the former Epistle, though for a time unwelcome, had nevertheless at length been of advantage, and secondly, that he rejoiced on account of that advantage.

9. Not because you have been made sorry. He means, that he feels no pleasure whatever in their sorrow — nay more, had he his choice, he would endeavor to promote equally their welfare and their joy, by the same means; but that as he could not do otherwise, their welfare was of so much importance in his view, that he rejoiced that they had been made sorry unto repentance. For there are instances of physicians, who are, indeed, in other respects good and faithful, but are at the same time harsh, and do not spare their patients. Paul declares, that he is not of such a disposition as to employ harsh cures, when not constrained by necessity. As, however, it had turned out well, that he had made trial of that kind of cure, he congratulates himself on his success. He makes use of a similar form of expression in 2 Corinthians 5:4,

We in this tabernacle groan, being burdened, because we are desirous not to be unclothed, but clothed upon.

10. Sorrow according to God 644644     “Tristitia secundum Deum;” — “La tristesse qui est selon Dieu;” — “The sorrow which is according to God.” “Κατὰ Θεὸν, in such a way as God requireswith reference to his will and glory, i.e., as Rosenm. explains, ‘arising from causes out of which he would have it arise, and producing effects such as he would approve.’” — Bloomfield. .Ed. In the first place, in order to understand what is meant by this clause according to God, we must observe the contrast, for the sorrow that is according to God he contrasts with the sorrow of the world Let us now take, also, the contrast between two kinds of joy. The joy of the world is, when men foolishly, and without the fear of the Lord, exult in vanity, that is, in the world, and, intoxicated with a transient felicity, look no higher than the earth. The joy that is according to God is, when men place all their happiness in God, and take satisfaction in His grace, and show this by contempt of the world, using earthly prosperity as if they used it not, and joyful in the midst of adversity. Accordingly, the sorrow of the world is, when men despond in consequence of earthly afflictions, and are overwhelmed with grief; while sorrow according to God is that which has an eye to God, while they reckon it the one misery — to have lost the favor of God; when, impressed with fear of His judgment, they mourn over their sins. This sorrow Paul makes the cause and origin of repentance. This is carefully to be observed, for unless the sinner be dissatisfied with himself, detest his manner of life, and be thoroughly grieved from an apprehension of sin, he will never betake himself to the Lord. 645645     “Ne pensons pas que iamais il se convertisse au Seigneur;” — “Let us not think that ever he will turn to the Lord.” On the other hand, it is impossible for a man to experience a sorrow of this kind, without its giving birth to a new heart. Hence repentance takes its rise in grief, for the reason that I have mentioned — because no one can return to the right way, but the man who hates sin; but where hatred of sin is, there is self-dissatisfaction and grief.

There is, however, a beautiful allusion here to the term repentance, when he says — not to be repented of; for however unpleasant the thing is at first taste, it renders itself desirable by its usefulness. The epithet, it is true, might apply to the term salvation, equally as to that of repentance; but it appears to me to suit better with the term repentance “We are taught by the result itself, that grief ought not to be painful to us, or distressing. In like manner, although repentance contains in it some degree of bitterness, if, is spoken of as not to be repented of on account of the precious and pleasant fruit which it produces.”

To salvation Paul seems to make repentance the ground of salvation. Were it so, it would follow, that we are justified by works. I answer, that we must observe what Paul here treats of, for he is not inquiring as to the ground of salvation, but simply commending repentance from the fruit which it produces, he says that it is like a way by which we arrive at salvation. Nor is it without good reason; for Christ calls us by way of free favor, but it is to repentance. (Matthew 9:13.) God by way of free favor pardons our sins, but only when we renounce them. Nay more, God accomplishes in us at one and the same time two things: being renewed by repentance, we are delivered from the bondage of our sins; and, being justified by faith, we are delivered also from the curse of our sins. They are, therefore, inseparable fruits of grace, and, in consequence of their invariable connection, repentance may with fitness and propriety be represented as an introduction to salvation, but in this way of speaking of it, it is represented as an effect rather than as a cause. These are not refinements for the purpose of evasion, but a true and simple solution, for, while Scripture teaches us that we never obtain forgiveness of sins without repentance, it represents at the same time, in a variety of passages, the mercy of God alone as the ground of our obtaining it.

11. What earnest desire it produced in you I shall not enter into any dispute as to whether the things that Paul enumerates are effects of repentance, or belong to it, or are preparatory to it, as all this is unnecessary for understanding Paul’s design, for he simply proves the repentance of the Corinthians from its signs, or accompaniments. At the same time he makes sorrow according to God to be the source of all these things, inasmuch as they spring from it — which is assuredly the case; for when we have begun to feel self-dissatisfaction, we are afterwards stirred up to seek after the other things.

What is meant by earnest desire, we may understand from what is opposed to it; for so long as there is no apprehension of sin, we lie drowsy and inactive. Hence drowsiness or carelessness, or unconcern, 646646     “Nonchalance, ou paresse, ou asseurance qui procede de stupidite;” — “Carelessness or indolence, or confidence arising from stupidity.” stands opposed to that earnest desire, that he makes mention of. Accordingly, earnest desire means simply an eager and active assiduity in the correcting of what is amiss, and in the amendment of life.

Yea, what clearing of yourselves Erasmus having rendered it satisfaction, ignorant persons, misled by the ambiguity of the term, have applied it to popish satisfactions, whereas Paul employs the term ἀπολογίαν, (defense.) It is on this account that I have preferred to retain the word defensionem, which the Old Interpreter had made use of. 647647     Wiclif, (1380,) following the Vulgate, reads, defendynge.Ed. It is, however, to be observed, that it is a kind of defense that consists rather in supplication for pardon, than in extenuation of sin. As a son, who is desirous to clear himself to his father, does not enter upon a regular pleading of his cause, but by acknowledging his fault excuses himself, rather in the spirit of a suppliant, than in a tone of confidence, hypocrites, also, excuse themselves — nay more, they haughtily defend themselves, but it is rather in the way of disputing with God, than of returning to favor with him; and should any one prefer the word excusationem, (excuse,) I do not object to it; because the meaning will amount to the same thing, that the Corinthians were prompted to clear themselves, whereas previously they cared not what Paul thought of them.

Yea, what indignation 648648     “Voire marrissement. Il y a proprement au Grec, Indignation ou courroux;” — “Yea what concern. It is properly in the Greek, Indignation or wrath.” This disposition, also, is attendant on sacred sorrow — that the sinner is indignant against his vices, and even against himself, as also all that are actuated by a right zeal 649649     “Qui ont vn bon et sainct zele;” — “Who have a good and holy zeal.” are indignant, as often as they see that God is offended. This disposition, however, is more intense than sorrow. For the first step is, that evil be displeasing to us. The second is, that, being inflamed with anger, we press hard upon ourselves, so that our consciences may be touched to the quick. It may, however, be taken here to mean the indignation, with which the Corinthians had been inflamed against the sins of one or a few, whom they had previously spared. Thus they repented of their concurrence or connivance.

Fear is what arises from an apprehension of divine judgment, while the offender thinks — “Mark it well, an account must be rendered by thee, and what wilt thou advance in the presence of so great a judge?” For, alarmed by such a consideration, he begins to tremble.

As, however, the wicked themselves are sometimes touched with an alarm of this nature, he adds desire This disposition we know to be more of a voluntary nature than fear, for we are often afraid against our will, but we never desire but from inclination. Hence, as they had dreaded punishment on receiving Paul’s admonition, so they eagerly aimed at amendment.

But what are we to understand by zeal? There can be no doubt that he intended a climax. Hence it means more than desire Now we may understand by it, that they stirred up each other in a spirit of mutual rivalry. It is simpler, however, to understand it as meaning, that every one, with great fervor of zeal, aimed to give evidence of his repentance. Thus zeal is intensity of desire.

Yea, what revenge What we have said as to indignation, must be applied also to revenge; for the wickedness which they had countenanced by their connivance and indulgence, they had afterwards shown themselves rigorous in avenging. They had for some time tolerated incest; but, on being admonished by Paul, they had not merely ceased to countenance him, but had been strict reprovers in chastening him, — this was the revenge that was meant. As, however, we ought to punish sins wherever they are, 650650     “En quelque personne qu’ils soyent trouuez;” — “In any person in whom they are found.” and not only so, but should begin more especially with ourselves, there is something farther meant in what the Apostle says here, for he speaks of the signs of repentance. There is, among others, this more particularly — that, by punishing sins, we anticipate, in a manner, the judgment of God, as he teaches elsewhere, If we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged by the Lord. (1 Corinthians 11:31.) We are not, however, to infer from this, that mankind, by taking vengeance upon themselves, compensate to God for the punishment due to him, 651651     “La peine qu’il leur pourroit iustement imposer;” — “The punishment which he could justly have inflicted upon them.” so that they redeem themselves from his hand. The case stands thus — that, as it is the design of God by chastising us, to arouse us from our carelessness, that, being reminded of his displeasure, we may be on our guard for the future, when the sinner himself is beforehand in inflicting punishment of his own accord, the effect is, that he no longer stands in need of such an admonition from God.

But it is asked, whether the Corinthians had an eye to Paul, or to God, in this revenge, as well as in the zeal, and desire, and the rest. 652652     “Et autres affections yci nominees;” — “And other dispositions here mentioned.” I answer, that all these things are, under all circumstances, attendant upon repentance, but there is a difference in the case of an individual sinning secretly before God, or openly before the world. If a person’s sin is secret, it is enough if he has this disposition in the sight of God; on the other hand, where the sin is open, there is required besides an open manifestation of repentance. Thus the Corinthians, who had sinned openly and to the great offense of the good, required to give evidence of their repentance by these tokens.

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