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2 Corinthians 12:16-21

16. But be it so, I did not burden you: nevertheless, being crafty, I caught you with guile.

16. Sed esto: ipse non gravavi vos: verum quum essem astutus, dolo vos cepi.

17. Did I make a gain of you by any of them whom I sent unto you?

17. Num per quenquam eorum, quos nisi ad vos, expilavi vos? 933933     Vous ay-ie affrontez, ou, pillez?” — “Did I take advantage of you, or plunder you?”

18. I desired Titus, and with him I sent a brother. Did Titus make a gain of you? walked we not in the same spirit? walked we not in the same steps?

18. Rogavi Titume, et una cum illo misi fratrem: num quid a vobis extorsit Titus? An non eodem spirtu ambulavimus? An non iisdem vestigiis?

19. Again, think ye that we excuse ourselves unto you? we speak before God in Christ: but we do all things, dearly beloved, for your edifying.

19. Rursum arbitramini, quod nos vobis excusemus? In conspectu Dei in christo loquimur: sed omnia, carissimi, pro vestra aedificatione.

20. For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not: lest there be debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults:

20. Nam metuo, ne qua fiat, ut, si venero, non quales velim reperiam vos: et ego reperiar a vobis, qualem nolitis: ne quo modo sint contentiones, obtrectationes, susurri, tumores, seditiones.

21. And lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed.

21. Ne iterum, ubi venero, humiliet me Deus meus apud vosm et lugeam multos eorum qui ante peccaverumt, nec poenitentiam egerunt immunditiae libidinis et impudicitiae quam patrarunt.


16. But be it so. These words intimate, that Paul had been blamed by malevolent persons, as though he had in a clandestine way procured, through means of hired persons, what he had refused to receive with his own hands 934934     This passage is so far from being friendly to the exercise of guile, that it is a manifest disavowal of it. It is an irony. The Apostle does not describe what had actually been his conduct, but that of which he stood accused by the Corinthian teachers. They insinuated, that he was a sly, crafty man, going about preaching, persuading, and catching people with guile. Paul acknowledges, that he and his colleagues did, indeed, ‘persuade men,’ and could not do otherwise, for ‘the love of Christ constrained them.’ (2 Corinthians 5:11, 14.) But he indignantly repels the insinuation of its being from mercenary motives. ‘We have wronged no man,’ says he, ‘we have corrupted no man; we have defrauded no man.’ (2 Corinthians 7:2.) Having denied the charge, he shows the absurdity of it. Mercenary men, who wish to draw people after them, have an end to answer: and ‘What end,’ says Paul, ‘could I have in view, in persuading you to embrace the gospel? Have I gained any thing by you? When I was with you, was I burdensome to you? No: nor, as things are, will I be burdensome. Yet being crafty, forsooth, I caught you with guile.’” — Fuller’ s Works, volume 3. — Ed. — not that he had done any such thing, but they “measure others,” as they say, “by their own ell.” 935935     The reader will find the same proverb made use of by Calvin, when commenting on 1 Corinthians 7:36. (See vol. 1, p. 265.) He probably alludes, in both instances, to a sentiment of Horace: “Metiri se quenquam suo modulo ac pede verum est;” — “It is proper, that every one should measure himself by his own measure and foot.” (Hor. Epist. 1.7. 98.) — Ed. For it is customary for the wicked impudently to impute to the servants of God, whatever they would themselves do, if they had it in their power. Hence, Paul is constrained, with the view of clearing himself of a charge impudently fabricated, 936936     “Pour refuter et repousser loin de soy le blasme qu’on auoit controuue impudemment;” — “With the view of repelling, and putting far away from himself the blame which they had inpudently contrived.” to defend the integrity of those whom he sent, for if they had committed any error, it would have been reckoned to his account. Now, who would be surprised at his being so cautious as to alms, when he had been harassed by such unfair judgments as to his conduct, after having made use of every precaution? 937937     Veu qu’on semoit de luy des souspectons et iugemens si iniques, apres qu’il auoit si diligemment pourueu a toutes choses?” — “Inasmuch as they propagated such unfair surmises and judgments respecting him, after he had so carefully used precaution as to every thing?” Let his case, however, be a warning to us, not to look upon it as a thing that is new and intolerable, if at any time we find occasion to answer similar calumnies; but, more especially, let this be an admonition to us to use strict caution, not to furnish any handle to revilers. For we see, that it is not enough to give evidence of being ourselves upright, if those, whose assistance we have made use of, are not, also, found to be so. Hence, our choice of them must not be made lightly, or as a matter of mere form, but with the utmost possible care.

19. Do you again think. As those that are conscious to themselves of something wrong are sometimes more anxious than others to clear themselves, it is probable, that this, also, was turned into a ground of calumny — that Paul had in the former Epistle applied himself to a defense of his ministry. Farther, it is a fault in the servants of Christ, to be too much concerned as to their own reputation. With the view, therefore, of repelling those calumnies, he declares in the first place, that he speaks in the presence of God, whom evil consciences always dread. In the second place, he maintains, that he has not so much a view to himself, as to them. He was prepared to go through good report and bad report, (2 Corinthians 6:8,) nay, even to be reduced to nothing; but it was of advantage to the Corinthians, that he should retain the reputation that he deserved, that his ministry might not be brought into contempt.

20. For I fear He declares, in what way it tends to their edification, that his integrity should be vindicated, for, on the ground that he had come into contempt, many grew wanton, as it were, with loosened reins. Now respect for him would have been a means of leading them to repentance, for they would have listened to his admonitions.

I fear, says he. This fear proceeded from love, for, unless he had been concerned as to their welfare, he would very readily have overlooked all this, from which he sought to obtain no personal advantage. For otherwise we are afraid to give occasion of offense, when we foresee that it will be hurtful to ourselves.

And I shall be found by you. Here is a second ground of fear — lest he should be constrained to act with greater severity. Now it is a token not merely of love, but even of indulgence, to shun severity, and have recourse to milder measures. “As to my striving at present to maintain my authority, and endeavoring to bring you back to obedience, I do this, lest I should find occasion to punish your obstinacy more severely, if I come, and find among you nothing of amendment.” He teaches, accordingly, by his example, that mild remedies must always be resorted to by Pastors, for the correction of faults, before they have recourse to extreme severity; and, at the same time, that we must, by admonitions and reproofs, prevent the necessity of having recourse to the utmost rigor.

Lest, by any means, there be contentions. He enumerates the vices, which chiefly prevailed among the Corinthians; almost all of which proceeded from the same source. For had not every one been devoted to self, they would never have contended with each other — they would never have envied one another — there would have been no slandering among them. 938938     Ils n’eussent iamais mesdit l’vn de l’autre;” — “They would never have slandered one another.” Thus the sum and substance of the first catalogue 939939     Du premier denombrement de leur vices qu’il fait yci;” — “Of the first enumeration that he makes here of their vices.” is want of love, because (φιλαυτία) self-love, 940940     Calvin has here very probably in his eye 2 Timothy 3:2, in commenting on which, he calls his readers to remark, that the vice first noticed by the Apostle in that passage — self-love (φιλαυτία), may be considered to be the fountain, as it were, of all the other vices there enumerated by him — avarice, boasting, pride, etc. — See Calvin’s Harmony, vol. 2, p. 69, and vol. 3, p. 60; also Calvin’s Institutes, volume 1. and ambition prevailed.

21. Lest, when I come, my God should humble me His abasement was reckoned to him as a fault. The blame of it he throws back upon the Corinthians, who, when they should have honored his Apostleship, loaded it, on the contrary, with disgrace; for their proficiency 941941     Qu’ils eussent proufite en sainctete de vie;” — “That they had made progress in holiness of life.” would have been the glory and honor of Paul’s Apostleship. When, therefore, they were, instead of this, overrun with many vices, they heaped disgrace upon him to the utmost of their power. He does not, indeed, charge them all with this crime, but only a few, who had impudently despised all his admonitions. The meaning, then, is this: “They think contemptuously of me, because I appear contemptible. Let them, then, give me no occasion of abasement: nay more, let them, on the contrary, laying aside their forwardness, begin to feel shame; and let them, confounded at their iniquities, prostrate themselves on the ground, instead of looking down upon others with disdain.”

In the mean time, he lets us know the disposition of a true and genuine Pastor, when he says that he will look upon the sins of others with grief. And, undoubtedly, the right way of acting is this — that every Christian shall have his Church inclosed within his heart, and be affected with its maladies, as if they were his own, — sympathize with its sorrows, and bewail its sins. We see, how Jeremiah entreats, that there may be given him a fountain of tears, (Jeremiah 9:1,) that he may bewail the calamity of his people. We see, how pious kings and prophets, to whom the government of the people was committed, were touched with similar feelings. It is, indeed, a thing that is common to all the pious, to be grieved in every case in which God is offended, and to bewail the ruin of brethren, and present themselves before God in their room as in a manner guilty, but it is more particularly requisite on the part of Pastors. 942942     Des Pasteurs et Ministres;” — “Of Pastors and Ministers.” Farther, Paul here brings forward a second catalogue of vices, which, however, belong to one general head — unchastity.

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