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8. Generosity Encouraged

Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; 2How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. 3For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; 4Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. 5And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God. 6Insomuch that we desired Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also finish in you the same grace also. 7Therefore, as ye abound in every thing, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also. 8I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love. 9For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich. 10And herein I give my advice: for this is expedient for you, who have begun before, not only to do, but also to be forward a year ago. 11Now therefore perform the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to will, so there may be a performance also out of that which ye have. 12For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not. 13For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened: 14But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality: 15As it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack. 16But thanks be to God, which put the same earnest care into the heart of Titus for you. 17For indeed he accepted the exhortation; but being more forward, of his own accord he went unto you. 18And we have sent with him the brother, whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches; 19And not that only, but who was also chosen of the churches to travel with us with this grace, which is administered by us to the glory of the same Lord, and declaration of your ready mind: 20Avoiding this, that no man should blame us in this abundance which is administered by us: 21Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men. 22And we have sent with them our brother, whom we have oftentimes proved diligent in many things, but now much more diligent, upon the great confidence which I have in you. 23Whether any do enquire of Titus, he is my partner and fellowhelper concerning you: or our brethren be enquired of, they are the messengers of the churches, and the glory of Christ. 24Wherefore shew ye to them, and before the churches, the proof of your love, and of our boasting on your behalf.

As, in the event of the Corinthians retaining any feeling of offense, occasioned by the severity of the preceding Epistle, that might stand in the way of Paul’s authority having influence over them, he has hitherto made it his endeavor to conciliate their affections. Now, after clearing away all occasion of offense, and regaining favor for his ministry, he recommends to them the brethren at Jerusalem, that they may furnish help to their necessities. He could not, with any great advantage, have attempted this in the commencement of the Epistle. Hence, he has prudently deferred it, until he has prepared their minds for it. Accordingly, he takes up the whole of this chapter, and the next, in exhorting the Corinthians to be active and diligent in collecting alms to be taken to Jerusalem for relieving the indigence of the brethren. For they were afflicted with a great famine, so that they could scarcely support life without being aided by other churches. The Apostles had intrusted Paul with this matter, (Galatians 2:10,) and he had promised to concern himself in reference to it, and he had already done so in part, as we have seen in the former Epistle. 659659     “See Calvin on the Corinthians, vol. 2, pp. 67-70. Now, however, he presses them still farther.

1. I make known to you. He commends the Macedonians, but it is with the design of stimulating the Corinthians by their example, although he does not expressly say so; for the former had no need of commendation, but the latter had need of a stimulus. And that he may stir up the Corinthians the more to emulation, he ascribes it to the grace of God that the Macedonians had been so forward to give help to their brethren. For although it is acknowledged by all, that it is a commendable virtue to give help to the needy, they, nevertheless, do not reckon it to be a gain, nor do they look upon it as the grace of God Nay rather, they reckon, that it is so much of what was theirs taken from them, and lost. Paul, on the other hand, declares, that we ought to ascribe it to the grace of God, when we afford aid to our brethren, and that it ought to be desired by us as a privilege of no ordinary kind.

He makes mention, however, of a twofold favor, that had been conferred upon the Macedonians. The first is, that they had endured afflictions with composure and cheerfulness. The second is, that from their slender means, equally as though they had possessed abundance, 660660     “D’aussi bon coeur qu’ils eussent este bien riches;” — “As heartily as if they had been very rich.” they had taken something — to be laid out upon their brethren. Each of these things, Paul affirms with good reason, is a work of the Lord, for all quickly fail, that are not upheld by the Spirit of God, who is the Author of all consolation, and distrust clings to us, deeply rooted, which keeps us back from all offices of love, until it is subdued by the grace of the same Spirit.

2. In much trial — In other words, while they were tried with adversity, they, nevertheless, did not cease to rejoice in the Lord: nay, this disposition rose so high, as to swallow up sorrow; for the minds of the Macedonians, which must otherwise have been straitened, required to be set free from their restraints, that they might liberally 661661     “Franchement et d’vne affection liberale;” — “Cheerfully, and with a liberal spirit.” furnish aid to the brethren.

By the term joy he means that spiritual consolation by which believers are sustained under their afflictions; for the wicked either delude themselves with empty consolations, by avoiding a perception of the evil, and drawing off the mind to rambling thoughts, or else they wholly give way to grief, and allow themselves to be overwhelmed with it. Believers, on the other hand, seek occasions of joy in the affliction itself, as we see in the 8th chapter of the Romans. 662662     Calvin refers, it is probable, more particularly to Paul’s statement in Romans 8:28, And we know that all things shall work together for good, etc.; in commenting upon which passage, our author observes: “Ex supradictis nunc concludit, tantum abesse, quin salutem nostram remorentur hujus vitae aerumnae, ut sint potius eius adminicula;” — “From what has been said previously, he now draws this conclusion, that the distresses of this life are so far from being hinderances to our salvation, that they are rather helps to it.” — Ed.

And their deep poverty. Here we have a metaphor taken from exhausted vessels, as though he had said, that the Macedonians had been emptied, so that they had now reached the bottom. He says, that even in such straits they had abounded in liberality, and had been rich, so as to have enough — not merely for their own use, but also for giving assistance to others. Mark the way, in which we shall always be liberal even in the most straitened poverty — if by liberality of mind we make up for what is deficient in our coffers.

Liberality is opposed to niggardliness, as in Romans 12:8, where Paul requires this on the part of deacons. For what makes us more close-handed than we ought to be is — when we look too carefully, and too far forward, in contemplating the dangers that may occur — when we are excessively cautious and careful — when we calculate too narrowly what we will require during our whole life, or, in fine, how much we lose when the smallest portion is taken away. The man, that depends upon the blessing of the Lord, has his mind set free from these trammels, and has, at the same time, his hands opened for beneficence. Let us now draw an argument from the less to the greater. “Slender means, nay poverty, did not prevent the Macedonians from doing good to their brethren: What excuse, then, will the Corinthians have, if they keep back, while opulent and affluent in comparison of them?”

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