2 Corinthians 7These words are argumentative, and infer the indispensable duty of Christians to preserve themselves untainted from the idolatrous, impute world, by the consideration of the promises specified in the preceding chapter, I will dwell in you, and walk in you, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people; a promise which contains the highest honour, and most perfect felicity, of the reasonable nature.
Now from hence he infers, That Christians having such promises, such helps and assistances, should cleanse themselves from sinful pollution, and endeavour after perfection in purity and holiness. Having therefore, &c.
Observe here, 1. The title wherewith the apostle addresses himself unto them, Dearly beloved; this expresses both the truth and also the strength of his affections towards them: By this appellation he recommends his counsel to their acceptance: For, as light opens the mind by clear conviction, so love opens the heart by persuasive insinuation.
Observe, 2. The matter of the address, and that is, to cleanse ourselves from all pollution both of spirit and flesh, and the changing of us into the unspotted image of God's holiness. The pollution of human nature is intimate and radical, diffused through all the faculties of the soul, and members of the body; we are therefore to pray for, and endeavour after renewing grace, and to be always advancing in holiness on earth, till we arrive at perfection in heaven.
Observe, 3. The motive exciting hereunto; namely, the exceeding great and precious promises assured to us from the mouth of God, Having these promises, let us cleanse ourselves.
Observe, 4. The means to help us therein, the fear of God. This grace has an eminent casuality and influence in a Christian's sanctification; it is a powerful restraint from sin both in thought and act, by considering that God's pure and flaming eyes see sin wherever it is, in order to judgment. An holy fear of God, and an humble fear of ourselves, will both restrain us from sin, and engages us to obedience.
From the whole, learn, That the promises of the gospel lay the most powerful obligations upon Christians to endeavour after, and strive for the attainment of pure and perfect holiness. As the pollution is universal, so must the cleansing be; and though thankful we must be for the least measure of sanctifying grace received, yet not satisfied with the greatest, short of our perfection; perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
Observe here, 1. The duty which St. Paul exhorts the Corinthians to, namely, to receive him, their apostle, into their kind affections into the bosom of their love, Receive us; that is, into your best affections. The ministers of Christ are very desirous of a large share and interest in their people's love; well knowing, that if they be prejudiced against their persons, they will reap no benefit by their doctrine.
Observe, 2. The solemn protestation which the holy apostle makes of his integrity and uprightness towards the Corinthians, We have wronged no man, corrupted no man, defrauded no man; that is, we have wronged none in their reputation by slander, we have corrupted no man's judgment by error and false doctrine, we have defrauded no man of any part of their estates, either by force or fraud.
Learn hence, That the holy servants of God, especially the faithful ministers of Christ, may justify themselves, and make solemn protestations of their own integrity and uprightness, especially when they fall under jealousy and suspicion by the enemies of religion. As it was the continual practice of the false apostles to discredit St. Paul's ministry, and reflect upon his person; so it was his constant care to counter-work them, by a professed vindication of himself, and all his actions.
Observe, 3. The fervour of the apostle's affection towards his Corinthian converts, You are in our hearts to live and die with you; that is, you lie and are lodged so near our hearts, that we could live with you, and die for you, to promote your spiritual and eternal welfare. Behold how large a room the people of God have in the affections of his ministers, how near do they lie to their hearts; and so passionately desirous are they of their people's salvation, that they could even lay down their lives, and die, to promote their temporal and eternal advantage.
Observe, 4. How the apostle gloried in, and was comforted by the Corinthians, in the midst of all his afflictions, by the report he had of their repentance, obedience, and liberality; Great is my glorying in you; I am filled with comfort, and exceeding joyful in the midst of all my tribulations. As if he had said, "Verily, the report I have had of your repentance and reformation upon the receiving of my former epsitle, has afflictions and tribulations which I meet with for the gospel."
Learn hence, That the repentance and reformation of any of our people, by the blessing of God upon our ministerial endeavours, is matter of great rejoicing and glorying to us the ministers of God, who desire, above all things, the conversion, edification, and salvation of the souls of the people: Great is my glorying in you; I am filled with comfort, I am exceeding joyful.
Observe here, When the apostle was come from Ephesus to Macedonia, how great a conflict he had, both from without and within: From without, by persecution and opposition both from the Jews and Gentiles; and from within by fears lest the false apostle should have perverted any of his young converts from the simplicity which is in Christ or, fearing lest the Corinthians, being tender and weak in the faith, the violence of persecution, and the strength of temptation, should cause them to apostatize from their religion, and backslide from their holy profession.
Observe, 2. A most endearing title given to Almighty God; He comforteth all those that are cast down. This is his dear title: He esteems himself more honoured with the amiable and endearing title of a Comforter and a Father, than with the glorious title of a Creator and a Sovereign. He is more pleased in doing us good, than we can be pleased in receiving of it; and can as soon forget himself, as forget his children.
Observe, 3. The instrumental means which God made use of, for the apostle's consolation, support, and relief; namely, the coming of Titus.
First, God comforteth us by the coming of Titus. Mark, He doth not intitle Titus, but God, by Titus, to the comfort he received. Whoever is the instrumental cause, God is the principal efficient cause of our consolation and comfort. It shews an holy flame of heart, when we stay not in creatures, but are carried to God as the author of our comforts and crosses.
Secondly, The glad tidings and good news which Titus brought, as touching the Corinthians earnest desire to have all things amiss rectified, their sorrow expressed for the reproved, their fervent affection towards the apostle, their grief for offending him, their zeal to vindicate him; all these were matter of comfort and exceeding consolation to the apostle, under all his disquietness in Macedonia.
Learn hence, That when troubles, both from without and within do oppress the minds, and even sink the Spirits of the ministers of God: if they can but see the success of their labours in the lives of their people, that they are humbled for sin, and turned from it; this is matter of unspeakable consolation at present, and will be their crown of rejoicing in the day of Christ; When Titus told us of your earnest desire, your mourning, your fervent mind; I rejoice the more.
As if the apostle had said, Although in my former epistle I wrote somewhat sharply to you, by reason of the many abuses that were crept in amongst you; I do not now repent of that severity, because it produced a thorough and effectual reformation: Though at first I did repent of it, being unwilling to put you to grief; for I was troubled myself, because your sorrow was a godly sorrow, and wrought repentance, which is so necessary to forgiveness; so that my plain-dealing with you has evidently been no damage, but an advantage to you.
Learn hence, That the faithful ministers of Christ must by no means omit the duty of sharp reproof, nor neglect to bring the censures of the church upon notorious offenders, how ungrateful soever the work is either to themselves or others.
Learn, 2. That there is good ground to hope, that when the censures of the church are duly executed, they will have their desired effects, by bringing the offenders to repentance; and by repentance to remission and salvation: I rejoice, that ye sorrowed to repentance, for ye sorrowed after a godly sort.
Note here, that sorrow for sin, will be of no advantage or avail upon us, if it be not godly sorrow, or a sorrow according to God, as it runs in the original. Now it may be called a sorrow according to God, when it is a sorrow wrought in us by the Spirit of God, in obedience to the command of God, and with an eye at the glory of God; when it has sin, and not wrath, for its object; sin, as a wrong to God, as a contempt of his sovereignty, and a contrariety to his holiness.
Again, It is then a godly sorrow, when it puts us upon an high prizing of Jesus Christ, who became a sacrifice for sin; and prompts us to a cordial and unfeigned forsaking of all sin to such a turning from it, as is resolved against all returning to it.
The sorrow of the world may be taken two ways, 1. For the sorrow of worldly men, whose sorrow for sin is only a vexing of their hearts, not a breaking or humbling of their hearts; which being separate from true faith, and without any purpose to leave sin, worketh death, by wearing out the natural life lingeringly, and sometimes destroying the natural life violently, as in the case of Judas.
2. By the sorrow of the world, may be understood a sorrow for worldly things, a sorrow for worldly losses and disappointments. This is sinful, when it is excessive; and as it is prejudicial to the soul, so doth it hurt the body, and it hasteneth death. Worldly sorrow is a killing sorrow: Godly sorrow worketh repentance: But the sorrow of the world worketh death.
The apostle, in the foregoing verses, had declared, that godly sorrow, or a sorrow wrought by the Spirit of God, worketh true repentance, and produceth thorough reformation, not to be repented of: Now in this verse he proves, that the Corinthians sorrow for the incestuous person's sin, was of this nature, namely, a godly sorrow, because it produced such excellent effects and fruits as godly sorrow is wont to do. Seven of which he here reckons up.
1. Care, or an holy carefulness to amend what is amiss for time to come, by shunning and avoiding all occasions and temptations that lead to sin. He that truly repenteth, is careful not to sin again.
2. Clearing of themselves, that they did not approve the fact of the incestuous person,but did inflict the church's censures upon him, and so put away evil from amongst them.
3. Indignation against sin; this is found where godly sorrow is found; the heart rises, swells, and boils against sin; we are then angry and sin not; when we are angry at sin, and with ourselves for sinning.
4. Fear a true penitent fears to offend: and that he may not offend, doth nourish in himself an holy fear of God, and an humble fear of himself: There is found with him a fear of reverence, from an awful apprehension of the holiness and Majesty of God, and also a fear of diligence and vigilance, watching and warring against sin, that it may not set upon us and surprise us for the time to come.
5. Vehement desire, after a thorough reformation, and to rectify whatever is amiss; a desire to be rid of all sin, and in the mean time conflicting with it, and groaning under it.
6. Zeal; this is an affection in the true penitent, compounded of love and anger. Be zealous and repent, is Christ's own call, Rev 3:19 This will make a penitent persist in the exercise and expression of his godly sorrow for sin, and persevere in his course of mortification, in defiance of all opposition made against him.
7. Revenge; this is the result of zeal, when our zeal boils into revenge, and puts us upon self-castigations: not so much upon our bodies with whips and scourges but by the abatement of lust which stirreth in us, buffeting, the flesh, and bringing it into subjection. And this revenge leads the penitent also to make satisfaction for wrongs done, either by open confession, or secret restitution: In all things you have approved yourselves to be clear of this matter.
As if the apostle had said, "By these forementioned acts of yours, the body of you hath shewn that you did not approve of the incestuous person's sin, but evinced by your sorrow for it, that you are clear of it.
Learn hence, 1. That there is no way to get clear of the guilt of other men's sins, but by duly mourning for them: Now your are clear of this matter.
Learn, 2. That true repentance for sin, clears us from the guilt of it, both in the sight of God and man; and if so, it is both uncharitable and unchristian to stigmatize or reproach any person for the sin, which we either know or believe he has truly repented of.
Here our apostle tells them, that he did not write so passionately and severely to them, only or chiefly for the incestuous person's sake, who had done the wrong, that he might be punished, not for his sake that had suffered the wrong, namely, the injured father, out of a particular kindness to have him righted; but that his general care, solicitude, and concern for them, the whole church of Corinth, to remove sin and scandal from them, might appear unto them.
That is, in all the forementioned effects and fruits, signs and evidences of a true repentance, which were found in you, and are matter of great comfort to you, we are also comforted with you; and we also had a superadded joy, for the joy that Titus conceived, upon his understanding of your affairs; also your ready compliance with the duties and directions given you in my former epistle, did wonderfully refresh and rejoice his spirit; and in all these your consolations and comforts am I comforted.
Hence learn, That such is the intimate and endeared union between the ministers and members of Jesus Christ, that they are comforted with one another's comforts, and afflicted with each other's sorrows and sufferings.
Observe here, How the apostle had formerly taken occasion to speak boastingly, and not without assurance, concerning the church of Corinth. "Now, says the apostle, whatever I said of you, is as infallibly and certainly true, as what I have heretofore either or spoken to you."- Happy is it when a minister's commendations of his people unto others, are not contradicted or gainsayed by the people themselves, but confirmed greatly.
Here, what St. Paul had boasted of the Corinthians, Titus found a truth.
Observe, next, With what inward affection Titus did embrace and receive the Corinthians, remembering with what great deference and regard they had received him; he is greatly affected towards you, upon his finding you so obedient to me. Nothing doth more endear a people to the ministers of Christ, than to find them obedient to their spiritual guides in things pertaining to godliness and religion: The affection of Titus is more abundant towards you, whilst he remebereth the obedience of you all.
Observe, lastly, What confidence the apostle had, that the church of Corinth would hearken to, and comply with his future admonitions, exhortations and reproofs: I have confidence in you in all things. It is a blessed thing when the ministers of the gospel and their beloved people have a mutual confidence in each other, and when that confidence on either side is not broken, but preserved and increased between them all their days; when, they can say of each other, as doth the apostle here, I rejoice that I have confidence in you in all things.
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