2 Corinthians 9Observe here, The holy art and skill of this wise and great apostle, in promoting forward, and putting on these Corinthians to, this work of pious charity: he insinuates their present forwardness, to provoke them to farther forwardness; he tells them, it was superfluous for him to use farther arguments with them; for their forwardness was known unto him, and boasted of by him, to the Mascedonians, that the Christians in Achaia (of which Corinth was the chief city) had made a proposal to supply the poor saints of Judea a year ago; and that their zeal therein had provoked very many to the like forwardness.
It is very happy, when the ministers of Christ find their people foreward and ready to every good work, to costly works of charity especially; yet it will be their wisdom, by commending their people for what they have done, to encourage them to do farther; not only for increasing their own reward, but for provoking many to do the like: I know the forwardness of your mind, and that your zeal hath provoked very many.
As confident and fully persuaded as the apostle was of the readiness and willingness of mind that was found in the Corinthians towards this charitable contribution, yet he judgeth it both expedient and necessary to send the brethren before to them, to get all things ready, the collection finished and over; that so when he himself, and the Macedonians, should come to Corinth, he might not be put to blush for them, having made great boasts of their charity, but finding no deeds: and also he desires their collection may be ready, with respect to themselves, that so their beneficence may appear to be their own free bounty, and not a collection difficultly extorted from them, as from covetous men, who give grudgingly and unwilligly.
Note here, 1. That it is very lawful for the ministers of Christ to use an holy craft, and innocent guilt, to draw men to a speedy compliance with their duty, sometimes by engaging their reputation in it, and sometimes alluring them by just praises to the doing of it. Thus our apostle did here.
Note, 2. That the readiness which St. Paul here presses them to, is not the readiness of the mind, but the readiness of the action: he was well satisfied, that they were ready in their preparation of the mind long ago, but he presses them to finish the collection, of which he had so much boasted to the Macedonians.
Note, 3. How the blessed apostle did consult the Corinthians' honour and reputation equally with his own and was as desirous to prevent reflection upon them as upon himself; he would not have them ashamed, no more than himself, at his coming among them.
Note, 4. That a liberal free-giving to the saints in distress, is called here kharis khae enlogia, grace and blessing: we translate it bounty. It is called grace, because an heart to give liberally is wrought in us by the grace of God; the world shuts up our hearts till God opens them; and if the heart be open, the hands will not be shut: and works of charity are a blessing of God with our substance, and the way and means to produce his blessing upon our substance. Giving to distressed saints in proportion to what God has given us, is by Almnighty God accounted a blessing of him, and a blessing of our fellow-brethren; and whoever thus blesses God shall be blessed by him.
Note, 5. That the Corinthians being a very rich and wealthy people, the apostle stirs them up to an abundant charity. Where God gives much, he expects much: but how many, alas, grudge God a little of his own; and how difficultly is that little drawn from them, like drops of blood! Whereas to give alms purely to satisfy the importunity of others, or out of shame, misses of its reward before God.
Here the apostle comes to direct the Corinthians how and after what manner they should give their alms, so as to secure a blessing, namely, deliberately.
1. As he purposeth in his heart so let him give; as he determined and resolved within himself. When a Christian gives, he must take care that it be his own act as much as he can. Some men give what they did never intend, and bestow what they did never choose or design to bestow. Importunity extorts charity from some; they give, to get rid of the noise, and purchase their quiet with their alms; whereas the liberal man devises liberal things, the good man lays by in store what he intends to bestow in alms.
2. Freely and bountifully; For he that soweth bountifully, shall reap also bountifully; that is, he that giveth liberally to the poor, shall be rewarded liberally by God; no wise man will pinch his ground of the seed. The proportion, or how much every one should give, cannot be determined, because that must be measured according to the ability of him that giveth, and according to the necessity of him that receiveth.
3. Cheerfully, not grudgingly or of necessity; for the Lord loveth a cheerful giver. In all thy gifts show a cheerful countenance, says the wise man; let us give with the same cheerfulness that we should receive, and be as willing to give as the needy are to receive; nay, it is our duty to seek out objects, for some of Christ's members have as great modesty as they have necessity, and cannot speak for themselves, And let none think that this liberality will prejudice their estates; no, 'tis men's lusts that undo them, and not their charity.
Here the apostle tacitly answers the common objection against liberal alms-giving; men are afraid they shall want themselves, what they give away to others. No, says the apostle, God is able to make all grace and mercy shown by you to abound the more towards you, that you, having a sufficiency of the comforts of this life, may abound in every good work of charity towards others.
As if he had said, Be not afraid to give, nor sparing in giving; for hereby you make God your debtor, and you will find him an all-sufficient paymaster; he will repay you both in temporals and spirituals. Thou shalt receive silver for thy brass, gold for thy silver, grace for thy gold, a treasure in haeven for thy dross on earth: nay, your gold and silver will multiply here, as seed sown when scattered with a wise and prudent hand."
The apostle here engages God's all-sufficiency for it; God will show his all-sufficiency, in giving you an all-sufficiency in all things; only we must remember, that we are to allow time; for Almighty God loves to be trusted upon his word: and those that will not give him credit, let them try if they can improve their estates better, or put them into safer hands.
Some look upon these words as a prayer, others as a promise, that as Almighty God blesseth the increase of the earth so largely, that it sufficeth for the nourishment of men, and for seed to sow again; in like manner would he supply all their wants, and grant them ability to supply the wants of others, and plentifully reward them for all the fruits of their righteousness and mercy: and they being thus enriched by the goodness of God, and exercising all bountifulness towards their brethren, much thanksgiving and praise upon that occasion is given unto God.
In these last words is couched an argument farther to press the Corinthians to this liberality; namely, that it would cause both the ministers of Christ, the dispensers of this charity, and also the poor saints, the receivers of it, to offer up incessant praises and thanksgivings to God for the same.
Still our apostle proceeds, by way of motive, farther to excite and stir up the Corinthians to this charitable contribution, from sundry considerations; namely,
1st. That it would be a very seasonable supply to the church's wants, who were at this time in great want of it: Now, the seasonableness of any mercy, adds greatly to the worth and value, to the pleasure and sweetness of it.
2ndly, That it would occasion repeated praises and incessant thanksgivings to God, for many persons, and upon many accounts.
3rdly, This distribution of yours, says the apostle, will be a convincing experiment, evidence and demonstration of your professed subjection to the gospel, and that your faith is not barren and ineffectual. No better evidence of our real; subjection to the gospel of Christ, than a cheerful compliance, not with the cheap, but with the costly duties of Christianity.
Lastly, For your alms, you will engage a stock of prayers going for you: This will procure, yea, provoke them to pray night and day for you, nay, not only engage prayer for you, but it will also draw forth their love and fervent affection towards you, make them very desirous of your acquaintance, having received such an experiment of the grace of God that is in you.
Here the apostle concludes his discourse upon this great argument, with a doxology, praising and blessing God for putting it into their hearts, in so liberal a manner, to relieve the necessities of the saints, by which so much glory did redound to God, and so much honour to the Christian religion. This he calls, not barely an admirable, but an unspeakable gift; because a gift by which God was so much glorified, the gospel adorned, the poor saints so much comforted, and they themselves so plentifully rewared:- Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift.
But if the Corinthians' charity was an unspeakable gift, the gift of God to a lost world to whom this title of unspeakable doth best agree; who is the author and finisher of all grace, and particularly of this noble grace of charity in the hearts of his people; for he sends his Holy Spirit, and pours into their hearts his most excellent grace of charity, the very bond of peace, and of all virtues, without which, whosoever liveth, is counted dead before him.
Eternal thanks then be to Christ for this admirable gift of charity, and thanks be to God for the unspeakable gift of Christ. Amen.
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