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we batter the fortresses of sin and Satan; namely, the sword of the Spirit, the word of God, the plain and persuasive preaching of the gospel, the Holy Spirit, miracles of all sorts, eminent wisdom and patience, exemplary zeal and courage in executing and inflicting the censures of the church upon the disobedient. Observe, 3. These weapons are called mighty, but mighty through God; that is, as quickened by the power and presence of God's Spirit. Then is our ministry mighty, when made mighty through God. The spirits of darkness cannot be conquered but by spiritual weapons. It is as impossible to make an impression with your finger upon a wall of brass, as for the best sermon in the world to make an effectual impression upon a sinner's will, without the co-operation and concurring assistance of the Holy Spirit: The weapons of t«r warfare are spiritual, and mighty through God. 'Tis the Spirit that gives them their success and efficacy: there is a real spiritual power and energetical presence of Christ in his own institutions and appointments. When the sword of his Spirit B taken into the hand of the Spirit, it works wonders. Observe, 4. The great and good execution which these spiritual weapons do effect and accomplish, when thus accompanied with the power of God: they are mighty to the pulling down of strong holds. By which some do understand a particular beloved lust; a special sin, by which Satan keeps and holds possession of the sinner's heart. Others understand it more generally of every thing that Oppose!h, resisteth, and hindereth, the success of the gospel; and particularly the stubborn will of the sinner, which is so strong an hold, that no power short of an almighty power can influence, it to surrender: Casting down imaginations, or reasonings, and proud conceits; and particularly unbelief, in which sinners fortify themselves against the convictions of the word, disdaining to submit themselves to the abasing, humbling, and self-denying way of the gospel. But behold the glorious conquest which the gospel of Christ obtains over sinners thus fortified against it; It casts down imaginations, and pulls dawn every strong hold. Thus the ministry of the gospel spoils Satan of his armour in which he trusted, by showing the sinner that all this can be no defence to his soul against the wrath of God. Observe, 5. The improvement of the victory: the gospel doth not only lead away those enemies
spoiled, but brings them into captivity and obedience to itself. O happy and blessed conquest! Sinners do not only lay down their arms, and fight no more against Christ, but they repair to his camp, and fight for him with those reasonings of theirs which before were employed against him. O blessed victory, where the conqueror and conquered both triumph together!
6 And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.
That is, having in a readiness that which will revenge all disobedience upon refractory and stubborn offenders, (namely, the power of excommunication,) and both authority and ability to inflict such corporal punishment as he judged fit, by delivering them unto Satan; which power he resolved to make use of, when the greater part of them were, by their obedience to his admonitions, reduced to good order again. Where note, That the apostle deters the excommunicating and censuring the offenders amongst them, they being very many, till he had, by exhortation and argument, brought over as many as possibly he could unto obedience. There is no place for severe remedies, when the diseases have taken and infected the whole church: the offenders in the church, when very many, cannot be easily punished; for when great multitudes are concerned, they are like to draw great multitudes after them. The apostle's practice in this case here, is a good pattern for our imitation, not to be too forward, rash, and hasty, in denouncing the censures of the church, but to proceed prudently and gradually; first using all fair means and gentle methods, and waiting with all patience for the reducing them to their duty who will be reduced, and then revenging the glory and honour of God only upon such as will by no means be reclaimed or reduced.
7 Do ye look on things after the outward appearance 1 If any man trust to himself that he is Christ's, let him of himself think this again, that, as he is Christ's, even so are we Christ's.
Because the false apostles had taught the Corinthians to despise St. Paul, upon the account of his mean appearance: he here expostulates with them, and desires to know whether they would judge of men by outward appearance, or by inward worth? As if he had said, " Are ye so weak as to judge of me by my outward person, by my bodily presence, by the meanness of my garb, by the smallness of my stature, by my outward aspect and countenance - But if you will judge of me, and the pretended apostles, by ministerial gifts and authority received from Christ, surely I have as much to show of these as they can pretend to show; for in nothing was I behind the very chiefest apostles. There is no judging of men, much less of ministers, by outward appearances: much real worth sometimes lodges within, when nothing but what is despicable and contemptible appears without.
8 For though I should boast somewhat more of our authority, (which the Lord hath given us for edification, and not for your destruction,) I should not be ashamed:
As if the apostle had said, " I have not only an equal power and authority with those which despise me, (the false teachers,) but I have an authority and power which they cannot, dare not, will not, pretend unto; namely, the power to inflict corporal punishments upon obstinate and contumacious offenders, and delivering them up to Satan , which power if at any time I make use of it, it is for edification, not for destruction. This rod is not to be used rashly, but discreetly by me. Observe we, and learn from hence, an excellent rule, Never to handle the censures of the church (those edged tools) but with care and caution, with an intention to reform, not to ruin; to save, not to destroy: the church's power is for edification, not for destruction.
9 That I may not seem as if I would terrify you by letters. 10 For his letters (say they) are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech con temptible. 11 Let such an one think this, that, such as we are in word by letters when we are absent, such will we be also in deed when we are present.
Our apostle here goes on, vindicating himself from the aspersions and reflections which the false teachers cast upon him. They told the Corinthians, that St. Paul's letters were indeed severe and authoritative,
terrifying and affrighting: but his personal presence was weak, and his speech contemptible. Tradition tells us, that Paul (according to his name) was a man of a very little stature, and his voice answerably small; whence probably the false apostles took occasion to raise this report of his presence and speech. St. Chrysostom says, that St. Paul's stature was low, his body crooked, his head bald; and when it is added, that his speech was contemptible, it cannot be understood as if it were so for want of eloquence, but it is thought this refers rather to some infirmity, or natural impediment, which the apostle might have in his speech. The gift of knowledge and learning, and the gift of utterance and elocution, as they are distinct in their nature, so they are separable in their subject, and do not always go together; a person of the profoundest knowledge is not always happy in elocution and utterance. However, in these false teachers we see the constant method and practice of impostors and seducers; namely, to asperse and lessen all that stand in their light: this is an old way of insinuating into the people. The false apostles feared they should never reign at Corinth, but by bringing St. Paul into disesteem with the Corinthians; therefore they say, His letters are weighty, but his bodily presence weak. But the apostle, ver. 11. gives them to understand that they should find him the same both absent and present; and that his deeds then should appear as awful as his words now; that when he came again, he would not spare, but punish all disobedience. Note here, That the thing which St. Paul would have his accusers fear, was that by the miraculous gift of the Holy Ghost given to him, to inflict corporal punishments upon disobedient persons, they should speed as Elymas did, Acts xiii. 3. who was smitten with blindness, he.
12 For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise: 13 But we will not boast of things without our measure, but according to the measure of the rule which God hath distributed to us, a measure to reach even unto you. 14 For we stretch not ourselves beyond our measure, as though we reached not unto you: for we are come as far as to you also in preaching the gospel of Christ:
Observe here, 1. St. Paul's just charge, which he brings in against the false apostles, for their pride and vanity, in commending themselves, and comparing themselves with such as were like themselves: They measuring themselves tt/ themselves, and comparing themselves amongst themselves, are not wise. The reason why many think themselves wiser than they are, ;s, because they compare themselves with those that are below themselves, and not above them in understanding and knowledge. It is an excellent mean to keep us from pride, to consider how many are above us in knowledge; that there are thousands so much excelling us in understanding, that our knowledge is but ignorance, our strength but weakness, our faith but unbelief, our fruitfulness but barrenness, compared with theirs. Observe, 2. As the pride and vanity of the false apostles, so the great modesty and humility of St . Paul, the true apostle of Christ Jesus: But -we will not boast of things without our measure, but according to the measure which God hath distributed to us. Where note, The apostle makes his apostleship or preaching of the gospel, to be as it were his spiritual exercise, or running a race, to which he here alludes; declaring that he kept his province, his stage, his compass of ground which God had marked out to him; beyond, or out of which line, whoever pretends to run, doth over-extend himself, and boast without his measure. Observe, 3. That the apostle's line or measure reached as far as Corinth, where Christ never had been preached; thither he came, and there he first planted the christian faith amongst them; and he takes occasion from thence, to advance himself above the false apostles. 1. That he could show a commission to preach to the Corinthians; a measure by which God had distributed the Corinthians to him, as his proper province, which none of them could pretend unto. 2. That whereas they went out of the line, taping from one church to another, he went on orderly in the conversion of churches to the faith, from Judea, through all the interjacent provinces, till he came to Corinth. 3. That whereas they came to those churches where the gospel had been already preached, and so could only boast of things
made ready to their hands, he preached the gospel where Christ was not named before.
15 Not boasting of things without our measure, that is, of other men's labour; but having hope, when your faith is increased, that we shall be enlarged by you according to our rule abundantly, I6 To preach the gospel in the regions beyond you, and not to boast in another man's line of things made ready to our hand.
Here the apostle tells the Corinthians, that he would not boast of other men's labours, nor pretend any title to those christians at Corinth, nor any where else, whom others had converted, as the false apostles did; notwithstanding he declares his hope, that when the gospel should have an eminent success amongst them, and thereby their faith be increased, that the increase of their faith would increase his joy and comfort, his present advantage and future reward; because it was the fruit and increase of the seed which he had himself down amongst them. The apostle also doth farther declare his hopes that he should preach the gospel beyond Corinth, in the region of Achaia, where it had not been preached before; he being unwilling to enter upon other men's labours. Here note, That though ordinary ministers are fixed in particular places, and confined to particular churches, yet the apostles had a commission to go into all places, and preach the gospel over the whole world, and were tied to no certain place or people. Note farther, That the apostle seems to prefer an instrumentality in the work of conversion, before being instrumental in the work of edification. The false apostles could only pretend to build upon other men's foundations, and carry on a work by others made ready to their hands: but the apostle preferred preaching the gospel where Christ had never been heard of, as being unwilling to build upon another foundation, or to boast of another man's line. It is a special favour now vouchsafed by God to us his ministers, if he puts the honour upon us, to make us instruments in his hands either for conversion or edification, either for bringing home or building up a people. Happy we, if when our predecessors have laboured before us, we enter
into their labours, and see the seed, which they sowed with a laborious hand, flourishing in the lives of our people, to the joy of our hearts. Ere long, both he that soweth, and he that reapetli, shall rejoice together.
17 But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.
These words are a seasonable exhortation to all the ministers of the gospel, 1. To take heed that they glory not in themselves, or in any services or performances of their own. As it is the highest act of grace to make our boast of God all the day long, so it is the highest act of corruption to make a boast of any thing that we either have or do, though but for a moment. Alas! what have we, that we have not received? or what do we, wherein we have not been divinely assistrd? And if so, why should we glory ? Verily, when man is most bent and set upon these gloryings, God delights to check him therein, and spit upon his glorying ; and so jealous is God of his glory, that he seldom suffers a proud minister, that assumes and arrogates to himself, to be either serviceable or successful in his work. 2. These words are an exhortation to all the ministers of the gospel, as not to glory in themselves, so to glory in the Lord; that is, 1. To glory in the work of the Lord, that we promote his kmgdom, his honour, and interest, in the world. 2. To glory in the help of the Lord; the Lord is a master in covenant with us, and that a covenant of grace, in which every command hath a promise annexed to it, a promise both of assistance and acceptance. 3. To glory in the reward of the Lord, expected by us, and secured to us by purchase and promise: the private christian's labours shall not be in vain in the Lord, much less his faithful ministers', who have borne the burden and heat of the day; let them then glory in the Lord, and not in themselves, seeing all the good that is in them and their actions, comes from him, and their recompence of reward is secured by him.
18 For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord cotmnendeth.
Three things are here observable, 1. The proneness which is in human nature to admire, applaud, and commend itself. Man is a proud piece of flesh; and a little ap
prehended excellency in himself presently puffs him up, and he looks big with conceit. 'Tis rare to see a man rich in gifts, and poor in spirit: poverty of spirit is better than all the riches of gifts, yea, it is the truest riches of grace. Observe, 2. Though a man is prone to commend and admire himself, yet self-commendation is no just praise, but rather a disparagement, a shameful indication both of pride and folly. He that commendeth himself, is not approved either of God or wise men. The same word, in Hebrew, signifies to praise ourselves, and to be foolish, because there is no greater evidence of folly than self-commendation; yet sometimes a wise man is forced to boast of his own performances, rather in a way of self-vindication, than by way of self-commendation. Observe, 3. That it is God's approbation, and not our own commendation, which is matter of true praise and real honour. When God and conscience bear witness to our sincerity, we need neither our own nor others' commendation; the open testimony of God, and the silent applause of our own conscience, is above all commendations whatsoever.
Our apostle is forced, in this chapter, for his own vindication, to enter upon a just and necessary commendation of himself; be gives us a large catalogue of his sufferings and services, not to grace himself, but to glorify God thereby; not that his person might be had in any undue admiration, but for the vindication of himself and his apostleship, from the contempt of those who preferred the false apostles before him. And accordingly, he bespeaks the Corinthians to bear, with his seeming folly a, little, in commending of himself after this onusual manner. Thus be addresses them, ver. t.
V17-OULD to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly: and indeed bear with me. 2 For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.
Observe here, 1. That which the apostle calls his folly, is his speaking so much in his own commendation and praise, because ordinarily self-commendation has a very great show of folly in it, though not always. As if he had said, " I would you could bear with me a little in that which looks like a foolish boasting in me, namely, my glorying in my performances, in my services and sufferings amongst you ; and indeed you must bear with me herein."
Where note, That although the apostle lay noder a necessity to commend himself for the vindication of his office, which made him free from folly in this matter; yet because, generally speaking, self-commendation usually proceeds from folly and vanity, and such as did not know the necessity which lay upon St. Paul thus to speak, would be apt to impute folly to him for thus speaking; he therefore calls it folly himself first, and tells the Corinthians, they did and must bear with it. Observe, 2. The reason assigned, which constrained the apostle thus to do it ; it was his holy jealousy for them. He had by preaching of the gospel, brought them to know and believe in Christ, and so, by converting them to the christian faith, had espoused them to Christ; be entirely therefore desired, that he might present them a pure and chaste virgin, that is, a spotless church, unto Christ. As the Jews say, that Moses espoused Israel to God in mount Sinai, when he made them enter into covenant with him there; so says the apostle here, by converting you to the christian faith, I have espoused you to one husband, even Christ.
3 But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
Our apostle having in the foregoing verses, with a rhetorical insinuation, begged their pardon and their patience, whilst by just and necessary commendation of himself he vindicated his person and office from contempt; and having shown, that what he did and said was the fruit and effect of a pious jealousy, or holy love mixed with fear; accordingly, he tells them very plainly in this verse, that he was really afraid of them, lest as Eve was seduced by the subtilty of the devil, so their minds should be corrupted by false apostles, and seduced from the pure doctrine of the gospel. For as the noblest and most generous wine is adulterated by mingling it with water, so is the doctrine of the gospel corrupted, by mixing with either philosophical speculations, or Jewish traditions, or any sort of human inventions. Well therefore might the apostle say, I fear lest your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
4 For if he that comcth preach- eth another Jesus whom we have not
preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.
As if the apostle had said, " It is one Christ, one Spirit, one gospel, and not many, which we have preached, and you have received; now if your new teachers, the false apostles, have another Christ to set forth, more excellent gifts of the Spirit to boast of, another gospel to preach unto you, which I never preached amongst you, let them be heard and received." But this being impossible, they might well bear with him in his modest boasting and glorying in what he had done and suffered amongst them, by whose ministry they were at first converted to christianity.
5 For I suppose I was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles. 6 But, though I be rude in speech, yet not in knowledge; but we have been throughly made manifest among you in all things.
Observe here, 1. The great modesty of the apostle in this expression, I suppose I was not a whit behind the chiefest apostles. He might have said he was equal with them, and in some sense superior to them, even the most eminent of them, Peter, James, and John. Indeed the apostleship, as an office, was of equal honour in all the apostles; but even amongst them some had more excellent gifts and greater enlargements, and did more signal services, than others. Thus one of those stars differed from another in brightness and glory. But observe, 2. Before whom it is that St. Paul thus compares himself with the chiefest apostles: it was not before the true, but the false apostles, that he makes this modest boast. He did not contend with any of the apostles of Christ for the upper hand, nor say, I am not behind any of you, or I am better than any of you; but he only gives check to those false apostles who undervalued him, and poured contempt upon him. He who said at another time, I am not worthy to be called an apostle, says here, I am not behind the chiefest apostle. From whence we learn, That the ministry of Christ may stand upon terms of credit with those that vilify their persons, disparage their function, and discredit that honourable work which