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An Exposition Of the Epistles Of Saint Paul And Of The Catholic Epistles Volumes 1&2


In this chapter, the Apostle more fully explains the cause of his delay in visiting the Corinthians: he deferred his visit lest he might render them sorrowful, and he himself, contristated in turn (1, 2). He states, that it was in order to effect their amendment, and thus be spared the pain of punishing those, in whose sorrow and joy he participated, he wrote his former Epistle in a style of severity (3). Moreover, when penning that Epistle, he participated by anticipation in the sorrow which he foresaw it would cause them, and he wrote it to give a proof of his solicitude for them (4). Passing to the principal cause of his own sorrow and theirs, viz., the guilt of the incestuous man—he mildly instructs them, by way of request, to admit this man to the society of the faithful, and remit to him in the form of INDULGENCE, any further canonical penance that may be due by him (5–8). This he commands them to do (9, 10); lest by excessive severity, they might drive him to despair, and thus they would fall into the snare laid for them by the enemy (11).

For the purpose of expressing his anxiety for them, he informs them that not finding at Troas, Titus, whom he hath sent to Corinth, he hastened to meet him in Macedonia, in order to learn from him the state of their Church (12, 13). He gives God thanks for his triumph over his persecutors in Macedonia; and for making the apostles the means of diffusing the sweet odour of the Gospel (15). From the circumstance of having diffused this sacred odour, he takes occasion to contrast the unalloyed purity of his own teaching with the corrupt doctrines and selfish motives of the false teachers (17).


1. I came to the fixed resolve, that my second visit to you should not be a visit of sorrow; and, hence, I postponed the fulfilment of my promise, until I first heard of your amendment.

2. For, if on my arrival, I were to make you sorrowful by the infliction of the penalties and censures due to your irregularities; who, I ask, would there be to gladden me, but the very persons contristated by me?—that is to say, no one; since those who are in sorrow themselves are unfit to gladden or console others.

3. It was from the like feeling, that in my former Epistle I called upon you to repent, lest, should I find you unreformed on my arrival, I would suffer excessive grief from those who ought to be the subject of my joy; and this I did from a firm conviction regarding you all, that my joy would be fully shared in by you all. (You should, therefore, remove every cause of sorrow to me, by reforming your lives and banishing all irregularities).

4. And should I appear too severe in my former Epistle, I have only to say, that I wrote that Epistle with great affliction and anxiety of heart, and with many tears; not for the purpose of contristating you, but that you might learn from my anxiety for your reformation, the excess of my sincere affliction for you.

5. And if any person has given cause for this grief, he has contristated not only me, but he has also contristated you all, in a certain sense, or a great portion of you all, so that I, by no means, intend to reproach you all as accomplices or approvers of his guilt.

6. This man, whose name I forbear mentioning, has been sufficiently punished by his public separation from the Chinch, and by the reproach which he suffered from you, assembled together.

7. So that you should now, on the other hand, treat him with lenity rather than with severity, by remitting the penalty which may be still required for full satisfaction, and console him by receiving him into the communion of the Church, lest, perhaps, overwhelmed by excessive grief, he may in despair seek consolation in the indulgence of his passions.

8. Wherefore, I entreat you to confirm, in an authoritative decree, the charity of the faithful towards him, by admitting him to the peace of the Church.

9. For I have written to you this Epistle, for the purpose of having an experimental knowledge of your obedience to me in all things, as well when there is question of reconciliation, as of inflicting punishment.

10. But to whom you extend indulgence and remit punishment, to him I shall join you in extending the same; and if I have exercised the power of remitting any punishment, this I have done for your sakes, in order to give you an example of lenity, in virtue of the authority of Christ, whom I represent.

11. We should act this indulgent part towards repentant sinners, lest, by excessive severity, we be over-reached by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his crafty wiles and designs regarding us.

12. But when (after leaving Ephesus) I came to Troas for the purpose of preaching the gospel, although a great opportunity of advancing the glory of the Lord in the work of the gospel presented itself;

13. Still, I could find no rest for my soul, in consequence of not meeting our brother and co-operator, Titus (from whom I expected to hear some account of you, as he was sent to you); but bidding them farewell, after having made all the necessary arrangements among them, I went to Macedonia, in the hope of meeting Titus and of hearing from you.

14. (In Macedonia I suffered much), but thanks be to God, who gives us victory on all occasions, through Christ Jesus, and diffuses everywhere, through us, the sweet odour of his Divine knowledge.

15. For, we are the means of diffusing the saving and odoriferous knowledge of Christ unto the glory of God, both among those who are saved by believing, and those who are lost through unbelief.

16. To some, indeed, the fragrance of the gospel becomes a deadly savour, causing spiritual, and ending in eternal death, in consequence of their unbelief and resistance to the gospel; to others, it is a vivifying odour, ending in life eternal. And who are so competent to discharge these exalted duties, as the divinely commissioned Apostles of Christ?

17. For, we are not like many others (among whom are self-commissioned false teachers), who corrupt the word of God, by the admixture of false tenets, and dispense it, for selfish emolument; but we announce it in its unalloyed purity, as it emanated from God himself, keeping God always before our eyes, in the name, and acting as the legates, of Christ.


1. “Come again to you in sorrow.” Some interpreters connect the word “again” with “sorrow;” as if he meant, I was determined, that my promised visit to you should not be in sorrow, as was my preceding visit. It does not, however, appear that the first visit of the Apostle to Corinth was a sorrowful one; and hence, others, with St. Chry sostom, understand the second sorrow to have reference, not to the sorrow which he might have caused in his first visit, but to that caused by his first Epistle, which contained passages couched in terms of great severity. It is better, however, and more in accordance with the Greek construction, to connect it with the word “come,” as in Paraphrase, so as to mean a second visit.

2. “Who is he then that can make me glad?” The answer, NOBODY, is implied. “But the same who is made sorrowful by me,” which means, “but they who are made sorrowful”—the singular is put for the plural. The whole congregation would, by sympathy, share in the grief of the censured man. Some interpreters understand the words, “but he who is made sorrowful,” of the incestuous Corinthian, to whom reference is made in the following part of this chapter. These, also, understand the words, “it I make you sorrowful,” of the sorrow caused by his former Epistle; according to them, the words have a past signification; “if I have made you sorrowful,” &c. “Who is he then?” &c. In Greek it is και τις ὁ ευφραινων με, “and who is he. &c.” The and, is redundant; or it may mean, “who is he, I ask?”

3. He says it was from a conviction, that their sorrow would be a source of sorrow to himself, as his joy would, in turn, gladden them, that he wrote his Epistle to them, with a view to their amendment, in order to cause him joy, in which they themselves would also participate. The words, “upon sorrow,” are not in the Greek. They are, however, found in some of the best manuscripts.

4. Lest the severity of his former Epistle might appear to accord but little with the solicitude which he expresses for their joy and happiness, he says, that while writing it, he suffered great anxiety and sorrow of mind, sharing, by anticipation, in their sorrow, and that he wrote it, not with a view of saddening them, but, in order to testify his great love for them. How admirable is this charity of the Apostle! What a model to such an authority as are charged with the correction of abuses! How cautious ought they not be, in consulting for the feelings of their delinquent children!

5. He now passes to the principal cause of his own sorrow and theirs. All are agreed that he alludes to the incestuous man, whom he instructed them to excommunicate, chapter 5 of 1st Ep. He now omits all mention of his name, nor does he even mention his crime. He treats of it as a merely hypothetical matter, and as if the recollection of it had passed away, on account of his penance and the reparation which he made. “But in part,” may be also interpreted thus: such a person has grieved me, only in part, only for a short time, and with a temporary grief, which he has removed by his repentance; or thus—he has grieved you all partly, or in some degree; I say, partly, that I may not press too heavily on him, by saying simply and unqualifiedly, that he contristated the whole Church. This latter construction is preferred by Estius.

6. In the following verses, the Apostle recommends the Corinthians to admit the incestuous man to the communion of the faithful, as the public reproach, which he suffered in his expulsion from the Church, was a sufficient punishment for him, now that he bad made reparation and given signs of repentance.

7. He wishes then to remit any further canonical penance that may be due by him, and to console him by admitting him to the communion of the faithful. “Pardon.” In Greek, χαρισασθαι, to bestow a grace.

8. “Confirm” The Greek word, κυρωσαι, implies that they would restore him to the charity of the faithful by an authoritative decree; and this, probably, in a public assembly, as he was expelled by a like process.—(1st Ep. 5:5, 6). The Apostle “beseeches” them to restore him, although he might have commanded them to do so, as he commanded them to excommunicate him; but, the other course would the more effectually secure a cheerful compliance.

9. In this verse, he gives them to understand that this request was a mild way of conveying a mandate; since, in writing, he wished to test their obedience.

10. “To whom you have pardoned anything, I also.” The Greek for which is ᾧ δὲ χαρίσεσθε, κᾀγὼ: to whom you forgive anything, I also (forgive). In these words, is contained an allusion to the mode in which the Apostle instructed them to excommunicate the incestuous man, the Apostle was “present in mind in the assembly of them and his spirit” (1st Ep. ch. 5), when he excommunicated him. He, therefore, extends indulgence to him in the same way that he inflicted punishment, and this he does “in the person of Christ,” εν προσώπω Χριστοῦ, i.e., in the name and by the authority of Christ, whose person he represents amongst them. The same authority is required in restoring the incestuous man to favour, that had been exercised in inflicting punishment, “for your sakes,” i.e., for the purpose of giving you an example of lenity, as well as of severity, or, at your request.

11. They would be circumvented by the wiles of Satan, if, while they were intending good by a course of severity, this would be turned by the enemy to the ruin of the sinful man, whom he would drive to despair, “turning their remedy into his own triumph,” as St. Ambrose expresses it. His devices and deceitful snares are planned with such cunning dexterity, that he endeavours to render every course of treatment resorted to against sinners, particularly that of severity, subservient to their ruin.

From this passage is derived an argument in favour of the Catholic doctrine and practice regarding indulgences. All that the Council of Trent has defined to be of faith on this subject is; first, that the Church has the power of granting indulgences; and, secondly, that these indulgences are salutary and useful.—“Sacrosancta Synodas eos anathemate damnat qui aut inutiles esse asserunt aut eas (indulgentias) concedendi in Ecclesia potestatcm esse negant.”—(SS. 25 Doct. de Indul.) These are the only points defined of faith respecting indulgences. The divine warrant for this power, is conveyed in the unlimited commission given by Christ to his Apostles—“Whatever you shall lose on earth, shall be loosed also in heaven.” The Church, at all times, exercised this power of according indulgences, that is to say, of remitting either entirely or in part, the temporal debt or penalty, which, according to the teaching of Catholic faith sometimes remains to be expiated after the guilt of sin, and the eternal punishment due to it, are remitted. This remission is given to the living, by way of ABSOLUTION and to the dead by way of SUFFRAGE. The treasure out of which the supreme authority in the Church dispenses this remission, is composed of the infinite satisfaction and merits of Christ, as well as of the superabundant satisfaction and merits of the glorious Virgin Mary and the Saints. It is disputed among Divines, whether the merits of Christ alone do not constitute this treasure. It is, however, the common opinion, that the good works of the Saints, being satisfactory, as well as meritorious, are also included. The Apostle, in union with the heads of the Corinthian Church, manifestly remits here this temporal debt. He does it “in the person,” i.e., as the vicar and representative “of Christ,” who, therefore, ratifies his act; and he really remits this punishment; since, if he were merely remitting the term of canonical penance, without remitting the debt due, he would be only reserving the incestuous man, for heavier punishment in the life to come; and hence, he could be hardly said to “pardon him,” or confer any grace or favour on him, as the Greek word, corresponding with “pardon,” κεχαρισμαι, implies. Nor could the remission referred to here, be understood of any other remission, except that by way of indulgence—not, of absolution from sin, because the object of it was absent—nor from excommunication, since such remission could not be termed “pardoning,” but absolving. Besides he is exempting the incestuous man from the full and perfect discharge of that debt, for which he had already partly satisfied, and this for his advantage, which would not hold with regard to excommunication, by any means; nor external canonical penance; since this would be of no advantage, as it would be only reserving him for heavier punishment, in the life to come.

12. The Apostle adds this, to show his anxiety and concern for them. He sent Titus to Corinth, and not finding him at Troas, he hastened to meet him in Macedonia, others account for his uneasiness at not meeting Titus, on the ground that Titus was his interpreter. The reason assigned, viz., that his uneasiness proceeded from his desire to learn from Titus the state of the Church of Corinth, is, however, by far the more probable.

13. The Greek word for “bidding farewell,” ἀποταξάμενος, simply means, arranging and putting things in order; arranging all things connected with the government of their Church, appointing teachers and ordaining ministers of the Gospel, and the like.

14. He says nothing here about his sufferings in Macedonia; he does, however, in chapter 7 verse 5, of this Epistle; he thanks God for not only rescuing him from these perils, but also for giving him a splendid triumph over them; and that, through the merits of Christ, through whose aid we triumph, “in Christ Jesus.” In Greek it simply is, ἐν τῷ Χριστῳ, in Christ. This may also refer to the favourable account, which he received from Titus, regarding the Corinthian Church.

15. The Apostles were commissioned to preach the Gospel, as well among believers as unbelievers—“prædicate Evangelism omni creaturæ.”—(Mark, 16:15).

16. “And for these things who sufficient?” The word “so,” is not in the Greek reading, πρὸς ταῦτα τίς ἱκανός, according to which the meaning is—Who is qualified to discharge these duties as he should? The implied answer being, but very few are, so qualified. In the Paraphrase the Vulgate reading, quis tam idoneus? which, independently of the authority of the Vulgate, derives probability from the following verse is followed.

17. “Adulterating the word of God.” The Greek for “adulterating,” καπηλευοντες, conveys the idea of mixing up with the word of God foreign doctrines, as in the case of low traders, who destroy and corrupt wines and other saleable commodities by the admixture of foreign ingredients. In these words, he alludes to the false teachers who corrupted God’s holy word by the introduction of other doctrines. It may be also implied in the idea, that these teachers imitate merchants, or rather private retailers, in seeking their own emoluments, while dispensing God’s holy word. But the true Apostles propound God’s holy word, “with sincerity, as from God,” i.e., in the pure, unadulterated form, in which it emanated from God himself. “Before God,” keeping God always before your eyes. “We speak in Christ,” acting as the legates and vicegerents of Christ himself.

What a lesson of instruction is conveyed in the latter part of this chapter to the ministers of the Gospel! They should spread the fragrance, the sweet odour of the Gospel everywhere around them, both by the sanctity of their lives, and the unalloyed purity of their teaching. They should not act as mercenary retailers of God’s holy word, in search of every novelty that may gratify the prejudices or passions of their hearers; nor should they seek their own private gain or emolument; but, propounding the eternal truths of God in all their native simplicity, and in language suited to the capacity of their hearers, they should act like men who have God always before their eyes, seeking him alone, and solicitous only for his interests, and the extension of his glory—that is to say, of his love and knowledge amongst men, thus acting as his legates and vicegerents. They should strictly adhere to the instructions of the holy Council of Trent (SS. v. chap. ii. de Ref.): “Plebes sibi commissas pro sua et earum capacitate pascant salutaribus verbis, annuntiando eis, cum brevitate et facilitate sermonis, vitia quæ declinare, et virtutes, quas sectari oporteat,” &c. If they act differently, they shall forfeit the abundant remuneration in store for the zealous preachers of the Divine word, “who after instructing many unto justice, shall shine, as stars, unto all eternity.”—(Dan. 12:3). Those who neglect this duty altogether (thank God, they are but few), should attend to the precept, “pascant salutaribus verbis.” Pastors of souls, who neglect the duty of instruction for one month continuously, without necessity, or three months discontinuously, in the course of the year, are commonly held, as laid down by St. Liguori, to be guilty of mortal sin.

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