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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 exhorts the Corinthians to lead a life of sanctity, as a necessary means of securing the promises referred to at the close of the preceding chapter (verse 1). Returning to the subject of his apology, he entreats than to give him a place in their affections and, passing over the immense services which he rendered them, he merely says that he gave them no cause for offence, by acts of fraud or corruption: thereby insinuating, that the false teachers, to whom some of them transferred their affections, were guilty of these mal-practices (2). By way of apology for the freedom with which he addresses them, he assures them of his unbounded affection for them; of his great confidence in them; and of the great joy which they afford him in the midst of tribulation (3, 4). He describes the tribulation he endured (5). But, still greater was the joy which he derived from the arrival of Titus from Corinth, and from the consolation which Titus himself felt among them, which he imparted to the Apostle, when describing their repentance (6, 7). Hence, the Apostle felt consolation surpassing his sorrow at having contristated them, when he learned the happy fruits of the wholesome correction which he administered, and the nature of the heavenly sorrow which they now feel (8, 9). He describes the effects of true penitential sorrow; and points to their own use, as an exemplification of the same (10, 11). Hence, the consolation of the Apostle, whose object in writing to them was to manifest his pastoral solicitude in their regard, on seeing the real proofs of true penance and conversion exhibited by them; this his consolation is heightened by the consolation with which they inspired Titus also (12, 13). He describes the tender affection of Titus for them, and his own joy at finding that his expectations were not frustrated, and that he could place reliance on them in future.


1. Since, then, such glorious promises have been made to us, dearly beloved brethren, let us, in order to secure them, cleanse ourselves from all defilement of both carnal and spiritual sins, consummating the sanctity received in baptism by good works performed from the filial fear of God.

2. Give us a place in your heart and affections. We have injured no man. We have corrupted no man, either by false doctrines or bad example. We have fraudulently taken away the property of no man. (Hence we are not less deserving of your affection than are the false teachers, who are guilty of such crimes).

3. I have not spoken thus from any feelings of bitterness, or with the view of condemning you. For, as we have already told you, you are in our hearts, and we love you in such a way, as to be ready to live, or die with you, or for you.

4. I speak thus freely, because of the great confidence I have in you. I frequently make your affection for me the subject of much glorying. I am filled with consolation on account of you. I so abound, and superabound with joy in all the tribulations which befall me, that the excess of my joy extinguishes every feeling of pain arising from sorrow or tribulation.

5. (Not without cause do I allude to tribulations). For, when we were come into Macedonia, no relaxation from labour was permitted our body, but we were rather subjected to afflictions of every kind. From without, we had to endure open persecution from the infidels. From within, in the recesses of our own hearts, we were under constant apprehension of new evils and misfortunes.

6. But God, the consoler of the afflicted, and particularly of the humble, has comforted us by the coming of Titus, whom we so long expected.

7. And not only has he consoled us by the arrival of Titus,’ but he has consoled us by the joy and consolation which Titus himself received from you, and, infused into us—relating to us, your desire of amendment—your mourning for your sins, your affection for us, and your zeal in defending us against our maligners; so that the joy, which I felt, exceeded my sorrow for having saddened you.

8. For, notwithstanding the sorrow which I caused you by my Epistle, I do not now repent of it, seeing the fruits of this sorrow; and although I did repent of it, seeing that my Epistle caused you sorrow, even though it was to continue for a very short time:

9. Now, I am rejoiced, not only on account of your sorrow, but also because by that sorrow you were brought to penance, unto the performance of penitential works, (N. 11). For you were made sorrowful on account of the offence offered to God; so that far from receiving any detriment from our correction, you, on the contrary, have derived great profit from it.

10. For, the sorrow, which is conceived from motives of the love and fear of God, and which is pleasing to him, begets penance, which is the cause of salvation, that is to last for ever; which penance, therefore, is never to be repented of; but the sorrow arising from the love of the world, begets eternal death.

11. For, behold in your own case a proof of this. Your own sorrow, according to God, what effects has it not produced in you? What solicitude to appease God and remove scandals; and not only that, but it has stimulated you to enter upon an apologetic defence of your own conduct before Titus in regard to the incestuous man; still more, it has created in you a just indignation against this sinful man; and not only that, but a fear lest such crimes be again repeated; not only that, but a desire of offering satisfaction to God; not only that, but zeal against scandals; not only that, but the proper infliction of punishment on this, and other such offenders. In a word you have proved yourselves to be pure and innocent in everything connected with the shameful crime referred to.

12. Therefore, although I addressed to you this letter of reproof, I did so, neither on account of him who sinned, nor of his father, the injured party, but principally to manifest the pastoral solicitude which I feel for you all before God, and to guard you against vicious contagion.

13. Having, therefore, known the success of our admonition, we have been consoled, and this consolation has been increased by the joy which Titus felt; for, his soul was refreshed by you all.

14. And, it added to my consolation, that if I made you in any way a subject of my boasting, I was not ashamed of it afterwards; but as all things that we spoke to you were found to be true, so have all which we spoke to Titus regarding you, been fully verified.

15. Hence, the tenderness and magnitude of his affection for you, when he calls to mind the promptness with which all of you obeyed my injunctions, and the reverential fear and respect with which he was received by you.

16. I rejoice that I can repose confidence in your fidelity to comply with all my wishes and injunctions.


1. “These promises.” The promises referred to in the preceding chapter—viz., that they would be temples of God, and his adopted sons and daughters, &c.

“Of the flesh,” i.e., carnal sins; such as gluttony, impurity, &c. “And of the spirit.” Spiritual sins—viz., pride, envy, &c. “Perfecting sanctification.” &c. Perfecting the sanctity communicated to us in baptism, by good works, which were to be performed from the filial fear of God. Hence, every Christian should not only avoid all sorts of sin; but, he should also endeavour to advance more and more in sanctity, by the performance of good works from the motive of virtue, the fear and love of God.

2. “Receive us,” are generally understood to mean, dilate your hearts, and give us in ample place in your affections. “We have injured no one,” &c. He omits referring to the immense services which he rendered to them, and which gave him a most indisputable claim to their affections. He merely mentions the faults he had avoided; with these, he indirecly taxes the false teachers, and leaves it to be inferred, that if men guilty of these crimes—a charge which he repels far from himself—had a place in their affections, surely, he who was innocent of them, could not be less deserving of their esteem.

3. From a fear of irritating them, he says, that in the foregoing he had no idea whatever of conveying reproach or censure: since, they are the objects of his most intense love and affection.

4. “Great is my confidence,” &c. This he adds, to excuse the freedom with which he had spoken. And by the open expression of his feelings for them, he wishes to dilate their hearts, and secure a return of love. In all this he has in view their sanctification only. He expresses his “great confidence” in them, in order to secure a return of the same; and he makes their affection for him a subject of “glorying,” in order that they may make him in turn the subject of glorying against the false teachers. He is “filled with comfort,” owing to their reformation, and his joy in consequence so superabounds, as to extinguish all feelings of sorrow under tribulation. What an example of charity is here proposed to all superiors! They should convince those under their charge of the regard and esteem in which they hold them—of the joy they feel at their advancement in virtue, and show, that these feelings are the fruits, not or hypocrisy or dissimulation, but of true and unfeigned charity. By imitating the Apostle, they shall secure the confidence and love of those placed under them. They shall rule them in peace and sanctify them in charity.

5. Having alluded to his tribulation in the foregoing verse, he now shows how great it was, in order that they might judge of the magnitude of the joy which superabounded. After the afflictions which had befallen him in Asia (chap. 1), when he came to Macedonia, he had no respite there either; his body had no relaxation, although his mind was refreshed with hopes of future rewards. “But we suffered all tribulation.” The Greek of which, εν παντι θλιβομενοι, literally is, we were afflicted in all things “Combats,” i.e., open persecution “without,” from the unbelieving enemies of the gospel. “Fears within.” Interiorily tormented with the fear and dread of still greater afflictions. This journey to Macedonia is recorded by St. Luke (Acts, chap. 20). But he makes no mention of tribulation. Hence, all the sufferings of St. Paul are not recorded by St. Luke.

6. “By the coming of Titus.” The Apostle despatched Titus to Corinth, to ascertain the effects produced by his former Epistle. On this account, he came to Troas (2:13), to meet him, and not meeting him there, he passed over to Macedonia, not wishing to go to Corinth, until he first learned the condition of their Church. The return of Titus was to him a source of consolation, particularly when he conveyed the glad tidings of their thorough reformation.

7. The accounts which Titus gave him regarding them, and the very consolation which Titus himself derived from their change and amendment, were to the Apostle a source of still more abundant joy. “So that I rejoice the more.” These words may also mean—so that the joy I conceived at his return was increased by the cheering account he gave of you, and by his own joy. The meaning adopted in the Paraphrase accords better, however, with what follows.

8. The Apostle here excuses himself for the severity of his former Epistle, and shows the happy fruits of the sorrow which he caused them. Knowing the advantages of this sorrow, he does not regret having caused it—although, before the return of Titus, he might have felt regret at having saddened them even for the shortest time. As to the Epistle itself, as it had been inspired by the Holy Ghost, he could not regret having written it, he only regretted its saddening effect. In the Vulgate, the words, “seeing that the same Epistle,” &c., are immediately joined to the foregoing, and contain a reason for the sorrow he felt before the arrival of Titus—viz., because his Epistle should have saddened them even for a short time—etsi pæniteret, videns, quod Epistola illa (etsi ad horam) vos contristavit. But, according to the Greek, the sentence concludes at the words, “and if I did repent; “and a new sentence commences with the words, “seeing that the same Epistle,” &c., ει δε και μετεμελομην• βλεπω ὅτι ἡ επιστολη εκεινη, ει και προς ὥραν ελυπήσεν υμας. A reading, according to which, these latter words are assigned as a reason why he did not repent. “I did not repent.” Because, although his Epistle saddened them for a short time, it was still a source of permanent joy of conscience. Hence, if the Greek reading be followed, some addition must be made, thus:—“For I see that this Epistle, although it has constristated you for a time,” (has still caused you permanent joy). The words in the parenthesis are added to the text by A’Lapide. The Vulgate reading, however, seems preferable. The Apostle is rejoiced, not at their sorrow, but at its result—viz., their penance and reformation.

9. “That you might suffer damage by us in nothing.” There is a meiosis here. The words convey more than they express; they imply not only the absence of all detriment, but even positive gain and spiritual advantage.

10. “Steadfast.” It is not easy to see from the Greek with what words this is to be joined. The Greek is, αμεταμελητον, which is not to be repented of, and may refer it to either “salvation,” σωτηριαν, or “penance,” μετανοιαν. According to the Vulgate, it is more properly joined to “salvation,” thus:—“Working penance causing salvation which will never end.” But, according to the Greek, it is referred by many to “penance,” thus:—Worketh penance which causes salvation, and is, therefore, not to be repented of. Both meanings are united in the Paraphrase.

11. As a proof that sorrow, according to God, worketh salutary penance, he instances its effects on themselves. He points out the seven effects which it caused in them:—“Defence” (in the Greek, apology), refers to their clearing themselves before Titus of any participation in the guilt of the incestuous man. “Desire,” may likewise mean, a desire of seeing us. “Zeal,” may also refer to their defence of himself against his enemies, the false teachers. “In the matter,” viz., the incest, he forbears mentioning it, to mark his horror of it.

This passage furnishes the clearest refutation of the erroneous notions formed by heretics with respect to penance, which, according to them, consists in mere feelings of sorrow, and a mere change of heart. For, the Apostle draws a distinction between the sorrow of heart and penance, as between cause and effect. “The sorrow according to God, worketh penance” (verse 10). Therefore, penance does not consist in mere sorrow. He also feels rejoiced, not because they were “made sorrowful” but because they were made sorrowful unto penance (verse 9). For salutary penance, therefore, more than sorrow of heart is required. Penitential works, such as the Apostle here states to be its fruits, in the Corinthians (verse 11), are necessary as its complement. Mere sorrow, unaccompanied by penitential works, ordinarily speaking, is worth nothing.

12. “Who suffered the wrong,” viz., the father. From this it is generally inferred, that the father of the incestuous man was still alive.

13. “Therefore we were comforted.” Which runs thus in the Greek: on this account we have been consoled in your consolation. The meaning does not differ from that expressed in the Vulgate, by taking the words, “your consolation,” actively, to signify the consolation you caused us. There will, then, be no difference; as the words will only convey a repitition of what he asserted before—viz., that he was consoled by the accounts which he received regarding the Corinthians, and, he adds, that the joy which Titus felt at their reformation, added to his consolation.

14. “As we have spoken all things to you in truth.” These words are generally-understood of the things preached to them by the Apostle, whose words were neither changeable nor inconstant (chap. 1). Others understand them as referring to the character which St. Paul gave of Titus to the Corinthians; and as they have found that the Apostle’s character of Titus was fully verified, so has Titus found the character given of them by the Apostle equally well grounded.

15. “His bowels.” referring to his tender affection.

16. “In all things I have confidence in you.” So that I can exhort, rebuke, instruct, and propose advice on any subject. This serves as a preparation for the subject of alms-deeds, which he proposes, in the next chapter.

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