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

Analysis

After having commended the persons sent by him to receive their contributions, the Apostle now resumes the subject of alms-deeds. He says, it is superfluous to stimulate them to this holy work, as lie is well aware of their prompt and ready willingness in the matter. He confines himself to three qualities which should characterise their alms-deeds—viz., promptitude, generosity, and cheerfulness. He stimulates them to promptitude, by the consideration of his former boasting regarding them, and of the consequent cause of shame it would be, both to himself and them, if they were not prepared when he should arrive accompanied by some of the Macedonians (2–4). He employs the beautiful illustration of the sower who reaps according to the abundance of the seed which he sows, to stimulate their generosity (5, 6). He recommends the quality of cheerfulness in their almsgiving (7). Having recounted the conditions of alms-deeds, he meets a difficulty which the timorous fears of some might suggest—viz., that by the exercise of generous charity, they might themselves be reduced to want, and he shows the groundless nature of such fears Firstly, because God is able to supply their necessary wants, and also to furnish means of further charity (8). Secondly, because such is the ordinary dispensation of God’s Providence (9). And he illustrates this by the example of the master, who furnishes the husbandman with seed (10). Thirdly, by recounting the several advantages of alms-deeds.

Paraphrase

1. (I then commend to your charge these tried men whom I have sent to you), for, as to the eleemosynary contribution itself, which is to be administered by them for the relief of the afflicted poor of Jerusalem, I deem, it superfluous to say a single word to stimulate you.

2. For, I am well aware of the prompt readiness of your will to contribute, and this promptitude of yours. I have made the subject of my boasting with the Macedonians, telling them that all Achaia (of which your city is the capital), has been ready for the last year to contribute, and the good example of ready willingness which you gave, had the effect of provoking many to imitate you.

3. But I have sent Titus and the two brethren before me, in order that my boasting concerning you in, this matter of alms-deeds may not be proved to have been vain and foolish, and that you may be prepared when I come to you, as I told the Macedonians you would.

4. Lest, should any of the Macedonians accompany me to Corinth, and find you unprepared, we should be ashamed on this matter of boasting; as if we were uttering falsehoods (to say nothing of the shame it would cause you to be found negligent in the cause of the poor).

5. Therefore it was, that I thought proper to request of the brethren to go before us, and prepare this offering of generous liberality, so that it may be ready when we arrive, and may be truly a generous, cheerful offering, and not the reluctant, parsimonious tribute wrung from avarice.

6. What I mean to convey is this: the man who dispenses charity sparingly, shall meet a recompense in the same proportion, and the man who dispenses it liberally and generously, shall also reap a proportionate, i.e., a liberal, recompense from God.

7. Let each person, however, contribute just according to his will and inclination; but let him do so cheerfully, and not as a man acting from reluctance or constraint, because God loves and remunerates a cheerful giver.

8. (Let no groundless fears of personal want, resulting from the exercise of charity to the poor, deter you); for God is able to bestow upon you such an abundance of good gifts, that, having in all things, and at all times, an ample sufficiency, you may be fully equal to every good work of charity.

9. As we find it written in Psalm 111 regarding the just man:—Like a sower, he hath scattered his wealth, he liberally distributed it to the poor, his alms deeds remain in their effects, both for time and eternity.

10. Therefore, banish all groundless fears, because God, who supplies you with the means of dispensing your charities, will also furnish you with the necessaries of life, and will even multiply your temporal substance which you dispense to the poor, and increase the spiritual fruits of your justice and sanctification.

11. So that having become enriched in all kinds of blessings, you may be enabled to exercise the works of charity with cheerful generosity, which, on your part, affords us matter for returning thanks to God.

12. Because the administration of these alms not only supplies the saints with the necessary means of subsistence; but it also causes manifold thanks to be rendered, on this account, by many to the Lord.

13. Who having had a proof or experiment of your charity administered by us, give glory to God on account of your obedience to the precepts of the gospel, to which you are bound in virtue of your Christian profession, and for the generous and cheerful liberality by which you make them and all others sharers in your temporal substance.

14. They also give glory to God in the prayers they pour forth for you, whom they are desirous to see on account of the singular gifts of grace bestowed upon you, and of which your liberality is a sure indication.

15. Thanks be to God for having conferred on you the gifts of generous charity, the fruits of which are ineffable.

Commentary

1. The connection of this verse with the preceding is given in the Paraphrase. He says, it is superfluous to stimulate them to undertake the good work itself, as he is aware of their disposition, having themselves commenced the matter last year. Hence, in this chapter, he dwells particularly on the conditions of their alms-deeds, viz.: promptitude, generosity, and cheerfulness. He treats, first, of promptitude.

2. The spiritual and heavenly wisdom of the Apostle is here remarkably exhibited. He stimulates the Corinthians to generosity by the example of the Macedonians; and the latter he stimulated to promptitude, by the example of the Corinthians.

3. “I have sent the brethren,” i.e., Titus and his two associates.

“In this behalf,” i.e., in this affair of aims-deeds. He is not in the least afraid of them in other respects.

4. “Least, when the Macedonians shall come.” In the common Greek it is, μὴ πως, ε͂ὰν ἔλθωσι—lest if the Macedonians should come, &c.; εαν, if, is wanting in the chief MSS. It frequently happened that the Apostles were honourably escorted, by members of the churches in which they were after preaching, to the place of their destination. “In this matter.” For which the common Greek is εν τη ὑποστασει ταυτη της καυχησεως, in this confidence of boasting; της καυχησεως, is wanting in the chief MSS., and rejected by critics generally.

“Not to say,” i.e., not to speak of the shame it would be to you, to be found negligent in the cause of relieving the poor.

5. “So as a blessing,” i.e., a generous, cheerful offering. He now recommends abundance and cheerfulness in their offerings.

6. He says that the man who gives alms—which is meant by “sowing”—“sparingly,” “will reap,” i.e., will receive but a small reward, not trifling or small in itself, but in comparison with that which shall be received by him, who shall sow or dispense “in blessings,” i.e., plentifully and abundantly. Such a person will obtain an abundant reward.

7. He now recommends this quality of cheerfulness in the giving of alms. With God, who sees the heart, no alms deeds are acceptable, unless given from a cheerful heart. Hence, St. Augustine says—if you give away your bread with sadness, you lose both your bread and its reward.

8. Having explained the conditions of alms-deeds, he now meets a difficulty, which the timid fears of some might suggest, viz., that if they were to contribute generously, they themselves might perhaps be reduced to want. He tells them to banish such groundless apprehensions; for, that God, who is generous to those who are themselves liberal, can make their substance prosper, so as to enable them to exercise without difficulty the works of charity.

9. He employs the authority of Sacred Scripture in banishing all such groundless fears. The same thing shall happen them, that is recorded of the just man (Psalm 111), of whom it is said, “he hath dispersed,” &c.—(See Paraphrase). “His justice,” by which is meant alms-deeds, to which the designation of “justice,” is applied in the Gospel (v.g.): “See, you do not your justice before men.”—(Matt. chap. 6.) “Remaineth for ever;” it remains in time, in the temporal benedictions and graces which it merits, and in eternity, in the glory with which it shall be abundantly rewarded.

10. He dispels their fears by recounting the rewards attached to almsgiving. God, who supplies them with temporal means (“the seed”), wherewith to relieve their distressed brethren, like the master who supplies the husbandman with seed to sow in his field, will supply them with food and the other necessaries of life; he will even multiply their “seed,” i.e., their temporal substance, and reward them in this life with graces, which are the seed of glory in the life to come. The ordinary course of God’s providence is to reward aims-deeds with temporal benedictions in this life, and whenever he departs from this course, as he sometimes does, it is for the trial and good of his elect, and for his own greater glory. The words “will multiply,” &c., are read optatively in the common Greek, χορηγησαι και πληθυναι, &c., may he, who … give and multiply, &c. According to this reading, the Apostle begs a blessing for them. The Vulgate reading in the future, χορηγησει, και πληθυνεῖ, &c., is, however, generally preferred by critics, on the authority of the chief MSS.

11. “You may abound unto all simplicity,” that is, be able to exercise heartfelt generosity from pure motives. The Apostle, in the preceding passage, in order the more effectually to dispel all feelings of diffidence from the minds of the Corinthians, promises them these two things which he had shown (verse 8) to be possible with God, and (verse 9) to be ordinarily given to the just, viz., sufficiency for support, and abundance for the purposes of charity; and this he illustrates by the example of the master who furnishes the husbandman with seed. For, as the master supplies seed to the tiller of the ground, and furnishes him with the necessaries of life, and, moreover, at harvest time, assigns to him a share in the harvest, by the multiplication of which he can sow more extensively at the coming spring; so, God who supplies the almsgiver with the seed, or means or dispensing charity, which he is to dispense to his own poor, will also supply him with the necessaries of life, and will multiply more and more his resources and means for the further sowing or dispensing of charity.

12. “The administration of this office.” The Greek is ἡ διακονία τῆς λειτουργιας ταυτης, the ministry of this liturgy, or sacred service. The Apostle insinuates that alms-deeds is a sort of a sacrifice, as being a kind of oblation acceptable to God, and there is some sacrifice of temporal goods involved in it. “By many thanksgivings in the Lord.” In the common Greek, by many thanksgivings to God. The Codex Vaticanus has, “by many thanksgivings to Christ.”

13. “By the proof of this ministry,” i.e., having experienced your charity through our ministry, they render glory to God for the works of his grace, for having enabled you to obey the Gospel in which you believe, and whose precepts you have bound yourselves to observe. Among the precepts of the Gospel is, that of giving alms-deeds to relieve the indigent. Glory should be rendered to God, “for the simplicity of your communicating, &c.,” i.e., for having endowed you with this generous, pure-minded liberality, of which they and all who need it are made partakers.

14. They also glorify God in their prayers for you, whom they are anxious to see on account of the peculiar grace of charity, and the other heavenly gifts which your generosity shows to have been bestowed on you by God.

15. He returns God thanks for the “gift” of generous charity conferred on them, which may be justly styled “ineffable,” owing to the good resulting to men, and the glory redounding to God, from its exercise.








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