Page images
PDF
EPUB

trouble, had now no charms for him; of the great opportunities which were opened for him at Troas, and of which a year later he gladly availed himself, he could now make no use; and bidding farewell to the disciples in that city, he embarked for Macedonia, probably as once before?, to Neapolis, and thence by land to Philippi. There amidst the familiar scenes of his first European journey, he paused on his onward route, cheered by the zeal of his Macedonian converts3; but still distrustful and oppressed, his “flesh had no rest," he was “troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears." 4

At last the long-expected day came: Titus arrived, and arrived with tidings, not indeed wholly satisfactory, but sufficiently cheering to relieve the Apostle at once from the chief load of care which had weighed down his spirit; and for the rest, though agitating, yet calculated rather to call forth his energetic indignation than to overcloud and distress him.

The First Epistle had been received, and by those for whom it had been mainly intended, entirely appreciated. The lax and licentious party who, whether from misunderstanding or perverting the Apostle's teaching, had used his name as a watchword for their excesses, were levelled to the dust. Some complaints there were of the Apostle's change of purpose in not coming to them direct from Ephesus5; some cause still remained for fear lest the intercourse with the heathen should be too unrestrained 6 ; but on the whole, the submission of the mass of the Corinthian Church to the Apostle's directions was complete. They received Titus with open

and in the matter of the incestuous marriage,

arms?;

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]
[ocr errors]

the commission of which had been the chief practical subject of the First Epistle, they had been struck with the deepest penitence?; an assembly had been convened, and a punishment inflicted on the offender? ; and although this sorrow for themselves, and this severity towards the guilty person, had passed away before Titus's departures, and the sin itself had been forgiveno, yet there was nothing to indicate any disinclination to follow the spirit of the Apostle's teaching. Thus far all had gone beyond the Apostle's expectations; in the one point in which his command might seem to have been only partially followed out, in the temporary character of the penalty inflicted on the incestuous person, his mind was relieved even more than if they had literally observed his orders. They had judged, he almost seemed to think, more wisely in this respect than himself5; and generally he felt that confidence between them was now entirely restored, and that he was now more inseparably united with them in that union in their common Lord, which none but Christians knew.?

Mingled, however, with this good news were other tidings, not wholly unexpected by the Apostle, for he had already anticipated something of the kind in his First Epistles, but still demanding new and distinct consideration. The Jewish party at Corinth, which claimed especially the name of Peter, and apparently that of Christ also", had at the time of the first Epistle been so insignificant in itself, or so insignificant when compared with the greater evil of the selfish and licentious tendencies of the opposite party, as to call only for a few passing notices of the Apostle. It had, how

3

1 2 Cor. vii. 7-11.
4 2 Cor. ii. 10.
6 2 Cor. vi, 11., vii. 16.
8 1 Cor. ix. 1-6.

2 2 Cor. ï. 6.

2 Cor. vii. 8. 3 2 Cor. vii. 12., ii. 9, 10.

7 2 Cor. i. 5, 6., ii. 2, 3. 9 See on 1 Cor. i. 10.

ever even then reached a sufficient height to question his apostolic authority'; and it would seem that in the interval, apparently from the arrival of a new teacher or teachers, with letters of commendation from some superior authority, probably from Jerusalem?, the opponents of the Apostle had grown so powerful as to have openly assailed both his authority and his character. What the charges were which they brought against the Apostle, will best appear in his answers to them. But it is evident that they were a large party ; “ the majority” of the teachers“, animated by selfinterested motives", claiming almost despotic dominion over their followers, insisting on their purely Jewish origin?, and on their peculiar connexion with Christ, on their apostolical privileges', and on their commendatory letters.10

These two subjects, first, the general acquiescence of the Corinthian Church, and especially of the Pauline section of it, in the Apostle's injunctions, and, secondly, the claims of the Judaizing party, and their charges against the Apostle, must have been the chief topics of Titus's communication. The first and prominent feeling awakened in St. Paul's mind, was one of overwhelming thankfulness for relief from the anxiety which he had, up to that moment, felt for the effects of his Epistle; next, indignation at the insinuations of his adversaries. To give vent to the double tide of emotion thus rising within him, was the main purpose, therefore, of the Second Epistle. A third subject of less importance, but which gave him a direct occasion and opportunity for writing, was the necessity of hastening the first collection of the sums to be contributed by the Corinthians to the wants of the Christian poor in Judæa. He had clearly spoken of it in the close of his First Epistle; but his sense of the need of success in this instance had been further impressed upon him by the exemplary generosity of the Macedonian Churches, of which his recent stay among them had made him an actual witness.

2 2 Cor. ii. 1., x. 12

1 1 Cor. ix. 1-6.
* 2 Cor. i. 12. 17., iii. 1., x. 1.-xii. 21.
4 2 Cor. ii. 17.
6 2 Cor. i. 24., xi. 20.
8 2 Cor. v. 16., x. 7., xi. 13. 18. 23., xii. 3.
9 2 Cor. x. 5, 13.

5 2 Cor. ï. 17., xi. 13.
7 2 Cor. xi. 22.

10 2 Cor. iii. 1., V., X. 12. 18.

Such are the circumstances under which the Apostle composed the Second Epistle. The contrast between the two Epistles, as in the occasion so also in style, is very great. The first is the most systematic, the second, the least so of any of the Apostle's writings. The direct objects of the Epistle are, as has been indicated, threefold: 1st. The expression of his satisfaction at the tidings brought by Titus. 2ndly. The expression of his hope that the contributions for the poor in Judæa will be speedily completed.2 3rdly. The vindication of his character and authority against his Judaizing opponents. But so vehement were the feelings under which he wrote, that the thankfulness of the first part is darkened by the indignation of the third ; and the business of the second part is coloured by the reflections both of the first and of the third part. And in all the three portions of the Epistle, though in themselves strictly personal, the Apostle is borne away into the higher regions in which he habitually lived ; so that this Epistle becomes the most striking instance of what is the case, more or less, with all his writings,

a new philosophy of life (so to speak) poured forth, not through systematic treatises, but through occasional bursts of human feeling. The very stages of his jour

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]
[ocr errors]

ney are impressed upon it; the troubles at Ephesus, the rest at Troas, the anxieties and consolations of Macedonia, the prospect of moving to Corinth. « Universa Epistola,” says Bengel, itinerarium refert, sed præceptis pertextum præstantissimis.” 1

Through this labyrinth of conflicting emotions it is now necessary to follow the Apostle. As in the first Epistle, so in this, we must conceive him, at least at its onset, dictating his thoughts to an amanuensis, in this instance, probably to the youthful disciple Timotheus, whose name, in the opening of this Epistle, fills the place which, in its predecessor, had been occupied by that of Sosthenes.

The first feeling to which he gives utterance after the formal salutation, is one of unbounded thankfulness for his deliverance, whether from the actual danger, or the wearing anxiety to which he had been so long exposed, and of the entire sympathy which existed between himself and his converts. This feeling is first checked by the recollection that their sympathy with him was not so complete as his with them, in consequence of a suspicion of double-dealing and double-speaking on his part, chiefly grounded on his change of purpose in not coming to Corinth as expressed in his former Epistle. This charge he turns aside for a moment to explain and to justify; to point out that he had relinquished his earlier design only to leave scope for the the First Epistle to work its own effects, and this leads him to anticipate his address so far as to express his cordial acquiescence in the conduct which they had pursued in reference to the offender who had been the chief cause of the severity in his previous address.3

1 Gnomon, on 2 Cor. i. 8. See also his arrangement of the contents of the Epistle in his comment on 2 Cor. i. 1. 2 i. 3-11.

3 i. 12. --ü 11.

« PreviousContinue »