23. Moreover I call God for a record upon my soul, that to spare you I came not as yet unto Corinth.
23. Ego autem testem invoco Deum in animam meam, quod parcens vobis nondum venerim Corinthum.
24. Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand.
24. Non quod dominemur fidei vestrae, sed adiutores sumus gaudii vestri: fide enim statis.
2 Corinthians 2:1-2
1. But I determined this with myself, that I would not come again to you in heaviness.
1. Decreveram autem hoc in me ipso, non amplius venire in tristitia ad vos.
2. For if I make you sorry, who is he then that maketh me glad, but the same which is made sorry by me?
2. Si enim ego contristo vos: et quis est qui me exhilaret, nisi is qui erit tristitia affectus ex me?
23. I call God for a witness. He now begins to assign a reason for his change of purpose; for hitherto he has merely repelled calumny. When, however, he says that he spared them, he indirectly throws back the blame upon them, and thus shows them that it would be unfair if he were put to grief through their fault, but that it would be much more unfair if they should permit this; but most of all unfair if they should give their assent to so base a calumny, as in that case they would be substituting in their place an innocent person, as if he had been guilty of their sin. Now he spared them in this respect, that if he had come he would have been constrained to reprove them more severely, while he wished rather that they should of their own accord repent previously to his arrival, that there might be no occasion for a harsher remedy, which is a signal evidence of more than paternal lenity. For how much forbearance there was in shunning this necessity, when he had just ground of provocation!
He makes use, also, of an oath, that he may not seem to have contrived something to serve a particular purpose. For the matter in itself was of no small importance, and it was of great consequence that he should be entirely free from all suspicion of falsehood and pretence. Now there are two things that make an oath lawful and pious -- the occasion and the disposition. The occasion I refer to is, where an oath is not employed rashly, that is, in mere trifles, or even in matters of small importance, but only where there is a call for it. The disposition I refer to is, where there is not so much regard had to private advantage, as concern felt for the glory of God, and the advantage of the brethren: For this end must always be kept in view, that our oaths may promote the honor of God, and promote also the advantage of our neighbours in a matter that is befitting.
The form of the oath must also be observed -- first, that he calls God to witness; and, secondly, that he says upon my soul For in matters that are doubtful and obscure, where man's knowledge fails, we have recourse to God, that he, who alone is truth, may bear testimony to the truth. But the man that appeals to God as his witness, calls upon him at the same time to be an avenger of perjury, in the event of his declaring what is false. This is what is meant by the phrase upon my soul. |I do not object to his inflicting punishment upon me, if I am guilty of falsehood.| Although, however, this is not always expressed in so many words, it is, notwithstanding, to be understood. For
if we are unfaithful, God remaineth faithful
and will not deny himself (2 Timothy 2:13.)
He will not suffer, therefore, the profanation of his name to go unpunished.
24. Not that we exercise dominion He anticipates an objection that might be brought forward. |What! Do you then act so tyrannically as to be formidable in your very look? Such were not the gravity of a Christian pastor, but the cruelty of a savage tyrant.| He answers this objection first indirectly, by declaring that matters are not so; and afterwards directly, by showing that the very circumstance, that he had been constrained to treat them more harshly, was owing to his fatherly affection. When he says that he does not exercise dominion over their faith, he intimates, that such a power is unjust and intolerable -- nay more, is tyranny in the Church. For faith ought to be altogether exempt, and to the utmost extent free, from the yoke of men. We must, however, observe, who it is that speaks, for if ever there was a single individual of mortals, that had authority to claim for himself such a dominion, Paul assuredly was worthy of such a privilege. Yet he acknowledges, that it does not belong to him. Hence we infer, that faith owns no subjection except to the word of God, and that it is not at all in subjection to human control. Erasmus has observed in his Annotations, that by supplying the Greek particle heneka, it may be understood in this way -- Not that we exercise dominion over you -- with respect to your faith -- a rendering which amounts almost to the same thing. For he intimates, that there is no spiritual dominion, except that of God only. This always remains a settled point -- pastors have no peculiar dominion over men's consciences, inasmuch as they are ministers, not lords. (1 Peter 5:3.)
What then does he leave to himself and others? He calls them helpers of their joy -- by which term I understand happiness. At the same time he employs the term joy as opposed to the terror which tyrants awaken through means of their cruelty, and also false prophets, resembling tyrants, that rule with rigor and authority, as we read in Ezekiel 34:4. He argues from contraries, that he did by no means usurp dominion over the Corinthians, inasmuch as he endeavored rather to maintain them in the possession of a peace that was free, and full of joy.
For by faith ye stand. As to the reason why he adds this, others either pass it over altogether in silence, or they do not explain it with sufficient distinctness. For my part, I am of opinion that he here again argues from contraries. For if the nature and effect of faith be such that we lean, in order that we may stand, it is absurd to speak of faith as being subject to men. Thus he removes that unjust dominion, with which, he had a little before declared, he was not chargeable.