6. Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many.
6. Sufficit ei, qui talis est, correctio, quae illi contigit a pluribus.
7. So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow.
7. Ut potius e diverso debeatis condonare, et consolari: ne forte abundantiori tristitia absorbeatur, qui eiusmodi est.
8. Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him.
8. Quamobrem obsecro vos, ut confirmetis erga eum caritatem.
9. For to this end also did I write, that I might know the proof of you, whether ye be obedient in all things.
9. Nam in hoc etiam scripseram vobis, ut probationem vestri cognoscerem: an ad omnia obedientes sitis.
10. To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ;
10. Cui autem condonatis, etiam ego: etenim cui condonavi, si quid condonavi, propter vos condonavi in conspectu Christi.
11. Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.
11. Ut ne occupemur a Satana: non enim cogitationes eius ignoramus.
6. Sufficient. He now extends kindness even to the man who had sinned more grievously than the others, and on whose account his anger had been kindled against them all, inasmuch as they had connived at his crime. In his showing indulgence even to one who was deserving of severer punishment, the Corinthians have a striking instance to convince them, how much he disliked excessive harshness. It is true, that he does not act this part merely for the sake of the Corinthians, but because he was naturally of a forgiving temper; but still, in this instance of mildness, the Corinthians could not but perceive his remarkable kindness of disposition. In addition to this, he does not merely show himself to be indulgent, but exhorts others to receive him into favor, in the exercise of the same mildness.
Let us, however, consider these things a little more minutely. He refers to the man who had defiled himself by an incestuous marriage with his mother-in-law. As the iniquity was not to be tolerated, Paul had given orders, that the man should be excommunicated. He had, also, severely reproved the Corinthians, because they had so long given encouragement to that enormity by their dissimulation and patient endurance. It appears from this passage, that he had been brought to repentance, after having been admonished by the Church. Hence Paul gives orders, that he be forgiven, and that he be also supported by consolation.
This passage ought to be carefully observed, as it shows us, with what equity and clemency the discipline of the Church ought to be regulated, in order that there may not be undue severity. There is need of strictness, in order that the wicked may not be rendered more daring by impunity, which is justly pronounced an allurement to vice. But on the other hand, as there is a danger of the person, who is chastised, becoming dispirited, moderation must be used as to this -- so that the Church shall be prepared to extend forgiveness, so soon as she is fully satisfied as to his penitence. In this department, I find a lack of wisdom on the part of the ancient bishops; and indeed they ought not to be excused, but on the contrary, we ought rather to mark their error, that we may learn to avoid it. Paul is satisfied with the repentance of the offender, that a reconciliation may take place with the Church. They, on the other hand, by making no account of his repentance, have issued out canons as to repentance during three years, during seven years, and in some cases during life. By these they exclude poor unhappy men from the fellowship of the Church. And, in this way, the offender is either alienated the more from the Church, or is induced to practice hypocrisy. But even if the enactment were more plausible in itself, this consideration would, in my view, be enough to condemn it -- that it is at variance with the rule of the Holy Spirit, which the Apostle here prescribes.
7. Lest such an one should be swallowed up by overmuch sorrow The end of excommunication, so far as concerns the power of the offender, is this: that, overpowered with a sense of his sin, he may be humbled in the sight of God and the Church, and may solicit pardon with sincere dislike and confession of guilt. The man who has been brought to this, is now more in need of consolation, than of severe reproof. Hence, if you continue to deal with him harshly, it will be -- not discipline, but cruel domineering. Hence we must carefully guard against pressing them beyond this limit. For nothing is more dangerous, than to give Satan a handle, to tempt an offender to despair. Now we furnish Satan with arms in every instance, in which we leave without consolation those, who are in good earnest affected with a view of their sin.
9. For I had written to you also for this purpose. He anticipates an objection, that they might bring forward. |What then did you mean, when you were so very indignant, because we had not inflicted punishment upon him? From being so stern a judge, to become all at once a defender -- is not this indicative of a man, that wavers between conflicting dispositions?| This idea might detract greatly from Paul's authority; but he answers, that he has obtained what he asked, and that he was therefore satisfied, so that he must now give way to compassion. For, their carelessness having been corrected, there was nothing to hinder their lifting up the man by their clemency, when now prostrate and downcast.
10. To whom ye forgive. That he might the more readily appease them, he added his vote in support of the pardon extended by them. |Do not hesitate to forgive: I promise that I shall confirm whatever you may have done, and I already subscribe your sentence of forgiveness.| Secondly, he says that he does this for their sake; and that too, sincerely and cordially. He had already shown how desirous he was, that the man's welfare should be consulted: he now declares, that he grants this willingly to the Corinthians.
Instead of the expression in the sight of Christ, some prefer person, because Paul in that reconciliation was in the room of Christ, and did in a manner represent his person. I am, however, more inclined to understand him as declaring, that he forgives sincerely and without any pretence. For he is accustomed to employ this phrase to express pure and undisguised rectitude. If, however, any one prefers the former interpretation, it is to be observed that the person of Christ is interposed, because there is nothing that ought to incline us more to the exercise of mercy.
11. That we may not be taken advantage of by Satan. This may be viewed as referring to what he had said previously respecting excessive sorrow. For it is a most wicked fraud of Satan, when depriving us of all consolation, he swallows us up, as it were, in a gulf of despair; and such is the explanation that is given of it by Chrysostom. I prefer, however, to view it as referring to Paul and the Corinthians. For there was a twofold danger, that beset them from the stratagems of Satan -- in the event of their being excessively harsh and rigorous, or, on the other hand, in case of dissension arising among them. For it very frequently happens, that, under colour of zeal for discipline, a Pharisaical rigour creeps in, which hurries on the miserable offender to ruin, instead of curing him. It is rather, however, in my opinion, of the second danger that he speaks; for if Paul had not to some extent favored the wishes of the Corinthians, Satan would have prevailed by kindling strife among them.
For we are not ignorant of his devices That is, |We know, from being warned of it by the Lord, that one stratagem to which he carefully has recourse is, that when he cannot ruin us by open means, he surprises us when off our guard by making a secret attack. As, then, we are aware that he makes an attack upon us by indirect artifices, and that he assails us by secret machinations, we must look well before us, and carefully take heed that he may not, from some quarter, do us injury. He employs the word devices in the sense in which the Hebrews make use of the term zmh (zimmah,) but in a bad sense, as meaning artful schemes and machinations, which ought not to be unknown to believers, and will not be so, provided they give themselves up to the guidance of God's Spirit. In short, as God warns us, that Satan employs every means to impose upon us, and, in addition to this, shows us by what methods he may practice imposture upon us, it is our part to be on the alert, that he may have not a single chink to creep through.