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2 Cor. ii. 16.
Who is sufficient for these things ?
When these words were written, the soul of the Apostle was evidently stirred within him, by various and conflicting emotions; in which, however, the spirit of love was manifestly predominant. In his former epistle to the Corinthian Church, he had been compelled to speak of strife, and envyings, and divisions, and other outbreakings of the carnal mind; and to threaten that he would come among them; and know, not only the speech but the power, of them that were swelling, with factious insolence, against him that had begotten them in the Lord. He had to ask the children who were given to Him, What will ye
2 Shall I come unto you with a rod; or in love, and with the spirit of meekness'? And, worse than all, he had to speak of impurities, such as had never once been named, even among the Gentiles; such as called upon him to deliver the transgressor unto Satan, for the destruction of the flesh ; that the spirit might be saved, in the day of the Lord Jesus 2. But now the time was come, when the rod might be cast aside, and the Spirit of meekness might rule alone, and Satan should have no part or lot in the correction of the offending brother. The word of authority had effectually done its office; or, if it had not altogether silenced the gainsayers, it, at least, had done enough to impel the Apostle to exclaim, with reference to this, and other victories, Thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ. And, as to the incestuous man, the danger now was, not lest he should infect the Church with the deadly leprosy of his example ; but lest he should, himself, be swallowed up of overmuch sorrow for his crime. And, if any man will meditate upon the words in which the Apostle sheds the healing balm upon the wounded hearts of his repenting children, he will see what it is for a human soul to be under the guidance of the spirit of love, and of power, and of a sound mind. For they are words of courtesy, such as might almost become them that are clothed in soft raiment, and dwell in the palaces of kings. And they are words of discretion, which the wise and the prudent of this world would do well to study and to emulate. And, although they are, likewise, words of authority and power, yet is the authority and the power so sweetly attempered with parental tenderness, that the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort seems to be speaking to us by his lips '.
It is not wonderful that the Apostle should rejoice in this, and all such blessed triumphs, of the Spirit of power and the Spirit of love. But we find that he rejoices with trembling. He knew, and he felt, indeed, that the might and virtue of the Gospel were perpetually going forth from him, with a fragrance that breathed of heaven, to refresh the souls of them that were toiling onward in the way that leadeth unto life ; but with a deadly odour that should wither the spirit of those who were hastening on the road which leads unto perdition. And hence it is that he exclaims, Thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ ; and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge, by us, in every place. For we are, unto God, a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish. To the one, we are the savour of death, unto death ; and to the other, we are the savour of life unto life?. But,
2 Cor. ii. 1-11,
2 Ibid. ch. ii. 14--16.
though it was a glorious and blessed office, to dispense the only medicine of the soul to them that sought for health, yet was it, also, an appalling thing, to behold that precious balm doing the work of venom upon the stubborn or the impenitent; upon the Greek, who sought after wisdom; or, upon the Jew, who stumbled at the cross; and upon Jew or Greek, who held the truth in unrighteousness. Well, therefore, might he add, And who is sufficient for these things ? To deal out the only sovereign cure for the infirmities and plagues of our corrupted nature,—to send forth the influences which alone could regenerate a world that lay in wickedness and in misery,—what skill did it demand — what gentleness— what faithfulness—what vigilance—what weariness and painfulness—what oblivion of self—what daily death? And, then, to look upon the cases which seemed to be “the mere despair” of earth and heaven,--where the medicine turned, as it were, to poison, on the lips of the sufferer,—where the odours of life were changed to the savours of perdition,-how must it have tasked the courage and the patience! How must it have caused the heart to be as melting wax within the bosom! How must it have made Faith, and Hope, and even Charity herself, at times, to tremble and turn pale! And, with thoughts like these before him, can it seem strange that even Paul of Tarsus should cry out,