2 Corinthians 12:12-15
Truly the signs of an apostle were worked among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.…
It is love that speaks, and unkindness that is spoken to. Many ways it may be manifest that St. Paul loved the Church of Corinth more than many other. By the time he spent with them, a year and a half full: scarce with any so much. By his visiting them three several times, not any so oft. By two of his largest Epistles sent to them: not to any the like. Now there should be in love the virtue of the loadstone, the virtue attractive, to draw like love to it again. There should be, but was not. For their little love appeared by their many unloving exceptions which they took to him. This cold infusion of so faint regard on their parts might have quenched his love.
1. There was a world when one said, bestow your heart on me, and I require no further bestowing; and the bestowing of love, though nothing but love, was something worth.
2. Such a world there was, but that world is worn out. Love and all is put out to interest.
3. Such is now the world's love, but specially at Corinth, where they set love to hire and love to sale.
4. There is no remedy then. St. Paul must apply himself to time and place wherein love depends upon yielding and paying.
5. Now, there is nothing so pliant as love, ever ready to transform itself to whatsoever may have likelihood to prevail.
6. St. Paul therefore cometh to it; and as he maketh his case a Father's case towards them.
7. Yea, "I will bestow." Now, alas! what can Paul bestow? Especially upon so wealthy citizens? What hath he to part with but his books and parchments? Ware, at Athens perhaps somewhat; but at Corinth, little used and less regarded. But, by the grace of God, there is something else. There be treasures of wisdom and knowledge in Christ Jesus. Indeed, this it is St. Paul can bestow; and this it is Corinth needs, and the more wealthy it is the more.But it is much more to be bestowed than to bestow.
1. For, first, they that bestow give but of their fruits; but he that is bestowed giveth fruit, tree, and all. Himself is in the deed of gift too.
2. Secondly, before there was but one act; here, in one, are both bestowing and being bestowed, and there being both must needs be better than one.
3. Thirdly, before that which was bestowed, what was it? Our good, not our blood; our living, not our life.
4. And indeed we see many can be content to bestow frankly, but at no hand. to be bestowed themselves. But hither, also, will St. Paul come without any reservation at all of himself; to do or suffer, "to spend or be spent." Bow to be spent? will he die? Yea, indeed. What, presently here at Corinth? No; for at this time and long after he was still alive. If there be no way to be bestowed but by dying out of hand; they that in field receive the bullet, or they that at the stake have the fire set to them, they and they only may be said to be bestowed. That is a way indeed, but not the only way. And that is said to be bestowed, not only that is defrayed at one entire payment, but that which by several sums is paid in, especially if it be when it is not due, nor could not be called for. By intentive meditation (for his books and parchments took somewhat from his sum), by sorrow and grief of heart he bestowed himself by inchmeal. And so far it is the case of all them that be in his case, as Christ termeth them the light of the world, lighting others and wasting themselves. True it is we value the inward affection above the outward action or passion. With men it is so too. When a displeasure is done us, say we not, we weigh not so much the injury itself as the malicious mind of him that did offer it? And if in evil it hold, why not in good much more? And will you see the mind wherewith St. Paul will do both these? Bestow he will and be bestowed too, and that not in any sort be contented to come to it, but willingly; willingly, nay readily, readily, nay gladly, most gladly. And now must we pause a little to see what will become of all this, and what these will work in the Corinthians. We marvel at the love, we shall more marvel when we see what manner of .men on whom it is bestowed. He complaineth though that, seeking their love, and nothing else, so hard was his hap, he found it not. And as he to be pitied, so they to be blamed. All other commodities return well from Corinth, only love is no traffic. St. Paul cannot make his own again, but must be a great loser withal. But all this while he lived still under hope, hope of winning their love for whose sakes he had trod under foot the love of himself. Love endureth not the name of difficulty, but shameth to confess anything too hard or too dangerous for it. For, verily, unkindness is a mighty enemy and the wounds of it deep. It serveth first to possess our souls of that excellent virtue, the greatest of the three. Nay, the virtue without which the rest be but ciphers — love. But love, the action of virtue, not the passion of vice. Love, not of the body, but of the soul, the precious soul of man (Proverbs 6.). And for them and for their love to be ready to prove it by St. Paul's trial. They that do thus, no good can be spoken of their love answerable to the desert of it. Heavenly it is, and in heaven to receive the reward. But when all is done we must take notice of the world's nature. For, as St. Paul left it, so we shall find it (that is) we shall not perhaps meet with that regard we promise ourselves. Surely, if love or well-doing or any good must perish (which is the second motive), and be lost through somebody's default (where it lighteth), much better it is that it perish in the Corinthians' hands than in Paul's; by them, in their evil receiving, than in his not bestowing. For so the sin shall be theirs, and we and our souls innocent before God. But perish it shall not. For howsoever of them it may be truly said, the more we love the less they; of Christ it never can nor ever shall be said. For St. Paul, for the little love at their hands, found the greater at His. Not lost, but laid out; not cast away, but employed on Him for whose love none ever hath or shall bestow aught but he shall receive a hundredfold.
Parallel VersesKJV: Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.