on 2-corinthians 1 :24
Not for that we have dominion over your faith - I will not come to exercise my apostolical authority in punishing them who have acted sinfully and disorderly; for this would be to several of you a cause of distress, the delinquents being friends and relatives; but I hope to come to promote your joy, to increase your spiritual happiness, by watering the seed which I have already sowed. This I think to be the meaning of the apostle. It is certain that the faith which they had already received was preached by the apostles; and, therefore, in a certain sense, according to our meaning of the term, they had a right to propound to them the articles which they ought to believe; and to forbid them, in the most solemn manner, to believe any thing else as Christianity which was opposed to those articles. In that sense they had dominion over their faith; and this dominion was essential to them as apostles. But shall any others - persons who are not apostles, who are not under the unerring and infallible influence of the Holy Ghost, arrogate to themselves this dominion over the faith of mankind; not only by insisting on them to receive new doctrines, taught nowhere by apostles or apostolic men; but also threatening them with perdition if they do not credit doctrines which are opposed to the very spirit and letter of the word of God? These things men, not only not apostles, but wicked, profligate, and ignorant, have insisted on as their right. Did they succeed? Yes, for a time; and that time was a time of thick darkness; a darkness that might be felt; a darkness producing nothing but misery, and lengthening out and deepening the shadow of death. But the light of God shone; the Scriptures were read; those vain and wicked pretensions were brought to the eternal touchstone: and what was the consequence? The splendor of truth pierced, dissipated, and annihilated them for ever!
British Protestants have learned, and Europe is learning that the Sacred Writings, and they alone, contain what is necessary to faith and practice; and that no man, number of men, society, church, council, presbytery, consistory, or conclave, has dominion over any man's faith. The word of God alone is his rule, and to its Author he is to give account of the use he has made of it.
For by faith ye stand - You believe not in us, but in God. We have prescribed to you on his authority, what you are to believe; you received the Gospel as coming from Him, and ye stand in and by that faith.
The subjects in this chapter which are of the most importance have been carefully considered in the preceding notes. That alone of the apostle's oath has been passed by with general observations only. But, that it is an oath has been questioned by some. An oath, properly speaking, is an appeal to God, as the Searcher of the hearts for the truth of what is spoken; and an appeal to Him, as the Judge of right and wrong, to punish the falsity and perjury. All this appears to be implied in the awful words above: I call God for a record upon my soul; and this is not the only place in which the apostle uses words of the same import. See Romans 1:9; Romans 9:1, and the note on Romans 9:1 (note).
On this subject I have spoken pretty much at large at the end of the sixth chapter of Deuteronomy; but as it appears that there I have made a mistake in saying that the people called Quakers hold up their hand in a court of justice, when called upon to make affirmation, I take this opportunity to correct that expression, and to give the form of the oath, for so the law considers it, which the statute (7 and 8 of William III., cap. 34, sec. 1) required of this sect of Christians: "I, A. B., do declare in the presence of almighty God, the witness of the truth of what I say." Though this act was only intended at first to continue in force for seven years, yet it was afterwards made perpetual. See Burn, vol. iii., page 654.
A more solemn and more awful form of an oath was never presented nor taken by man than this; no kissing of the book, holding up of the hand, nor laying hand on the Bible, can add either solemnity or weight to such an oath! It is as awful and as binding as any thing can be; and him, who would break this, no obligation can bind.
But the religious people in question found their consciences aggrieved by this form, and made application to have another substituted for it; in consequence of this the form has undergone a little alteration, and the solemn affirmation which is to stand instead of an oath taken in the usual manner, as finally settled by the 8th Geo., cap. 6, is the following: "I, A. B., do solemnly, sincerely, and truly declare and affirm." Burn, vol. iii., page 656.
It may be well to examine this solemn affirmation, and see whether it does not contain the essential principles of an oath; and whether it should not be reputed by all people, as being equal to any oath taken in the common form, and sufficiently binding on every conscience that entertains the belief of a God, and the doctrine of a future state. The word solemnly refers to the presence and omniscience of God, before whom the affirmation is made; and the word sincerely to the consciousness that the person has of the uprightness of his own soul, and the total absence of guile and deceit; and the word truly refers to the state of his understanding as to his knowledge of the fact in question. The word declare refers to the authority requiring, and the persons before whom this declaration is made; and the term affirm refers back to the words solemnly, sincerely, and truly, on which the declaration and affirmation are founded. This also contains all that is vital to the spirit and essence of an oath; and the honest man, who takes or makes it, feels that there is no form used among men by which his conscience can be more solemnly bound. As to the particular form, as long as it is not absurd or superstitious, it is a matter of perfect indifference as to the thing itself as long as the declaration or affirmation contains the spirit and essence of an oath; and that the law considers this as an oath, is evident from the following clause: "That if any one be convicted of having wilfully or falsely made this declaration or affirmation, such offender shall incur the same penalties and forfeitures as are enacted against persons convicted of wilful and corrupt perjury." I believe it may be said with strict truth, that few instances can be produced where this affirmation, which I must consider as a most solemn oath, was corruptly made by any accredited member of that religious society for whose peace and comfort it was enacted. And when this most solemn affirmation is properly considered, no man of reason will say that the persons who take it are not bound by a sufficient and available oath.
on 2-corinthians 1 :24
Not for that we have dominion ... - The sense of this passage I take to be this: "The course which we have pursued has been chosen not because we wish to lord it over your faith, to control your belief, but because we desired to promote your happiness. Had the former been our object, had we wished to set up a lordship or dominion over you, we should have come to you with our apostolical authority, and in the severity of apostolic discipline. We had power to command obedience, and to control your faith. But we chose not to do it. Our object was to promote your highest happiness. We, therefore, chose the mildest and gentlest manner possible; we did not exercise authority in discipline, we sent an affectionate and tender letter." While the apostles had the right to prescribe the articles of belief, and to propound the doctrines of God, yet they would not do even that in such a manner as to seem to "lord it over God's heritage" (οὐκ κυριευομεν ouk kurieuomen); they did not set up absolute authority, or prescribe the things to be believed in a lordly and imperative manner; nor would they make use of the severity of power to enforce what they taught. They appealed to reason; they employed persuasion; they made use of light and love to accomplish their desires.
Are helpers of your joy - This is our main object, to promote your joy. This object we have pursued in our plans, and in order to secure this. we forbore to come to you, when, if we did come at that time, we should have given occasion perhaps to the charge that we sought to lord it over your faith.
For by faith ye stand - see the note, 1 Corinthians 15:1. This seems to be a kind of proverbial expression, stating a general truth, that it was by faith that Christians were to be established or confirmed. The connection here requires us to understand this as a reason why he would not attempt to lord it over their faith; or to exercise dominion over them. That reason was, that thus far they had stood firm, in the main, in the faith 1 Corinthians 15:1; they had adhered to the truths of the gospel, and in a special manner now, in yielding obedience to the commands and entreaties of Paul in the First Epistle, they had showed that they were in the faith, and firm in faith. It was not necessary or proper, therefore, for him to attempt to exercise lordship over their belief, but all that was needful was to help forward their joy, for they were firm in the faith. We may observe:
(1) That it is a part of the duty of ministers to help forward the joy of Christians.
(2) this should be the object even in administering discipline and reproof.
(3) if even Paul would not attempt to lord it over the faith of Christians, to establish a domination over their belief, how absurd and wicked is it for uninspired ministers now, for individual ministers, for conferences, conventions, presbyteries, synods, councils, or for the pope, to attempt to establish a spiritual dominion in controlling the faith of people. The great evils in the church have arisen from their attempting to do what Paul would not do; from attempting to establish a dominion which Paul never sought, and which Paul would have abhorred. Faith must be free, and religion must be free, or they cannot exist at all.
In view of this chapter we may remark:
1. God is the only true and real Source of comfort in times of trial, 2 Corinthians 1:3. It is from Him that all real consolation must come, and he only can meet and sustain the soul when it is borne down with calamity. All persons are subjected to trial, and at some periods of their lives, to severe trial. Sickness is a trial; the death of a friend is a trial; the loss of property or health, disappointment, and reproach, and slander, and poverty, and want, are trials to which we are all more or less exposed. In these trials, it is natural to look to some source of consolation; some way in which they may be borne. Some seek consolation in philosophy, and endeavor to blunt their feelings and destroy their sensibilities, as the ancient stoics did. But "to destroy sensibility is not to produce comfort" - Dr. Mason. Some plunge deep into pleasures, and endeavor to drown their sorrows in the intoxicating draught; but this is not to produce comfort to the soul, even were it possible in such pleasures to forget their sorrows. Such were the ancient Epicureans. Some seek consolation in their surviving friends, and look to them to comfort and sustain the sinking heart. But the arm of an earthly friend is feeble, when God lays His hand upon us. It is only the hand that smites that can heal; only the God that sends the affliction, that can bind up the broken spirit. He is the "Father of mercies," and He is "the God of all consolation;" and in affliction there is no true comfort except in Him.
2. This consolation in God is derived from many sources:
(a) He is the "Father of mercies," and we may be assured, therefore, that He does nothing inconsistent with mercy.
(b) We may be assured that He is right - always right, and that He does nothing but right. We may not be able to see the reason of His actions, but we may have the assurance that it is all right, and will yet be seen to be right.
(c) There is comfort in the fact, that our afflictions are ordered by an intelligent Being, by One who is all-wise, and all-knowing.
They are not the result of blind chance; but they are ordered by One who is wise to know what ought to be done; and who is so fair that he will do nothing wrong. There could be no consolation in the feeling that mere chance directed our trials; nor can there be consolation except in the feeling that a being of intelligence and goodness directs and orders all. The true comfort, therefore, is to be found in religion, not in atheism and philosophy.
on 2-corinthians 1 :24
1:24 Not that we have dominion over your faith - This is the prerogative of God alone. But are helpers of your joy - And faith from which it springs. For by faith ye have stood - To this day. We see the light in which ministers should always consider themselves, and in which they are to be considered by others. Not as having dominion over the faith of their people, and having a right to dictate by their own authority what they shall believe, or what they shall do; but as helpers of their joy, by helping them forward in faith and holiness. In this view, how amiable does their office appear! and how friendly to the happiness of mankind! How far, then, are they from true benevolence, who would expose it to ridicule and contempt!