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1: Do we begin again to recommend ourselves - Is it
needful? Have I nothing but my own word to recommend me?
St. Paul chiefly here intends himself; though not excluding
Timotheus, Titus, and Silvanus. Unless we need - As if he had
said, Do I indeed want such recommendation?
2: Ye are our recommendatory letter - More convincing
than bare words could be. Written on our hearts - Deeply
engraven there, and plainly legible to all around us.
3: Manifestly declared to be the letter of Christ - Which he
has formed and published to the world. Ministered by us - Whom he
has used herein as his instruments, therefore ye are our letter
also. Written not in tables of stone - Like the ten commandments.
But in the tender, living tables of their hearts - God having
taken away the hearts of stone and given them hearts of flesh.
4: Such trust have we in God - That is, we trust in God
that this is so.
5: Not that we are sufficient of ourselves - So much as to
think one good thought; much less, to convert sinners.
6: Who also hath made us able ministers of the new covenant
- Of the new, evangelical dispensation. Not of the law, fitly
called the letter, from God's literally writing it on the two
tables. But of the Spirit - Of the gospel dispensation, which is
written on the tables of our hearts by the Spirit. For the letter
- The law, the Mosaic dispensation. Killeth - Seals in death those
who still cleave to it. But the Spirit - The gospel, conveying the
Spirit to those who receive it. Giveth life - Both spiritual
and eternal: yea, if we adhere to the literal sense even of
the moral law, if we regard only the precept and the sanction
as they stand in themselves, not as they lead us to Christ,
they are doubtless a killing ordinance, and bind us down
under the sentence of death.
7: And if the ministration of death - That is, the Mosaic
dispensation, which proves such to those who prefer it to the
gospel, the most considerable part of which was engraven on
those two stones, was attended with so great glory.
8: The ministration of the Spirit - That is, the Christian
9: The ministration of condemnation - Such the Mosaic
dispensation proved to all the Jews who rejected the gospel
whereas through the gospel (hence called the ministration of
righteousness) God both imputed and imparted righteousness
to all believers. But how can the moral law (which alone
was engraven on stone) be the ministration of condemnation,
if it requires no more than a sincere obedience, such as is
proportioned to our infirm state? If this is sufficient to
justify us, then the law ceases to be a ministration of
condemnation. It becomes (flatly contrary to the apostle's
doctrine) the ministration of righteousness.
10: It hath no glory in this respect, because of the
glory that excelleth - That is, none in comparison of this more
excellent glory. The greater light swallows up the less.
11: That which remaineth - That dispensation which
remains to the end of the world; that spirit and life
which remain for ever.
12: Having therefore this hope - Being fully persuaded
13: And we do not act as Moses did, who put a veil
over his face - Which is to be understood with regard to his
writings also. So that the children of Israel could not
look steadfastly to the end of that dispensation which is
now abolished - The end of this was Christ. The whole Mosaic
dispensation tended to, and terminated in, him; but the
Israelites had only a dim, wavering sight of him, of whom
Moses spake in an obscure, covert manner.
14: The same veil remaineth on their understanding
unremoved - Not so much as folded back, (so the word implies,) so
as to admit a little, glimmering light. On the public reading
of the Old Testament - The veil is not now on the face of Moses or
of his writings, but on the reading of them, and on the heart of
them that believe not. Which is taken away in Christ - That is,
from the heart of them that truly believe on him.
16: When it - Their heart. Shall turn to the Lord - To
Christ, by living faith. The veil is taken away - That very
moment; and they see, with the utmost clearness, how all the
types and prophecies of the law are fully accomplished in him.
17: Now the Lord - Christ is that Spirit of the law whereof
I speak, to which the letter was intended to lead. And where
the Spirit of the Lord, Christ, is, there is liberty - Not the
veil, the emblem of slavery. There is liberty from servile
fear, liberty from the guilt and from the power of sin, liberty
to behold with open face the glory of the Lord.
18: And, accordingly, all we that believe in him,
beholding as in a glass - In the mirror of the gospel. The glory
of the Lord - His glorious love. Are transformed into the same
image - Into the same love. From one degree of this glory to
another, in a manner worthy of his almighty Spirit.
What a beautiful contrast is here! Moses saw the glory of the
Lord, and it rendered his face so bright, that he covered it
with a veil; Israel not being able to bear the reflected light.
We behold his glory in the glass of his word, and our faces
shine too; yet we veil them not, but diffuse the lustre which
is continually increasing, as we fix the eye of our mind more
and more steadfastly on his glory displayed in the gospel.