There seems to be a connection between 2 Cor. 2:13; 7:5 (where the apostle said he had no rest in his spirit when he found not Titus at Troas) and the 2 Cor. 2:13; 7:5: and so great was his affection to the Corinthians, and his concern about their behaviour in relation to the incestuous person, that, in his further travels, he still had no rest till he heard from them. And now he tells them,
I. How he was distressed, 2 Cor. 7:5. He was troubled when he did not meet with Titus at Troas, and afterwards when for some time he did not meet with him in Macedonia: this was a grief to him, because he could not hear what reception he met with at Corinth, nor how their affairs went forward. And, besides this, they met with other troubles, with incessant storms of persecutions; there were fightings without, or continual contentions with, and opposition from, Jews and Gentiles; and there were fears within, and great concern for such as had embraced the Christian faith, lest they should be corrupted or seduced, and give scandal to others, or be scandalized.
II. How he was comforted, 2 Cor. 7:6, 7. Here observe, 1. The very coming of Titus was some comfort to him. It was matter of joy to see him, whom he long desired and expected to meet with. The very coming of Titus and his company, who was dear to him as his own son in the common faith (Titus 1:4), was a great comfort to the apostle in his travels and troubles. But, 2. The good news which Titus brought concerning the Corinthians was matter of greater consolation. He found Titus to be comforted in them; and this filled the apostle with comfort, especially when he acquainted him with their earnest desire to give good satisfaction in the things about which the apostle had written to them; and of their mourning for the scandal that was found among them and the great grief they had caused to others, and their fervent mind or great affection towards the apostle, who had dealt so faithfully with them in reproving their faults: so true is the observation of Solomon (Prov. 28:23), He that rebuketh a man afterwards shall find more favour than he that flattereth with his tongue. 3. He ascribes all his comfort to God as the author. It was God who comforted him by the coming of Titus, even the God of all comfort: God, who comforteth those that are cast down, 2 Cor. 7:6. Note, We should look above and beyond all means and instruments, unto God, as the author of all the consolation and the good that we enjoy.
III. How greatly he rejoiced at their repentance, and the evidences thereof. The apostle was sorry that he had grieved them, that some pious persons among them laid to heart very greatly what he said in his former epistle, or that it was needful he should make those sorry whom he would rather have made glad, 2 Cor. 7:8. But now he rejoiced, when he found they had sorrowed to repentance, 2 Cor. 7:9. Their sorrow in itself was not the cause of his rejoicing; but the nature of it, and the effect of it (repentance unto salvation, 2 Cor. 7:10), made him rejoice; for now it appeared that they had received damage by him in nothing. Their sorrow was but for a season; it was turned into joy, and that joy was durable. Observe here,
1. The antecedent of true repentance is godly sorrow; this worketh repentance. It is not repentance itself, but it is a good preparative to repentance, and in some sense the cause that produces repentance. The offender had great sorrow, he was in danger of being swallowed up with overmuch sorrow; and the society was greatly sorrowful which before was puffed up: and this sorrow of theirs was after a godly manner, or according to God (as it is in the original), that is, it was according to the will of God, tended to the glory of God, and was wrought by the Spirit of God. It was a godly sorrow, because a sorrow for sin, as an offence against God, an instance of ingratitude, and a forfeiture of God’s favour. There is a great difference between this sorrow of a godly sort and the sorrow of this world. Godly sorrow produces repentance and reformation, and will end in salvation; but worldly sorrow worketh death. The sorrows of worldly men for worldly things will bring down gray hairs the sooner to the grave, and such a sorrow even for sin as Judas had will have fatal consequences, as his had, which wrought death. Note, (1.) Repentance will be attended with salvation. Therefore, (2.) True penitents will never repent that they have repented, nor of any thing that was conducive thereto. (3.) Humiliation and godly sorrow are previously necessary in order to repentance, and both of them are from God, the giver of all grace.
2. The happy fruits and consequences of true repentance are mentioned (2 Cor. 7:11); and those fruits that are meet for repentance are the best evidences of it. Where the heart is changed, the life and actions will be changed too. The Corinthians made it evident that their sorrow was a godly sorrow, and such as wrought repentance, because it wrought in them great carefulness about their souls, and to avoid sin, and please God; it wrought also a clearing of themselves, not by insisting upon their own justification before God, especially while they persisted in their sin, but by endeavours to put away the accursed thing, and so free themselves from the just imputation of approving the evil that had been done. It wrought indignation at sin, at themselves, at the tempter and his instruments; it wrought fear, a fear of reverence, a fear of watchfulness, and a fear of distrust, not a distrust of God, but of themselves; an awful fear of God, a cautious fear of sin, and a jealous fear of themselves. It wrought vehement desires after a thorough reformation of what had been amiss, and of reconciliation with God whom they had offended. It wrought zeal, a mixture of love and anger, a zeal for duty, and against sin. It wrought, lastly, revenge against sin and their own folly, by endeavours to make all due satisfaction for injuries that might be done thereby. And thus in all things had they approved themselves to be clear in that matter. Not that they were innocent, but that they were penitent, and therefore clear of guilt before God, who would pardon and not punish them; and they ought no longer to be reproved, much less to be reproached, by men, for what they had truly repented of.