In these words, our apostle doth assure the Corinthians in a very solemn manner, that it was not any inconstancy or carnal respect in himself that made him delay his coming to them, but it was purely to spare them, as being unwilling to come with his rod among them, and to use severity upon them.
Here observe the apostle's manner of speech, it is by way of adjuration: I call God to record upon my soul, &c. The words are an assertory and execratory oath, wherein God is called to witness the truth of what he said.
Learn hence, That it is lawful for Christians under the gospel to swear upon a necessary and great occasion.
But what great occasion was here for St. Paul to do it?
Ans. Very great; the false apostles did accuse him for a vain-glorious and inconstant man. This accusation did redound to the discredit of his ministry, the dishour of the gospel, the destruction of the church; therefore he solemnly protests, that no inconstancy or worldly motives did cause him to delay his promise; but a wise and spiritual consideration of their good, a willingness to spare them, and an unwillingness to use severity upon them.
Hence learn, That the ministerial power which God giveth the officers of the church, ought to be managed with much holy prudence and Christian commiseration: the end of their power should always be in their mind, which is edification, and not destruction.