Observe, 1. The great duty which the apostle directs the Corinthians to the performance of, towards this sorrowful offender: to forgive him, to comfort him, to confirm him; that is, to absolve him from the sentence and censure of the church; no longer to continue their aversion to him, but to restore him to the church's communion, to re-admit him to their fellowship and society, to comfort him with the notices of God's pardoning mercy; and to confirm their love to him, by showing that their excommunicating of him was with design to reform, not to ruin him; to recover him by repentence, and not to drive him to despair. This is the importance of the three several words which are used here, Forgive him, comfort him, confirm him.
From whence note, That in notorious crimes which give great cause of scandal to the church, the comfort of the offender depends not only upon his peace and reconciliation with God, but also upon the relaxation of the censures of the church, and his re-admission to the church's fellowship and communion: forgive him, and confirm your love towards him.
Observe, 2. The reason offered by our apostle why this penitent offender should be forgiven and comforted, namely, Lest he should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow.
Learn hence, 1. That sorrow even for sin itself may be excessive and overmuch.
2. That excessive and overmuch sorrow swalloweth up a person; it may swallow him up in the gulf of despair, and, as a consequent of it, in the gulf of death.
As worldly sorrow causeth death, so may religious sorrow also, even sorrow for sin. We may dishonour God by an excessive mourning, even for God's dishonour. Sorrow is not of any worth in itself, but only as it serves to a spiritual end and purpose; and when it is excessive, not only the comforts, but the gifts and usefulness, of the person sorrowing, are in danger to be swallowed up by it.
Quest. But when is sorrow for sin excessive and overmuch?
Ans. When it obstructs the exercise of our graces, when it hinders the performance of our duties, when it hurts our health, and overwhelmeth nature, when it perverts reason, swalloweth up faith, hindereth our hope, prejudiceth our joy, and unfits us both for doing and suffering the will of God; in a word, that sorrow for sin which keeps the soul from looking towards the mercy-seat, that keeps Christ and the soul asunder, and renders a person unfit for the service of God and for the communion of saints, is a sinful sorrow.