As if the apostle had said, Verily our life is made up of seeming, but not real contradictions. The wise men of the world look upon us as deceivers, but we are the true dispensers of the word of life unto them; we are looked upon by the world as unknown, obscure persons; but we are well known to God and good men by our doctrine and miracles; we are as dying persons daily, by our passing through so many perils, and by being exposed to continual persecutions, and yet you see we are still alive; and we are sometimes chastened by God, as well as persecuted by men, but we are not killed, nor given over unto death.
Outwardly we are sorrowful, but inwardly always rejoicing in God, and in the testimony of a good conscience; in worldly goods and outward circumstances we are very poor, yet making many spiritually rich in grace and good works. We have nothing we can call our own, yet in Christ all things are ours.
Hence observe, What has been the lot and portion of the faithful ambassadors and ministers of Christ from the first beginning of Christianity; the dirt of a thousand scandals have been thrown upon their faces, which in the day of Christ's appearance will be as crowns upon their heads.
Observe, 2. That all outward evils are to be received by the ministers and members of Christ, in the same manner, and with the same mind, that good things are received with. Honour and dishonour, good report and evil report, must be entertained with the same evenness and constancy of mind, because God is the same in all variety of estates. Though men change their opinions of us, yet God changes not his judgment concerning us: he loves his ministers and members when poor, as well as when rich; when the world smites us, as well as when it smiles upon us; therefore if God be the same to us at all times, it is our wisdom and duty to keep the temper of our minds, and to be always the same to him, and to ourselves. Whatever we meet with from the world, we have no reason to be dissatisfied if our integrity be safe.
Observe, 3. How rich the apostle was without earthly riches, and how abounding in wealth, when he had nothing of worldly treasure to rejoice in: Having nothing, yet he possessed all things.
But how? and in what sense?
Answer, He and they possessed all things,
1. In Christ, by whom they had a title to all things.
2. They had all things in the covenant, favour, and grace of God; he hath all things, who hath him that hath all things.
3. They had all things virtually in that contentment of mind which they did enjoy: they possessed all things in possessing themselves; and wanted nothing which they could deny themselves. The contented man is only rich; he is not rich that has much, but he that has enough; that man is poor that covets more.
4. They possessed all things eventually; they had the good of all things, when they had not the actual possession of all things; their poverty was a blessing, and their very wants, in the event, worked for good.
5. They possessed all things in future expectation: they looked and longed for heaven and everlasting happiness, which would swallow up their desires with fruition; for he that overcometh shall inherit all things, Rev_21:7. Thus is this apostolical paradox unriddled, As having nothing, and yet possessing all things. True faith apprehends and enjoys all things in God, which it wanteth in the creature.