The apostle, in the foregoing verses, had declared, that godly sorrow, or a sorrow wrought by the Spirit of God, worketh true repentance, and produceth thorough reformation, not to be repented of: Now in this verse he proves, that the Corinthians sorrow for the incestuous person's sin, was of this nature, namely, a godly sorrow, because it produced such excellent effects and fruits as godly sorrow is wont to do. Seven of which he here reckons up.
1. Care, or an holy carefulness to amend what is amiss for time to come, by shunning and avoiding all occasions and temptations that lead to sin. He that truly repenteth, is careful not to sin again.
2. Clearing of themselves, that they did not approve the fact of the incestuous person,but did inflict the church's censures upon him, and so put away evil from amongst them.
3. Indignation against sin; this is found where godly sorrow is found; the heart rises, swells, and boils against sin; we are then angry and sin not; when we are angry at sin, and with ourselves for sinning.
4. Fear a true penitent fears to offend: and that he may not offend, doth nourish in himself an holy fear of God, and an humble fear of himself: There is found with him a fear of reverence, from an awful apprehension of the holiness and Majesty of God, and also a fear of diligence and vigilance, watching and warring against sin, that it may not set upon us and surprise us for the time to come.
5. Vehement desire, after a thorough reformation, and to rectify whatever is amiss; a desire to be rid of all sin, and in the mean time conflicting with it, and groaning under it.
6. Zeal; this is an affection in the true penitent, compounded of love and anger. Be zealous and repent, is Christ's own call, Rev_3:19 This will make a penitent persist in the exercise and expression of his godly sorrow for sin, and persevere in his course of mortification, in defiance of all opposition made against him.
7. Revenge; this is the result of zeal, when our zeal boils into revenge, and puts us upon self-castigations: not so much upon our bodies with whips and scourges but by the abatement of lust which stirreth in us, buffeting, the flesh, and bringing it into subjection. And this revenge leads the penitent also to make satisfaction for wrongs done, either by open confession, or secret restitution: In all things you have approved yourselves to be clear of this matter.
As if the apostle had said, "By these forementioned acts of yours, the body of you hath shewn that you did not approve of the incestuous person's sin, but evinced by your sorrow for it, that you are clear of it.
Learn hence, 1. That there is no way to get clear of the guilt of other men's sins, but by duly mourning for them: Now your are clear of this matter.
Learn, 2. That true repentance for sin, clears us from the guilt of it, both in the sight of God and man; and if so, it is both uncharitable and unchristian to stigmatize or reproach any person for the sin, which we either know or believe he has truly repented of.