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Archive for April 1st, 2017

St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 102

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 1, 2017

A PRAYER FOR ONE IN AFFLICTION: THE FIFTH PENITENTIAL PSALM

The Douay-Rheims translation entitles this psalm: The prayer of the poor man, when he was anxious, and poured out his supplication before the Lord.

Psalm 102:2 Hear, O Lord, my prayer: and let my cry come to thee.

This verse is used daily by the Church as a preparation to any other petitions she may need to put up to the Creator; for, she learned from the prophet that we should ask for an audience from God before we put any petition in particular before him; not that God, as if he were otherwise engaged, needs being roused or having his attention called, but because we need that God should give us the spirit of prayer; nay, even it is “the Spirit himself that asketh for us with unspeakable groanings,” Rom. 8, “Hear, O Lord, my prayer;” that is, make me so pray that I may be worthy of being heard. And, to express his delight, he repeats it by saying, “and let my cry come to thee.” Make me pray in such a manner that my prayer may be the earnest cry of my heart; so full of fire and devotion, that, though sent up from the lowest depth, it may not falter on the way, but ultimately reach you sitting on your lofty throne. Many things prevent our prayers from penetrating the clouds, such as want of faith, of confidence, of humility, desire, and the like; and he, therefore, asks for the grace of praying well, that is, in a manner likely to obtain what we want.

Psalm 102:3 Turn not away thy face from me: in the day when I am in trouble, incline thy ear to me. In what day soever I shall call upon thee, hear me speedily.

This is the primary and principal petition of a poor man in trouble, or of a repentant sinner; for “No man can correct whom God hath despised;” and as God’s regarding us is both the first grace and the fountain of grace, he, at the very outset, asks God to look on him, saying, “Turn not away thy face from me,” however foul and filthy I may be; and if your own image, by reason of my having so befouled it, will not induce you to look upon me, let you mercy prevail upon you, for the fouler I am, the more wretched and miserable I am, and unless you look upon me, I will never be brought to look upon you, but daily wallowing deeper and deeper in my sins, I must, of necessity, be always getting more filthy and more foul. Anyone that speaks in such manner begins to be already looked upon by God, but, as it were, with only half his anger laid aside, and still averting his face; however, having got any glimpse of God’s light and countenance, he cries out, “Turn not away thy face from me;” cast me not away from thy face; finish what you have begun, by turning yourself to me, that I may be perfectly and completely turned to thee. “In the day when I am in trouble, incline thy ear to me.” This is a second petition, but a consequence of the first; for, the moment God begins to look upon anyone, that moment man begins to see his own filth and nakedness, and, through it, his real poverty. He then begins to be troubled and afflicted, and to recur to the supreme Physician, who is rich in mercy; for he knows that God never despises an afflicted spirit and a contrite heart. He, therefore, says, with confidence, “In the day when I am in trouble, incline thy ear to me;” whenever, through the influence of your grace, I shall feel troubled for my sins, and, in consequence, cry to you, hear me kindly, I pray you; and he repeats it, “In whatsoever day I shall call upon thee, hear me speedily;” whenever I shall be in trouble, and call upon you, my all powerful Physician, hear me, and that quickly, for fear a delay may lose you the one you seek to heal.

Psalm 102:4 For my days are vanished like smoke, and my bones are grown dry like fuel for the fire.

He assigns a reason for having said, “hear me quickly,” and the reason is, that man’s life draws to a close with the greatest rapidity; and if the wounds inflicted by sin be not cured at once, there is a chance of their never being cured. “For my days are vanished like smoke.” The time I have spent in this world has passed away like a body of smoke, that seems large and bulky on its first ascending, but immediately gets thinner and evaporates altogether; and thus, too, will the remainder of me; my bones, the pillars, as it were, of my whole body, “they are grown dry,” and thus weakened and verging to ruin.

Psalm 102:5 I am smitten as grass, and my heart is withered: because I forgot to eat my bread.

He continues deploring his past state, and says, “I am smitten as grass.” The sun so shone on me in my prosperity that I am stricken down like so much withered grass; “and any heart is withered;” for I have been so overwhelmed by the cares of the world that “I forgot to eat my bread;” the bread of heavenly truth, which, strictly speaking, is our bread, and not shared in by the brutes; for the food of the body is not, strictly speaking, our food. Nothing can be truer; and it is a reflection that should be always before those who are well to do in the world; for, if they dwell under the shadow of God’s wings, or constantly bedew themselves with the showers of his grace, they must, of necessity, “be smitten as grass;” and their heart, that so sickens at the food of heaven, must become quite “withered.” “Take heed to yourselves lest, perhaps, your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and the cares of this life;” for such people always forget to eat the true bread, and become dried up of all the grace of devotion.

Psalm 102:6 Through the voice of my groaning, my bone hath cleaved to my flesh.

He now tells how sorry he is for his past life, and shows fruit worthy of penance; for as his flesh formerly reveled in luxuries, and his heart withered by reason of his having forgotten his daily spiritual food, so now, on the contrary, “through the voice of his groaning,” from his constant lamentations, his flesh neglects its daily food; and thus, “my bone hath cleaved to my flesh;” that is, to the skin, being all wasted and worn—an evident approval of fasting and penance, being both the signs and the fruit of true penance.

Psalm 102:7 I am become like to a pelican of the wilderness: I am like a night raven in the house.
Psalm 102:8 I have watched, and am become as a sparrow all alone on the housetop.

To tears and fasting he unites solitude and watching, the marks of true penance. For if one will not seriously withdraw himself awhile from the world, and, in serious watchings, call up the number and the greatness of his sins, it is hardly possible to deplore them sufficiently. He compares the penitent to three birds; the pelican, living exclusively in the desert; the night raven or the owl, an inhabitant of old dismantled houses; and the sparrow, dwelling on, rather than in, houses. For, as St. Jerome remarks, the houses in Palestine were built with flat and not pointed roofs like ours, on which the people were wont to enjoy themselves, to sun themselves, and frequently to have their meals there. Hence, in Mt. 10, we have “Preach ye upon the house tops;” that is, standing on such flat housetops; and in Acts 10, we read of St. Peter, that “He went up to the higher parts of the house to pray.” These three birds represent three classes of penitents. Some repair altogether to the desert, such as Mary Magdalen, Mary of Egypt, Paul the first hermit, Anthony, Hilarion, and many others, who can say with the prophet, Psalm 5, “So I have gone afar off, flying away; and I abode in the wilderness;” and as the pelican wages constant war on noxious animals, especially on serpents, so the Anchorets constantly combat with the demons, and live, as it were, on the victories acquired over them. Others do penance in the cities and towns, cooped up in narrow cells and cloisters, and, separated from the world, come out like the owl in the night, and spend the most of it in chanting the divine praises in hymns and sacred music. Finally, others, encumbered with families, or public duties, who cannot retire from the world, still, like the solitary sparrow on the housetop, manage to rise above the world and its cares. These are they who, while they are in the world, are not of the world; being slaves neither to the wealth nor the honors, nor the cares of the world. They make such things slaves to them; they master, they dispose of, and they dispense them, and they do not suffer themselves to be entangled or ensnared by them; so that their minds can revel freely in solitude here, and thus, enjoy heaven hereafter. To such persons it belongs to watch and preach from the housetops, to watch their own temptations and dangers, and to preach both by word and by example to those over whom they may be placed. No penance can be more valuable than for those in high rank to observe the greatest humility, for those who have the wealth of the world to content themselves with moderate food and clothing, that thereby they may be the better able to help those in want; for those who are prone to concupiscence, to chastise their body, and bring it under subjection, by fasting and spare living; and finally, to serve our neighbors from love, to compassionate their sufferings, and to bear with their annoyances and scandals.

Psalm 102:9 All the day long my enemies reproached me: and they that praised me did swear against me.  

They who seriously turn to penance are always objects of hatred to those sinners who choose to remain in their sins. “He is grievous unto us even to behold; for his life is not like other men’s, and his ways are very different,” Wisdom 2; and, though that was said of the just man, it applies to the penitent sinner, seeking to be reconciled also. He, therefore, says, “All the day long my enemies reproached me.” All those who previously, by reason of our union in wickedness, had been my friends, when they saw me become another man, turned out most bitter enemies, and upbraided and reproached me with my conversion, as if I were doing a foolish act; “and they who praised me” as a brave and boon companion, for the wicked are praised for their bad acts, afterwards “did swear against me,” conspired to injure me.

Psalm 102:10 For I did eat ashes like bread, and mingled my drink with weeping.  

He tells why his enemies reproached him: it was because “I eat ashes like bread, and mingled my drink with weeping;” that is to say, they thought it the height of madness for me to adopt so severe a rule of life of my own accord. The eating of ashes like bread means that the bread he ate was coarse, and rudely baked, being baked in the ashes, which clung to it; such bread being in use with those doing penance. “And mingled my drink with weeping,” wept while I remembered how often I had offended God.

Psalm 102:11 Because of thy anger and indignation: for having lifted me up thou hast thrown me down.

See why the true penitent chooses to begrime himself with ashes and quench his thirst with his tears! He does not do so for want of reason, or because he cannot help it through his poverty, but because he has the Divine anger before his mind, and by such humiliations and signs of true repentance he hopes to satisfy him in some degree. He so punished himself because he saw God’s anger and indignation were lighted up against him for the sins he had committed; and that he saw, because “having lifted me up thou hast thrown me down.” Having, through your grace, raised me to the highest dignity by your friendship and adoption, you afterwards, by reason of my own sins, degraded me from the rank of a friend and a child to that of an enemy or a rebellious fugitive slave. For fear sinners may imagine that the loss they suffer by the commission of sin is a trifling one, the Scripture makes use of a word, translated “thou hast cast me down,” that signifies complete demolition. It alludes to a vessel thrown on the ground from a high place, and thereby shivered into a thousand atoms along with losing its high position. And so with the sinner, who, blinded by the desires of the flesh, does not see the injury done to him, yet truly loses his all when both body and soul are consigned to hell by him who cannot be resisted.

Psalm 102:12 My days have declined like a shadow, and I am withered like grass.

Our own mortality is a part and a sign of the aforesaid demolition; for, when our first parent was placed in so glorious a position that he might have lived forever, by reason of his sin he “was thrown down,” with all his posterity, and the effect of that was, “that his days declined like a shadow, and he became withered as grass.” The prophet, then, speaking in the person of the penitent, says, I am “thrown down” by you in your anger. Not only by reason of my own sins, but by reason of the old fall, that is, common to us all; “my days have declined like a shadow,” quietly, insensibly, but steadily, until at sunset it disappears and passes into the shadow of night. “And I am withered like grass.” I, who was created to flourish like the palm forever, am now prostrate and withered, like the grass that dries up immediately.

Psalm 102:13 But thou, O Lord, endurest for ever: and thy memorial to all generations.

This is the second part of the Psalm, in which the prophet, in the person of a poor penitent, after having recounted his wretchedness, now conceives a hope of reconciliation; and, inspired by the Holy Ghost, predicts the future restoration and renovation of the Church through Christ, as the Apostle explains in the first chapter of the Hebrews. The Apostle, wishing in that chapter to prove the divinity of Christ, first quotes the words in Psalm 44, “Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever;” then those of Psalm 95, “Adore him all you his Angels;” and lastly, the words of this present Psalm, saying, “Thou, O Lord, in the beginning hast founded the earth;” which words are addressed to the same person as those words before us, “But thou, O Lord, endurest forever.” If the former, then, be addressed to the Son, so are the latter. They who say these words apply to God directly, and to Christ indirectly as the Son of God, do not meet the objection; for in that case the Apostle, instead of proving Christ to be God, would be only taking for granted he was God. The meaning of the passage, then, is: I, indeed, have withered away like grass, but thou, O Lord, the Messias we expect, remainest forever; our memory passes away like a sound, but your memorial—that is, your memory—will pass from generation to generation, because, in the succession of ages, there shall be always those to hand down your wonderful doings.

Psalm 102:14 Thou shalt arise and have mercy on Sion: for it is time to have mercy on it, for the time is come.  

The reason why “thy memorial shall be propagated to all generations” is, because you will not forget dealing mercifully with your people; but “thou shalt arise” as if from a long sleep, “and have mercy on Sion,” wilt come in mercy and save us; for in spirit I see “the time is come to have mercy on it;” that is, it is nigh, just at hand, nay, even has already come; for, with the eye of a prophet, I see the future as if it were really present. This is the time of which the Apostle speaks when he says, “But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent his Son,” of whom Isaias says, “In an acceptable time I have heard thee, and in the day of salvation I have helped thee;” in explaining which St. Paul, 2 Cor. 6, says, “Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”

Psalm 102:15 For the stones thereof have pleased thy servants: and they shall have pity on the earth thereof.

The prophet foresaw and foretold the renovation of the holy Sion, from the fact of foreseeing God’s servants, his holy Apostles, who hitherto had been devoted to fishing and such humble pursuits, now, after having been instructed by Christ, and filled with the Holy Ghost, inflamed with the most ardent desire of establishing the Church, and having abandoned all the cares of this world, devoting themselves to that one object alone. “For the stones thereof,” the building of the new Jerusalem, the collecting and placing the living stones together that were to be built upon the foundation already laid, “pleased thy servants,” those whom you chose and predestined for the purpose; “and they shall have pity on the earth thereof,” they will foster and cherish the land of the new Jerusalem, as the mother clings to the child in her womb (for such is the force of the Hebrew), as in Isaias, “Can a woman forget her infant so as not to have pity on the son of her womb?” By stones are meant in this verse the steady and the perfect, while the earth represents the weak and the infirm of whom the Apostle says, “Him that is weak in faith take unto you;” and again, “Now, we that are stronger ought to bear the infirmities of the weak;” and again, “Who is weak, and I am not weak.”

Psalm 102:16 All the Gentiles shall fear thy name, O Lord, and all the kings of the earth thy glory

When the new Sion shall be in progress of building, the gentiles will be converted, and “shall fear” with a holy fear and pious veneration, “thy name, O Lord,” Jesus Christ; “and all the kings of the earth” will also be converted, and will fear “thy glory;” that is, thy majesty, as King of kings and Lord of lords of the earth, sitting at the right hand of the Father, until all your enemies shall be put under the footstool of your feet; and afterwards as the Judge that will come to judge the living and the dead, and render to everyone according to his works.

Psalm 102:17 For the Lord hath built up Sion: and he shall be seen in his glory. 

See why all nations and all their kings shall fear Christ’s glory! “For the Lord hath built up Sion” in the present day, having established his Church in spite of all kings and nations, and “the gates of hell will not prevail against it;” “and he shall be seen in his glory,” in the time to come, when he shall come with all his Angels, in the clouds of heaven, with great power to judge the world. When he began to build up Sion he was seen in his lowliness. “We have seen him, and there was no sightliness, that we should be desirous of him;” but when he shall come to pass judgment, then “he shall be seen in his glory.”

Psalm 102:18 He hath had regard to the prayer of the humble: and he hath not despised their petition.

This verse alludes to the prayers of the holy martyrs, who in Apocalypse 6, say, “How long, O Lord, dost thou not judge and revenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” The Son of God, then, will be seen in his glory, for he hath “had regard to the prayer” of all the martyrs, and all his other pious servants; “and he hath not despised their petitions;” and, therefore, he will come to judge, and to avenge their blood on those who are still in this world.

Psalm 102:19 Let these things be written unto another generation: and the people that shall be created shall praise the Lord:

For fear the Jews may suppose that this prophecy applied to themselves, and take it as in reference to the termination of the captivity of Babylon, and the building of Jerusalem, the Holy Ghost was pleased to remind them distinctly, as St. Peter afterwards clearly explains in his first Epistle, chap. 1, “The prophets who prophesied of the grace to come in you;” and further on, “To whom it was revealed, that not to themselves but to you they ministered those things which are now declared to you by those who have preached the Gospel to you.” The Holy Ghost, then, speaking through David, says, “Let these things be written unto another generation.” These things will be understood hereafter, “and the people that shall be created,” the people then in existence, “shall praise the Lord,” by reason of seeing all those things accomplished.

Psalm 102:20 Because he hath looked forth from his high sanctuary: from heaven the Lord hath looked upon the earth. 

The reason why the people of the New Testament will praise the Lord is, because God has deigned to look down from his holy place on high on this vale of our wretchedness; and that, not with an uninterested or indifferent eye, but with a view to let himself down, to be seen on earth, and to converse with men.

Psalm 102:21 That he might hear the groans of them that are in fetters: that he might release the children of the slain:

God Almighty so humbled himself to have an opportunity in that he might hear the groans of them that are in fetters,” imposed upon them by the prince of darkness, and held in captivity by him; and that he might, on hearing their groans, release them and send them away in freedom. That was accomplished, as the Lord himself testifies, by his own coming, as we read in Lk. 4. By those “that are in fetters,” we are to understand those who are slaves to concupiscence, mastered and fettered by their own passions. “The children of the slain,” are the old children of Adam and Eve, who were slain by the craft of the serpent, for, as we read in Wisdom 2, “By the envy of the devil, death came into the world;” and the Lord himself, speaking of the devil, says, Jn. 8, “He was a murderer from the beginning, and he abode not in the truth.”

Psalm 102:22 That they may declare the name of the Lord in Sion: and his praise in Jerusalem;  

The Lord came to break the bonds of those that were in fetters, and to rescue them from the power of darkness, in that they may declare the name of the Lord in Sion;” that is, that by their conversion to the true and living God, they may glorify the name of the Lord in the Church, which is the spiritual Sion; which he repeats when he says, “and his praise in Jerusalem,” praising and thanking God, and blessing him for the great favor of calling them to the Catholic Church, which is the new Jerusalem, as St. Peter explains in his first Epistle, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people; that you may declare his virtues, who hath called you out of darkness into his admirable light.”

Psalm 102:23 When the people assemble together, and kings, to serve the Lord. 

He now tells when those who have been delivered from the powers of darkness ought to praise the name of the Lord. “When the people assemble together.” When the various nations all over the world, who hitherto had been worshipping various and different false gods, “shall assemble together,” and be formed into one body, and there shall be one spirit, one God, one faith, one baptism; nay more, when, through charity, there shall be one heart and one soul; when not only the people, but those who are placed over them, shall come together in the one body of the Church, that they, too, may serve God.

Psalm 102:24 He answered him in the way of his strength: Declare unto me the fewness of my days.  

This is a most obscure passage, and the most probable interpretation of it is that which makes it an answer of the prophet to him who commanded him to write those things to another generation. The prophet “answers in the way of his strength;” that is, when he was in the flower of his youth, in robust health: “Declare unto me the fewness of my days.” Make me understand and seriously persuade myself, that my days are numbered, and short is the term of my life, for fear I may be deceived by calculating, from the present vigor of my youth, on a long and hale old age, and be hurried off when I least expect it, unforeseen and unprepared; and thus fail in being numbered among that people that will be created to praise thee forever in the heavenly Jerusalem.

Psalm 102:25 Call me not away in the midst of my days: thy years are unto generation and generation.

The first half of this verse refers to the preceding; the last half to the following verse. Having said, “Declare unto me the fewness of my days,” he adds another prayer, saying, “Call me not away in the midst of my days.” Do not cut my course short by hurrying me off on a sudden, when I may be quite unprepared, and the call most unexpected. “Thy years are unto generation and generation.” A reason why God should allow man to live as long as may be necessary to meet a holy and happy death. In other words, your years, O Lord, are everlasting, from generation to generation, without end; and it is, therefore, only meet that the creature formed to your image should be favored with a life long enough to secure an everlasting life.

Psalm 102:26 In the beginning, O Lord, thou foundedst the earth: and the heavens are the works of thy hands.
Psalm 102:27 They shall perish but thou remainest: and all of them shall grow old like a garment: And as a vesture thou shalt change them, and they shall be changed.
Psalm 102:28 But thou art always the selfsame, and thy years shall not fail.

He proves that God alone is eternal from the fact of his being alone immutable, a proof from first principles. And he proves God to be immutable, from the fact of his having brought the heavens from nonexistence into existence, and will again bring them back to their original nonexistence, while he always remains the same, without any change, and what he says of the heavens applies to all creation, of which the heavens form the noblest part. “In the beginning, O Lord, thou foundest the earth;” you, O Lord, existed in the beginning, before the earth, an inferior part of the world, and you laid its foundations, without any preexisting matter whereon to lay them. “And the heavens are the work of thy hands.” You made not only the earth, but even the heavens, the most excellent part of the world, without any help, from Angels or anyone else, but with your own hands, by your own power and wisdom; and thus brought the whole world from nonexistence into existence. “They (the heavens) shall perish, but thou remainest.” Even though the heavens should grow old, should change and perish, you will always remain the same, as we read in Mt. 5, “Till heaven and earth shall pass, one jot or tittle shall not pass from the law, till all be fulfilled;” which is explained in Lk. 16, “It is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than for one tittle of the law to fail.” Another explanation of this sentence makes it absolutely apply to what he names. For the heavens will perish, will grow old, will be subject to changes, as regards the motion of the heavenly bodies, the influence of heat, the production of inferior bodies; the earth, too, will perish as regards the production of herbs and animals, and the world will be consumed as regards the figure and shape it now has for the Apostle writes, “For the figure of this world passeth away;” and again, “For the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” Here he gives the name of temporal to everything we see, because the very elements, and the heavens, as we see them, will have an end. We see the earth clothed with trees, full of cattle, ornamented with buildings; the rivers now placidly rolling along, now swollen and muddy; the sky now clouded, now serene; the stars in perpetual motion; all of which are temporal, and sure to come to an end; for, as St. Peter writes, “We look for new heavens and a new earth, according to his promise.”—”And all of them shall grow old like a garment.” All the heavens, as regards their shape and form, shall be consumed. “And as a vesture thou shalt change them, and they shall be changed;” you will remove the external clothing the heavens now have, and put a new one on them, as if you took off a man’s old clothes, and dressed him in a new suit. “But thou art always the self same, and thy years shall not fail.” No length of years will make any impression on you. God can suffer no change, for changes are made with a view to further acquisitions, which does not apply to God, he being most pure, most perfect, nay, even infinitely perfect, and, therefore, can acquire nothing when he wants nothing.

Psalm 102:29 The children of thy servants shall continue and their seed shall be directed for ever. 

Having discussed the eternity of God, the destruction and renovation of the world, he now predicts that God’s servants and children, and the children of his servants forever, would be sharers in his eternity in that world so renovated; not that there would be a propagation of children in that world, but that all the faithful servants of God, with all their posterity, who may share in their piety, will certainly arrive at that happy rest; and such was the promise formerly made to Abraham, “And I will establish my covenant between me and thee, and between thy seed after thee in their generations, by a perpetual covenant.” The servants of God here represent the patriarchs; their sons represent the Apostles; and their sons again represent all other Christians. “The children of thy servants shall continue.” The Apostles, with their parents the patriarchs, shall continue in thy kingdom, that renewed heaven, that heavenly Jerusalem; “and their seed shall be directed forever;” and it will not be confined to them, but those also begotten by them through the Gospel, if they persevere in faith and love, “shall be directed forever;” will remain to all eternity upright and steady in all prosperity.

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God: His Knowability~Chapter One, Section One, Article One

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 1, 2017

The Knowability of God
Chapter I

human reason can know God

Human reason is able to know God by a contemplation of His creatures, and to deduce His existence from certain facts of the supernatural order.

Our primary and proper medium of cognition is the created universe, i. e., the material and the spiritual world.

In defining both the created universe and the supernatural order as sources of our knowledge of God, the Church has barred Traditionalism and at the same time eliminated the possibility of Atheism, though the latter no doubt constitutes a splendid refutation of the theory that the idea of God is innate.

Section 1
man can gain a knowledge of god from the physical universe
Article 1

the positive teaching of revelation

In entering upon this division of our treatise, we assume that the reader has a sufficient acquaintance with the philosophic proofs for the existence of God, as furnished by theodicy and apologetics. As against the attempt of atheists and traditionalists to deny the valor and stringency of these proofs, Catholic theology staunchly upholds the ability of unaided human reason to know God. Witness this definition of the Vatican Council: (Sess. III, de Revel., can. 1) “Si quis dixerit, Deum unum et verum, creatorem et Dominum nostrum, per ea quae facta sunt, naturali rationis humanae lumine certo cognosci non posse, anathema sit—If any one shall say that the one true God, our Creator and Lord, cannot be certainly known by the natural light of human reason through created things; let him be anathema.” Let us see how this dogma can be proved from Holy Scripture and Tradition.

1. The Argument from Sacred Scripture.—a) Indirectly the possibility of knowing God by means of His creatures can be shown from Rom. 2:14 sqq.: “Cum enim gentes, quae legem non habent, naturaliter ea quae legis sunt faciunt, eiusmodi legem non habentes ipsi sibi sunt lex: qui ostendunt opus legis, scriptum in cordibus suis, testimonium reddente illis conscientia ipsorum et inter se invicem cogitationibus, accusantibus aut etiam defendentibus, in die cum iudicabit Deus occulta hominum secundum Evangelium meum, per Iesum Christum—For when the Gentiles, who have not the law, do by nature those things that are of the law; these having not the law are a law to themselves: who shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness to them, and their thoughts between themselves accusing, or also defending one another, in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.”

The “law” (lex, νόμος) of which St. Paul here speaks, is identical in content with the moral law of nature (Cfr. Rom. 2:21 sqq) the same which constituted the formal subject-matter of supernatural Revelation in the Decalogue. Hence, considering the mode of Revelation, there is a well-defined distinction, not to say opposition, between the moral law as perceived by unaided human reason, and the revealed Decalogue. Whence it follows, against the teaching of Estius, that “gentes,” in the above-quoted passage of St. Paul, must refer to the heathen, in the strict sense of the word, not to Christian converts from Paganism. For, one who has the material content of the Decalogue “written in his heart,” so that, without having any knowledge of the positive Mosaic legislation, he is “a law unto himself,” being able, consequently, to comply “naturally” with the demands of the Decalogue, and having to look forward on Judgment Day to a trial conducted merely on the basis of his own conscience,—such a one, I say, is outside the sphere of supernatural Revelation.

From this passage of St. Paul’s letter to the Romans we argue as follows: There can be no knowledge of the natural moral law derived from unaided human reason, unless parallel with it, and derived from the same source, there runs a natural knowledge of God as the supreme lawgiver revealing Himself in the conscience of man. Now, St. Paul expressly teaches that the Gentiles were able to observe the natural law “naturaliter”—“by nature”—i. e., without the aid of supernatural revelation. Since no one can observe a law unless he knows it, St. Paul’s supposition obviously is that the existence of God, qua author and avenger of the natural law, can likewise be known “naturaliter,” that is to say, by unaided human reason.

b) A direct and stringent proof for our thesis can be drawn from Wisdom 13:1 sqq., and Rom. 1:18 sqq.

α) After denouncing the folly of those “in whom there is not the knowledge of God,” the Book of Wisdom continues (13:5 sq.): “A magnitudine enim speciei et creaturae cognoscibiliter poterit creator horum videri. … Iterum autem nec his debet ignosci; si enim tantum potuerunt scire, ut possent aestimare saeculum, quomodo huius Dominum non facilius invenerunt?—For by the greatness of the beauty, and of the creature, the creator of them may be seen, so as to be known thereby.… But then again they are not to be pardoned; for if they were able to know so much as to make a judgment of the world, how did they not more easily find out the Lord thereof?” A careful analysis of this passage reveals the following line of thought: The existence of God is an object of the same cognitive faculty that explores the visible world,—i. e., human reason. Hence the medium of our knowledge of God can be none other than that same material world, the magnitude and beauty of which leads us to infer that there must be a Creator who brought it forth. Such a knowledge of God is more easily acquired than a deeper knowledge of the creatural world; in fact, absence of it would argue unpardonable carelessness. As viewed by the Old Testament writer, therefore, nature furnishes sufficient data to enable the mind of man to attain to a knowledge of the existence of God, without any extraneous aid on the part of Revelation or any special illumination by supernatural grace.

β) We have a parallel passage in the New Testament,—Rom. 1:18 sqq., which reaches its climax in verse 20:Invisibilia enim ipsius [scil. Dei] a creatura mundi per ea, quae facta sunt, intellecta conspiciuntur sempiterna quoque eius virtus et divinitas, ita ut sint inexcusabiles—For the invisible things of him [God] from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made; his eternal power also, and divinity: so that they are inexcusable.” In other words:—God, Who is per se invisible, after some fashion becomes visible to human reason (νοούμενα καθορᾶται). But how? Not by positive revelation, nor yet by the interior grace of faith; but solely by means of a natural revelation imbedded in the created world (τοῖς ποιήμασιν). To know God from nature appears to be such an easy and matter-of-fact process (even to man in his fallen state), that the heathen are called “inexcusable” in their ignorance and are in punishment therefor “given up to the desires of their heart unto uncleanness.” (Rom. 1:18, 24 sqq)

c) By way of supplementing this argument from Holy Scripture we will briefly advert to the important distinction which the Bible makes, or at least intimates as existing, between popular and scientific knowledge of God. The former comes spontaneously and without effort, while the latter demands earnest research and conscientious study, and, where there is guilty ignorance, involves the risk of a man’s falling into the errors of polytheism, pantheism, etc. We find this same distinction made by St. Paul in his sermons at Lystra and Athens, and we meet it again in the writings of the Fathers, coupled with the consideration that, to realize the existence of a Supreme Being men have but to advert to the fact that nations, like individuals, are plainly guided and directed by God’s Providence. In his sermon at Lystra, after noting that God had allowed the Gentiles “to walk in their own ways,” that is to say, to become the prey of false religions, the Apostle declares that He nevertheless “left not Himself without testimony, doing good from heaven, giving rains and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.”(Acts 14:16) Before the Areopagus at Athens, the great Apostle of the Gentiles, pointing to the altar dedicated “To the Unknown God,” said: “God, who made the world, … and hath made of one [Adam] all mankind, to dwell upon the whole face of the earth, determining appointed times and the limits of their habitation, that they should seek God, if happily they may feel after him or find him, although he be not far from every one of us: for in him we live, and move, and are.”(Acts 17:24-28) In the following verse (Acts 17:29) he calls attention to the unworthy notion that the Divinity is “like unto gold, or silver, or stone, the graving of art, and device of man.” Both sermons assume that there is a twofold knowledge of God: the one direct, the other reflex. The direct knowledge of God arises spontaneously in the mind of every thinking man who contemplates the visible universe and ponders the favors continually lavished by Providence. In the reflexive or metaphysical stage of his knowledge of God, on the other hand, man is exposed to the temptation wrongly to transfer the concept of God to objects not divine, and thus to fall into gross polytheism or idolatry.(Cfr. Wisdom 13:6 sqq.) We have, therefore, Scriptural warrant for holding that the idea of God is entirely spontaneous in its origin, but may easily (though, it is true, only by an abuse of reason), be perverted in the course of its scientific development.

2. The Patristic argument may be reduced to three main propositions.

a) In the first place, the Fathers teach that God manifests Himself in His visible creation, and may be perceived there by man without the aid of supernatural revelation.

Athenagoras calls the existing order of the material world, its magnitude and beauty, “pledges of divine worship” and adds: “For the visible is the medium by which we perceive the invisible.” Clement of Alexandria, too, insists that we gain our knowledge of Divine Providence from the contemplation of God’s works in nature, so much so that it is unnecessary to resort to elaborate arguments to prove the existence of God. “All men,” he says, “Greeks and barbarians, discern God, the Father and Creator of all things, unaided and without instruction.” St. Basil calls the visible creation “a school and institution of divine knowledge.” St. Chrysostom, in his third homily on the Epistle to the Romans (n. 2), apostrophizes St. Paul thus: “Did God call the Gentiles with his voice? Certainly not. But He has created something which is apt to draw their attention more forcibly than words. He has put in the midst of them the created world and thereby from the mere aspect of visible things, the learned and the unlearned, the Scythian and the barbarian, can all ascend to God.” Similarly St. Gregory the Great teaches: “Omnis homo eo ipso quod rationalis est conditus, debet ex ratione colligere, eum qui se condidit Deum esse—By the use of his reason every man must come to the conclusion that the very fact that he is a rational creature proves that his Creator is God.”

b) The Fathers further teach: From even a superficial contemplation of finite things there must arise spontaneously, in every thinking man, at least a popular knowledge of God.

To explain how natural it is to rise from a contemplation of the physical universe to the existence of God, some of the Fathers call the idea of God “an innate conviction, planted by nature in the mind of man,” a knowledge which is “not acquired,” but “a dowry of reason,” and which, precisely because it is so easy of acquisition, is quite common among men. Tertullian calls upon “the soul of the Gentiles” to give testimony to God,—not the soul which “has learned in the school of wisdom,” but that which is “simplex, rudis, impolita et idiotica.”—“Magistra natura” he says, “anima discipula—Nature is the teacher, the soul a pupil.” St. Augustine says that the consciousness we have of God blends with the very essence of human reason: “Haec est vis verae divinitatis, ut creaturae rationali ratione iam utenti non omnino ac penitus possit abscondi; exceptis enim paucis [sc. atheis] in quibus natura nimium depravata est, universum genus hominum Deum mundi huius fatetur auctorem—For such is the energy of true Godhead, that it cannot be altogether and utterly hidden from any rational creature. For with the exception of a few in whom nature has become outrageously depraved, the whole race of man acknowledges God as the maker of this world.” Seeking a deeper explanation, several Fathers (e. g., Justin Martyr and St. Basil) have raised the rational soul to the rank of an essential image of the Eternal Logos, calling it a λόγος σπερματικός, which irresistibly seeks out and finds God in the universe.

c) The Fathers finally teach that human reason possesses, both in the visible world of exterior objects, and in its own depths, sufficient means to develop the popular notion of God into a philosophical concept.

The Greek Fathers, who had to combat paganism and the heresy of the Eunomians, generally relied on two arguments as sufficient to enable any man to form a philosophical concept of God; viz., the cosmological and the teleological. Augustine’s profounder mind turned to the purely metaphysical order of the true, the good, and the beautiful, to deduce therefrom the existence of Substantial Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. This trend of mind did not, however, prevent him from acknowledging the validity of the teleological and cosmological argument. “Interroga mundum, ornatum coeli, fulgorem dispositionemque siderum, … interroga omnia et vide, si non sensu suo tamquam tibi respondent: Deus nos fecit. Haec et philosophi nobiles quaesierunt et ex arte artificem cognoverunt.… Quod curiositate invenerunt, superbia perdiderunt. Translation of the passage in full: Ask the world, the beauty of the heaven, the brilliancy and ordering of the stars, the sun, that sufficeth for the day, the moon, the solace of the night; ask the earth fruitful in herbs, and trees, full of animals, adorned with men; ask the sea, with how great and what kind of fishes filled; ask the air, with how great birds stocked; ask all things, and see if they do not as if it were by a language of their own make answer to thee, “God made us.” These things have illustrious philosophers sought out, and by the art have come to know the Artificer. What then? Why is the wrath of God revealed against this ungodliness? “Because they detain the truth in unrighteousness?” Let him come, let him show how. For how they came to know Him, he hath said already. “The invisible things of Him,” that is God, “are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made; His eternal Power also and Godhead; so that they are without excuse. Because that when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” They are the Apostle’s words, not mine: “And their foolish heart was darkened; for professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.” What by curious search they found, by pride they lost. 

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Decree of Pope Damasus on the Holy Spirit

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 1, 2017

It has been said: We must first treat of the sevenfold Spirit, which reposes in Christ, the Spirit of wisdom: Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God [1 Cor. 1:24]. The Spirit of understanding: I will give thee understanding, and I will instruct thee in this way, in which thou shalt go [Ps. 31:8]. The Spirit of counsel: And his name shall be called angel of great counsel [Is. 9:6: LXX]. The Spirit of power (as above): The power of God and the wisdom of God [1 Cor. 1:24]. The Spirit of knowledge: on account of the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus the apostle [Eph. 3:19]. The Spirit of truth: I am the way and the life and the truth [John 14:6]. The Spirit of fear [of God]: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom [Ps. 110:10] … [there follows an explanation of the various names of Christ: Lord, Word, Flesh, Shepherd, etc.] … For the Holy Spirit is not only the Spirit of the Father or not only the Spirit of the Son, but the Spirit of the Father and of the Son. For it is written: If anyone love the world, the Spirit of the Father is not in him [1 John 2:15; Rom. 8:9]. Likewise it is written: Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his [Rom. 8:9]. When the Father and the Son are mentioned in this way, the Holy Spirit is understood, of whom the Son himself says in the Gospel, that the Holy Spirit proceedeth from the Father [John 15:26], and he shall receive of mine and shall announce it to you [John 16:14.]

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Pope St Leo the Great on the Mercy of God and Repentance

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 1, 2017

II. The grace of penitence is for those who fall after baptism

The manifold mercy of GOD so assists men when they fall, that not only by the grace of baptism but also by the remedy of penitence is the hope of eternal life revived, in order that they who have violated the gifts of the second birth, condemning themselves by their own judgment, may attain to remission of their crimes, the provisions of the Divine Goodness having so ordained that GOD’S indulgence cannot be obtained without the supplications of priests. For the Mediator between GOD and men, the Man Christ Jesus, has transmitted this power to those that are set over the Church that they should both grant a course of penitence1 to those who confess, and, when they are cleansed by wholesome correction admit them through the door of reconciliation to communion in the sacraments. In which work assuredly the Saviour Himself unceasingly takes part and is never absent from those things, the carrying out of which He has committed to His ministers, saying: “Lo, I am with you all the days even to the completion of the age2:” so that whatever is accomplished through our service in due order and with satisfactory results we doubt not to have been vouchsafed through the Holy Spirit.
III. Penitence is sure only in this life

But if any one of those for whom we entreat GOD be hindered by some obstacle and lose the benefit of immediate absolution, and before he attain to the remedies appointed, end his days in the course of nature, he will not be able when stripped of the flesh to gain that which when yet in the body he did not receive. And there will be no need for us to weigh the merits and acts of those who have thus died, seeing that the LORD our GOD, whose judgments cannot be found out, has reserved for His own decision that which our priestly ministry could not complete: for He wishes His power to be so feared that this fear may benefit all, and every one may dread that which happens to the lukewarm or careless. For it is most expedient and essential that the guilt of sins should be loosed by priestly supplication before the last day of life.
IV. And yet penitence and reconciliation must not be refused to men in extremis

But to those who in time of need and in urgent danger implore the aid first of penitence, then of reconciliation, must neither means of amendment nor reconciliation be forbidden: because we cannot place limits to GOD’S mercy nor fix times for Him with whom true conversion suffers no delay of forgiveness, as says GOD’S Spirit by the prophet, “when thou hast turned and lamented, then shalt thou be saved3;” and elsewhere, “Declare thou thy iniquities beforehand, that thou may’st be justified4;” and again, “For with the LORD there is mercy, and with Him is plenteous redemption5.” And so in dispensing GOD’S gifts we must not be hard, nor neglect the tears and groans of self-accusers, seeing that we believe the very feeling of penitence springs from the inspiration of GOD, as says the Apostle, “lest perchance GOD will give them repentance that they may recover themselves from the snares of the devil, by whom they are held captive at his will6.”
V. Hazardous as deathbed repentance is, the grace of absolution must not be refused even when it can be asked for only by signs

Hence it behoves each individual Christian to listen to the judgment of his own conscience, lest he put off the turning to GOD from day to day and fix the time of his amendment at the end of his life; for it is most perilous for human frailty and ignorance to confine itself to such conditions as to be reduced to the uncertainty of a few hours, and instead of winning indulgence by fuller amendment, to choose the narrow limits of that time when space is scarcely found even for the penitent’s confession or the priest’s absolution. But, as I have said, even such men’s needs must be so assisted that the free action of penitence and the grace of communion be not denied them, if they demand it even when their voice is gone, by the signs of a still clear intellect. And if they be so overcome by the stress of their malady that they cannot signify in the priest’s presence what just before they were asking for, the testimony of believers standing by must prevail for them, that they may obtain the benefit of penitence and reconciliation simultaneously, so long as the regulations of the Fathers’ canons be observed in reference to those persons who have sinned against GOD by forsaking the Faith.

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Constitutions of the Holy Apostles: Prayer for Penitents with the Imposition of Hands

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 1, 2017

Almighty, eternal God, Lord of the whole world, the Creator and Governor of all things, who hast exhibited man as the ornament of the world through Christ, and didst give him a law both naturally implanted and written, that he might live according to law, as a rational creature; and when he had sinned, Thou gavest him Thy goodness as a pledge in order to his repentance: Look down upon these persons who have bended the neck of their soul and body to Thee; for Thou desirest not the death of a sinner, but his repentance, that he turn from his wicked way, and live (Ezek 18, 33). Thou who didst accept the repentance of the Ninevites, who willest that all men be saved, and come to the acknowledgment of the truth (Jonah 3; 1 Tim 2:4); who didst accept of that son who had consumed his substance in riotous living (Lk 15), with the bowels of a father, on account of his repentance; do Thou now accept of the repentance of Thy supplicants: for there is no man that will not sin; for “if Thou, O Lord, markest iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? For with Thee there is propitiation” (Ps 130:3-4). And do Thou restore them to Thy holy Church, into their former dignity and honour, through Christ our God and Saviour, by whom glory and adoration be to Thee, in the Holy Ghost, for ever. Amen. Then let the deacon say, Depart, ye penitents; and let him add, Let none of those who ought not to come draw near. All we of the faithful, let us bend our knee: let us all entreat God through His Christ; let us earnestly beseech God through His Christ.

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St Irenaeus on Ezekiel’s Vision of the Dry Bones

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 1, 2017

CHAP. XV.—PROOFS OF THE RESURRECTION FROM ISAIAH AND EZEKIEL; THE SAME GOD WHO CREATED US WILL ALSO RAISE US UP.

1. Now, that He who at the beginning created man, did promise him a second birth after his dissolution into earth, Esaias thus declares: “The dead shall rise again, and they who are in the tombs shall arise, and they who are in the earth shall rejoice. For the dew which is from Thee is health to them.”8 And again: “I will comfort you, and ye shall be comforted in Jerusalem: and ye shall see, and your heart shall rejoice, and your bones shall flourish as the grass; and the hand of the Lord shall be known to those who worship Him.”9 And Ezekiel speaks as follows: “And the hand of the LORD came upon me, and the LORD led me forth in the Spirit, and set me down in the midst of the plain, and this place was full of bones. And He caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were many upon the surface of the plain very dry. And He said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I said, Lord, Thou who hast made them dost know. And He said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and thou shalt say to them, Ye dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus saith the LORD to these bones, Behold, I will cause the spirit of life to come upon you, and I will lay sinews upon you, and bring up flesh again upon you, and I will stretch skin upon you, and will put my Spirit into you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the LORD. And I prophesied as the Lord had commanded me. And it came to pass, when I was prophesying, that, behold, an earthquake, and the bones were drawn together, each one to its own articulation: and I beheld, and, lo, the sinews and flesh were produced upon them, and the skins rose upon them round about, but there was no breath in them. And He said unto me, Prophesy to the breath, son of man, and say to the breath, These things saith the LORD, Come from the four winds (spiritibus), and breathe upon these dead, that they may live. So I prophesied as the Lord had commanded me, and the breath entered into them; and they did live, and stood upon their feet, an exceeding great gathering.”10 And again he says, “Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will set your graves open, and cause you to come out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel; and ye shall know that I am the LORD, p 543 when I shall open your sepulchres, that I may bring my people again out of the sepulchres: and I will put my Spirit into you, and ye shall live; and I will place you in your land, and ye shall know that I am the LORD. I have said, and I will do, saith the LORD.”1 As we at once perceive that the Creator (Demiurgo) is in this passage represented as vivifying our dead bodies, and promising resurrection to them, and resuscitation from their sepulchres and tombs, conferring upon them immortality also (He says, “For as the tree of life, so shall their days be”2), He is shown to be the only God who accomplishes these things, and as Himself the good Father, benevolently conferring life upon those who have not life from themselves.
2. And for this reason did the Lord most plainly manifest Himself and the Father to His disciples, lest, forsooth, they might seek after another God besides Him who formed man, and who gave him the breath of life; and that men might not rise to such a pitch of madness as to feign another Father above the Creator. And thus also He healed by a word all the others who were in a weakly condition because of sin; to whom also He said, “Behold, thou art made whole, sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon thee:”3 pointing out by this, that, because of the sin of disobedience, infirmities have come upon men. To that man, however, who had been blind from his birth, He gave sight, not by means of a word, but by an outward action; doing this not without a purpose, or because it so happened, but that He might show forth the hand of God, that which at the beginning had moulded man. And therefore, when His disciples asked Him for what cause the man had been born blind, whether for his own or his parents’ fault, He replied, “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents, but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.”4 Now the work of God is the fashioning of man. For, as the Scripture says, He made [man] by a kind of process: “And the Lord took day from the earth, and formed man.”5 Wherefore also the Lord spat on the ground and made clay, and smeared it upon the eyes, pointing out the original fashioning [of man], how it was effected, and manifesting the hand of God to those who can understand by what [hand] man was formed out of the dust. For that which the artificer, the Word, had omitted to form in the womb, [viz., the blind man’s eyes], He then supplied in public, that the works of God might be manifested in him, in order that we might not be seeking out another hand by which man was fashioned, nor another Father; knowing that this hand of God which formed us at the beginning, and which does form us in the womb, has in the last times sought us out who were lost, winning back His own, and taking up the lost sheep upon His shoulders, and with joy restoring it to the fold of life.
3. Now, that the Word of God forms us in the womb, He says to Jeremiah, “Before I formed thee in the womb, I knew thee; and before thou wentest forth from the belly, I sanctified thee, and appointed thee a prophet among the nations.”6 And Paul, too, says in like manner, “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, that I might declare Him among the nations.”7 As, therefore, we are by the Word formed in the womb, this very same Word formed the visual power in him who had been blind from his birth; showing openly who it is that fashions us in secret, since the Word Himself had been made manifest to men: and declaring the original formation of Adam, and the manner in which he was created, and by what hand he was fashioned, indicating the whole from a part. For the Lord who formed the visual powers is He who made the whole man, carrying out the will of the Father. And inasmuch as man, with respect to that formation which, was after Adam, having fallen into transgression, needed the laver of regeneration, [the Lord] said to him [upon whom He had conferred sight], after He had smeared his eyes with the clay, “Go to Siloam, and wash;”8 thus restoring to him both [his perfect] confirmation, and that regeneration which takes place by means of the laver. And for this reason when he was washed he came seeing, that he might both know Him who had fashioned him, and that man might learn [to know] Him who has conferred upon him life.
4. All the followers of Valentinus, therefore, lose their case, when they say that man was not fashioned out of this earth, but from a fluid and diffused substance. For, from the earth out of which the Lord formed eyes for that man, from the same earth it is evident that man was also fashioned at the beginning. For it were incompatible that the eyes should indeed be formed from one source and the rest of the body from another; as neither would it be compatible that one [being] fashioned the body, and another the eyes. But He, the very same who formed Adam at the beginning, with whom also the Father spake, [saying], “Let Us make man after Our image and likeness,”9 revealing Himself in these last times to men, formed visual organs (visionem) for him who had been blind [in p 544 that body which he had derived] from Adam. Wherefore also the Scripture, pointing out what should come to pass, says, that when Adam had hid himself because of his disobedience, the Lord came to him at eventide, called him forth, and said, “Where art thou?”1 That means that in the last times the very same Word of God came to call man, reminding him of his doings, living in which he had been hidden from the Lord. For just as at that time God spake to Adam at eventide, searching him out; so in the last times, by means of the same voice, searching out his posterity, He has visited them.

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Tertullian on Ezekiel’s Vision of the Dry Bones

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 1, 2017

CHAP. XXIX.—EZEKIEL’S VISION OF THE DRY BONES QUOTED

Inasmuch, then, as even the figurative portions of Scripture, and the arguments of facts, and some plain statements of Holy Writ, throw light upon the resurrection of the flesh (although without specially naming the very substance), how much more effectual for determining the question will not those passages be which indicate the actual substance of the body by expressly mentioning it! Take Ezekiel: “And the hand of the Lord,” says he, “was upon me; and the Lord brought me forth in the Spirit, and set me in the midst of a plain which was full of bones; and He led me round about them in a circuit: and, behold, there were many on the face of the plain; and, lo, they were very dry. And He said unto me, Son of man, will these bones live? And I said, O Lord God, Thou knowest. And He said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones; and thou shalt say, Ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus saith the Lord God to these bones, Behold, I bring upon you the breath of life, and ye shall live: and I will give unto you the spirit, and I will place muscles over you, and I will spread skin upon you; and ye shall live, and shall know that I am the Lord. And I prophesied as the Lord commanded me: and while I prophesy, behold there is a voice, behold also a movement, and bones approached bones. And I saw, and behold sinews and flesh came up over them, and muscles were placed around them; but there was no breath in them. And He said unto me, Prophesy to the wind, son of man, prophesy and say, Thus saith the Lord God, Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe in these dead men, and let them live. So I prophesied to the wind, as He commanded me, and the spirit entered into the bones, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, strong and exceeding many. And the Lord said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say themselves, Our bones are become dry, and our hope is perished, and we in them have been violently destroyed. Therefore prophesy unto them, (and say), Behold, even I will open your sepulchres, and will bring you out of your sepulchres, O my people, and will bring you into the land of Israel: and ye shall know how that I the Lord opened your sepulchres, and brought you, O my people, out of your sepulchres; and I will give my Spirit unto you, and ye shall live, and shall rest in your own land: and ye shall know how that I the Lord have spoken and done these things, saith the Lord.”1
CHAP. XXX.—THIS VISION INTERPRETED BY TERTULLIAN OF THE RESURRECTION OF THE BODIES OF THE DEAD. A CHRONOLOGICAL ERROR OF OUR AUTHOR, WHO SUPPOSES THAT EZEKIEL IN HIS CH. XXXI. PROPHESIED BEFORE THE CAPTIVITY

I am well aware how they torture even this prophecy into a proof of the allegorical sense, on the ground that by saying, “These bones are the whole house of Israel,” He made them a figure of Israel, and removed them from their proper literal condition; and therefore (they contend) that there is here a figurative, not a true prediction of the resurrection, for (they say) the state of the Jews is one of humiliation, in a certain sense dead, and very dry, and dispersed over the plain of the world. Therefore the image of a resurrection is allegorically applied to their state, since it has to be gathered together, and recompacted bone to bone (in other words, tribe to tribe, and people to people), and to be reincorporated by the sinews of power and the nerves of royalty, and to be brought out as it were from sepulchres, that is to say, from the most miserable and degraded abodes of captivity, and to breathe afresh in the way of a restoration, and to live thenceforward in their own land of Judæa. And what is to happen after all this? They will die, no doubt. And what will there be after death? No resurrection from the dead, of course, since there is nothing of the sort here revealed to Ezekiel. Well, but the resurrection is elsewhere foretold: so that there will be one even in this case, and they are rash in applying this passage to the state of Jewish affairs; or even if it do indicate a different recovery from the resurrection which we are maintaining, what matters it to me, provided there be also a resurrection of the body, just as there is a restoration of the Jewish state? In fact, by the very circumstance that the recovery of the Jewish state is prefigured by the reincorporation and reunion of bones, proof is offered that this event will also happen to the bones themselves; for the metaphor could not have been formed from bones, if the same thing exactly were not to be realized in them also. Now, although there is a sketch of the true thing in its image, the image itself still possesses a truth of its own: it must needs be, therefore, that that must have a prior existence for itself, which is used figuratively to express some other thing. Vacuity is not a consistent basis for a similitude, nor does nonentity form a suitable foundation for a parable. It will therefore be right to believe that the bones are destined to have a rehabiliment of flesh and breath, such as it is here said they will have, by reason indeed of which their renewed state could alone express the reformed condition of Jewish affairs, which is pretended to be the meaning of this passage. It is however, more characteristic of a religious spirit to maintain the truth on the authority of a literal interpretation, such as is required by the sense of the inspired passage. Now, if this vision had reference to the condition of the Jews, as soon as He had revealed to him the position of the bones, He would at once have added, “These bones are the whole house of Israel,” and so forth. But immediately on showing the bones, He interrupts the scene by saying somewhat of the prospect which is most suited to bones; without yet naming Israel, He tries the prophet’s own faith: “Son of man, can these bones ever live?” so that he makes answer: “O Lord, Thou knowest.” Now God would not, you may be sure, have tried the prophet’s faith on a point which was never to be a real one, of which Israel should never hear, and in which it was not proper to repose belief. Since, however, the resurrection of the dead was indeed foretold, but Israel, in the distrust of his great unbelief, was offended at it; and, whilst gazing on the condition of the crumbling grave, despaired of a resurrection; or rather, did not direct his mind mainly to it, but to his own harassing circumstances,—therefore God first instructed the prophet (since he, too, was not free from doubt), by revealing to him the process of the resurrection, with a view to his earnest setting forth of the same. He then charged the people to believe what He had revealed to the prophet, telling them that they were themselves, though refusing to believe their resurrection, the very bones which were destined to rise again. Then in the concluding sentence He says, “And ye shall know how that I the Lord have spoken and done these things,” intending of course to do that of which He had spoken; but certainly not meaning to do that which He had spoken of, if His design had been to do something different from what He had said.

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Rufinus on the Foreshadowing of the Resurrection

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 1, 2017

But that you may not suppose this to be a novel doctrine peculiar to Paul, I will adduce also what the Prophet Ezekiel foretold by the Holy Ghost. “Behold,” saith he, “I will open your graves and bring you forth out of your graves.”166 Let me recall, further, how Job, who abounds in mystical language, plainly predicts the resurrection of the dead. “There is hope for a tree; for if it be cut down it will sprout again, and its shoot shall never fail. But if its root have waxed old in the earth, and the stock thereof be dead in the dust, yet through the scent of water it will flourish again, and put forth shoots as a young plant. But man, if he be dead, is he departed and gone? And mortal man, if he have fallen, shall he be no more?”167 Dost thou not see, that in these words he is appealing to men’s sense of shame, as it were, and saying, “Is mankind so foolish, that when they see the stock of a tree which has been cut down shooting forth again from the ground, and dead wood again restored to life, they imagine their own case to have no likeness to that of wood or trees?” But convince you that Job’s words are to be read as a question, when he says, “But mortal man when he hath fallen shall he not rise again?” take this proof from what follows; for he adds immediately, “But if a man be dead, shall he live?”168 And presently afterwards he says, “I will wait till I be made again;”169 and afterwards he repeats the same: “Who shall raise again upon the earth my skin, which is now draining this cup of suffering?”170

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Acts 13:44-52

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 1, 2017

44 But the next sabbath day, the whole city almost came together, to hear the word of God.

“Whole city.” Most of the population, including Gentiles. “came together.” Where? Not said, possibly several audiences were given, as no one synagogue could contain all together; or, in some open space around the synagogue.

45 And the Jews, seeing the multitudes, were filled with envy and contradicted those things which were said by Paul, blaspheming.

“Were filled with envy.” Felt great indignation on seeing the Gentiles admitted on such easy terms.

“Contradicted.” Denounced as false, the teaching “of Paul,” the chief speaker. “Blaspheming.” Adding some reproaches, which were so many blasphemies against our Lord.

46 Then Paul and Barnabas said boldly: To you it behoved us first to speak the word of God: but because you reject it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold we turn to the Gentiles.

“Boldly.” Spiritedly, with courageous intrepidity, disregarding their anger and jealously.

“To you it behoved,” &c. According to the precept of our Lord (Luke 24 v. 47).

“Judge yourselves,” &c. By rejecting the means of salvation offered to you. Not that they deemed themselves unworthy of salvation; but rather the opposite. Their conduct, however, in rejecting the means of salvation was a practical judgment on the subject, though they thought the reverse.

47 For so the Lord hath commanded us: I have set thee to be the light of the Gentiles: that thou mayest be for salvation unto the utmost part of the earth.

So the Lord commanded,” &c. He does not here refer to the express command of our Lord himself, which the Jews would undervalue; but, to the commands contained in their own highly-prized Scriptures of the Old Testament.

I have set Thee,” &c. These words, as is universally admitted, directly refer to the Messiah. They are found in Isaias (49:6). They implicitly refer to the Apostles, who were to act in His name, and by preaching him to the Gentiles, were to be instrumental in carrying out in his regard, what he was appointed to be “The Light of the Gentiles,” whom he was to draw forth from the darkness of error and ignorance, and become the source of “salvation” to all mankind, even unto the utmost parts of the earth.

48 And the Gentiles hearing it were glad and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to life everlasting believed.

Hearing from the mouths of the Jews themselves that they were to be sharers equally with the Jews in salvation, who would fain confine salvation to themselves. “Glorified the Word of God.” Speaking of it with reverence and thankfulness, as a message from God. They are contrasted with the Jews who rejected God’s word (v. 46).

“As were ordained.” Does not refer to a decree, as some understand it, on the part of God predestinating men to Eternal Life, in consequence of which decree they believed and embraced the faith. There is no question at least immediately and directly of any predestinating decree at all. The Greek word for “ordained” (τεταγμενοι) is probably allusive to military dicipline, wherein men are arranged by their officers under their proper peculiar standard. The words mean, that such as were disposed and divinely directed under the influence of God’s preventing graces, inspiring and strengthening them, to aspire after life everlasting, freely embraced the faith, “believed”—as one of the most essential means of attaining the object they had in view.

49 And the word of the Lord was published throughout the whole country.

The entire district of Antioch of Pisidia embraced the faith, owing to the influence and preaching of Paul and Barnabas. There is question of the Gentile population, to whom Paul and Barnabas addressed themselves, after having been rejected and resisted by the Jews.

50 But the Jews stirred up religious and honourable women and the chief men of the city: and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas: and cast them out of their coasts.

Honourable women.” Women of high rank, connected with high families of influence.

“Chief men,” &c. The civil magistrates, who exercised civil authority.

“Cast them,” &c. Had a decree enacted, banishing them. This does not imply violence. Likely, they had men employed to see them depart from their country.

51 But they, shaking off the dust of their feet against them, came to Iconium.

For the meaning of this symbolical mode of acting, prescribed by our Lord, in certain circumstances, to his Apostles (see Matthew 10:14, Commentary on).

52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Ghost.

Joy infused by the Holy Ghost in communicating His gifts.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Acts 13:26-33

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 1, 2017

26 Men, brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you fear God: to you the word of this salvation is sent.

“Stock of Abraham,” native born Jews, his natural descendants through Isaac.

“Fear God.” Proselytes. The Apostle earnestly exhorts his countrymen, whether Jews or Proselytes, to accept the message of Salvation, which is the fulfilment of the promises made to their fathers.

To you,” is emphatic. To them was the Saviour first sent. “This salvation” indicated in v. 23.

27 For they that inhabited Jerusalem and the rulers thereof, not knowing him, nor the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath, judging him, have fulfilled them.

“For they that inhabited Jerusalem,” &c. The object of the Apostle here would seem to be to explain more fully how this salvation was brought about, and the humiliations and sufferings, in the first instance, of the Saviour, and His subsequent glory and exaltation in fulfilment of “voices” or oracles of “the Prophets” who had minutely predicted them beforehand. “For” is regarded here by Commentators not as causal but expletive, as if the Apostle was about to explain how “the word of salvation” was effected, viz., through the crimes and ingratitude of the Jews of Jerusalem.

Others (among them Patrizzi) say “for” conveys a reason not for what is expressed but what is understood, as if he revolved in his mind reproachfully and sorrowfully what a sad subject of reproach, what a grievous crime is involved in this work of Redemption.

For the Jews of Jerusalem not knowing Him to be their Messiah as well “as their rulers,” members of the Sanhedrim or Supreme Council of the Nation, blindly shutting their eyes against all evidence, utterly ignored him.

“Read every Sabbath,” which rendered their rejection of Him more culpable and blameworthy.

“Judging.” Condemning Him; pronouncing Him worthy of death.

28 And finding no cause of death in him, they desired of Pilate that they might kill him.

Handed Him over to Pilate, who, out of fear of the Emperor, before whom he might be charged with allowing a man, however unjustly charged with sedition to pass unpunished, regardless of justice, condemned him to death. The Roman procurator alone had at this time the power to do so.

29 And when they had fulfilled all things that were written of him, taking him down from the tree, they laid him in a sepulchre.

This proved the reality of his death. The words express the fact of His burial by whomsoever killed. They may be said to have buried Him by means of others; for, having compassed His death, they brought about His burial. Besides, some members of the Sanhedrim, who disapproved of the sentence, Nicodemus and Joseph, had him buried.

30 But God raised him up from the dead the third day.

“But,” implying that these expectations regarding his utter extinction in the grave were frustrated.

“God.” Christ who is God, raised Himself up, as He repeatedly promised (c. 2:24). St. Paul did not deem it expedient to proclaim, at this stage, the fundamental truth that Christ is God. It is not denied, however prudently passed over in silence.

31 Who was seen for many days by them who came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who to this present are his witnesses to the people.

“Seen” not only by the Apostles, but by several other disciples (1 Cor. 15, &c.).

32 And we declare unto you that the promise which was made to our fathers,
33 This same God hath fulfilled to our children, raising up Jesus, as in the second psalm also is written: Thou art my Son: this day have I begotten thee.

The witnesses referred to in the preceding verse declared this fundamental truth to the people of Palestine. The same we now declare to you, the Jews of the dispersion; “and we declare that the promise made to our fathers,” Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, regarding the salvation and redemption of mankind is brought about by one of their seed.

“God hath fulfilled.” Completely carried out in the Resurrection of Jesus, which perfected the accomplishment of all the promises that concerned Him. The Resurrection of our Lord with all its circumstances was the most undeniable proof, the undoubted seal of His Divinity, which embraced every other truth and promise and prediction that concerned Him.

“Raising up Jesus” from the dead.

“As in second Psalm.” In some versions it is “in first Psalm. But in this it is supposed that first Psalm is merely an introduction to the whole Psalter. The first and second Psalms were by some regarded as one. However, the Vulgate reading is better sustained by the chief MSS.

Thou art My Son,” &c. These words are regarded by many Expositors as having reference to the Eternal generation of the Son “before all ages.” These explain its connection with our Lord’s Resurrection, thus: In our Lord’s Resurrection, His human nature which was always even in its separated state, during the interval between His death and Resurrection, united to the Person of the Word, received, as it were, a new existence when His sacred body now glorified was united to His soul. In reference to this state of new existence, God the Father declares Him anew to be His Eternal Son, perpetuating His generation from eternity, which was not a mere passing, but a continuous, permanent act ever abiding from eternity unto eternity. This is in accordance with the teaching of St. Paul (Rom. 1:4), where he says Christ was predestinated: (in Greek, declared) to be the Son of God by His Resurrection, &c.

The vv. 32 and 33 should be interpreted and joined together, as they convey that God had fulfilled for the children the promises made to their fathers. These promises He completelyfulfilled” by raising up His son from the dead, which followed as a necessary consequence of His being the Eternal, consubstantial, natural Son of God, begotten of Him eternally by a permanent, abiding generation.

Some interpreters say vv. 32, 33 should be included in a parenthesis, thus, v. 34 would be immediately connected with v. 31, following up the arguments directly in proof of Christ’s Resurrection.

In the two vv. 32, 33 is contained the point which the Apostle wishes to establish all along, viz., that the Jews had the promises of salvation fulfilled, which was now tendered to them.

“As in the second Psalm.” In some versions we have, “as in the first Psalm.” This discrepancy arose from the different divisions of the Psalms at different times and in different versions. Moreover, some looking on the first Psalm, as merely an introduction to the whole Psalter, made only one of the first and second Psalms.

Thou art My son,” &c. Some hold that these words directly refer to Christ’s Resurrection, in which He was begotten and born into a new and immortal life which God communicated to Him; and thus became His Father, and he became a son, as earthly parents are termed such when their children are born.

Others maintain that there is question directly of the eternal generation of the Son, born of the Father “before all ages.” In order to show its connexion with the Resurrection, these say that St. Paul adduces the Eternal generation of Christ, His identity with the Father, as His Eternal Son, to prove that having died by His Father’s will, He could not but rise again; impossible, He would remain in death. Just as St. Peter proves (c. 2:24) that it is impossible for Him not to rise in order to fulfil the prophecies, so here, the impossibility of His not rising is derived from His Divine sonship, which would not allow of His mouldering in the grave.

“This day have I begotten Thee.” “This day.” God’s day, determines no particular time. With God there is no past or future. All is present. And the generation of His Son in eternity was not a mere passing act, but continuous, permanent, abiding from eternity unto eternity.

Some say these words convey the idea expressed by St. Paul (Rom. 1:4) that in His Resurrection God declared him to be Son in the new and glorified existence conferred on His humanity, which was always since the Incarnation inseparably united to the Divine Person of the Word.

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