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Patristic/Medieval Commentary on Psalm 17

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 6, 2019

Title. A Prayer of David.

Ven. Bede. Since many of the Psalms consist of prayers, the question may be asked why such an inscription more especially belongs to this. But though the others contain divers prayers mixed with other matters, this is a supplication through its whole course. Now David, as is known, signifies the Lord Christ, in Whose Person this Psalm is uttered for the instruction of the human race.

Argument

Arg. Thomas. That Christ, cast out of the city, was surrounded by the Jews. Christ speaketh concerning the Jews to the Father, complaining that they received Him as a lion greedy of the prey, and satiated with sins left the crime of their incredulity to their babes, when they said, “His Blood be upon us, and upon our children.”

Ven. Bede. A threefold prayer is in this Psalm uttered by Christ according to His humanity. The first is where He makes His supplication to be heard according to His righteousness: Hear the right, O Lord. The second, that His innocence may be delivered from the snares of the Jews: I have called upon Thee, O God, for Thou shalt hear me. In the third, He supplicates a speedy resurrection, to the end that the perverse people of the Jews may no longer insult over Him; and that His faithful people may not doubt concerning His Majesty, He declares that He shall remain in eternal blessedness: Up, Lord, disappoint him, and cast him down.
Eusebius of Cæsarea. A prayer of the perfect man, or of Christ Himself, for them that are to be saved by Him.

S. Jerome. This Psalm is sung in the Person of Christ against the Jews, and in the person of the Church against heretics.

1 Hear the right, O Lord, consider my complaint: and hearken unto my prayer, that goeth not out of feigned lips.

It is a very beautiful idea of Pseudo-Dionysius regarding the efficacy of prayer,* that the case is as if we, standing on board a vessel, and holding in our hands a rope fastened to the shore, were to pull lustily at it. While endeavouring as it were to bring the shore to ourselves, we should indeed be bringing ourselves to it. And thus in prayer: while we seek in appearance, to bend God’s will to us, we are indeed bringing our will to His. Here Christ prays not for Himself alone, but for the instruction of all: and the right which is to be heard is that righteousness which He offers for us, that full and complete sacrifice which He presents for our sins. And if we take the words into our mouths,* S. Gregory Nyssen tells us that he will use it in vain whose debtor is in prison: the sound of his chains, says he, will be louder than the sound of your words. Or again applying the verse to the Son of God, (G.) “While I hang in agony on the Cross, whose cross beams represent as it were a balance, I cry for justice in the sight of the Father and of the whole company of heaven, to wit, whether My misery be not sufficiently great to abolish the guilt of all that believe in Me. I, the Son of God, suffer for slaves; I, the Just, for the unjust.” Has not such a sacrifice a sweet-smelling savour by which the evil odour of sin may be destroyed? Has not such a sacrifice a voice that must be heard, not only on the part of mercy, but also of justice? That goeth not out of feigned lips. As they pray, who say, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which He commands.

2 Let my sentence come forth from thy presence: and let thine eyes look upon the thing that is equal.

My sentence, it is as if He said, in this world was, “Let Him be crucified;” “Not this Man, but Barabbas:” but let My true sentence come forth from Thy Presence, Thou Who hast said, “I will give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance and the utmost parts of the earth for Thy possession.”* Not the sentence of My accusation set up over My Cross, (G.) but the sentence pronounced before the world was, “Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee.” Let Thine eyes look upon the thing that is equal. It is equal or right, that, since the innocent suffered, the guilty should go free, that the innocent Lamb should atone for the wandering sheep; that since the Prince of Life submitted to the law of death, they that were all their life-time subject to his bondage should attain to everlasting life.

[From Thy presence. That is,* let men know of a surety that My condemnation to the Cross was not the work of the Jews and Pilate, to whom I said, “Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above;”* but that it was done of My free-will, and according to Thy decree and foreknowledge, for the salvation of My enemies.]

3 Thou hast proved and visited mine heart in the night-season; thou hast tried me, and shalt find no wickedness in me: for I am utterly purposed that my mouth shall not offend.

Proved, visited, tried: S. Thomas thus explains their difference. God proves when He puts a man to the test whether he will keep His laws or not. He visits, when by the indwelling of His Holy Spirit, He would give him power to keep them. He tries, whether His servant will persevere to the end, or whether, having run well, he will cease to run at all. And that word try has the force of trial by fire which indeed is expressed both in the LXX.* and in the Vulgate. And that story is well known of him who, inquiring of the refiner of silver how he knew when the dross was sufficiently separated, received for answer, “When I can see my own image perfectly reflected in it.” In the night season. And what is that but saying “In the multitude of the sorrows that I have in my heart,” for night is mystically the season of affliction, “Thy comforts have refreshed my soul?”* Thou shalt find no wickedness in me. And then manifestly, He That speaks is the Son of God. But take it in the other sense: put those words into the mouth of one of the members, which only the Head can really and truly say, and then notice how the next clause follows: for I am utterly purposed that my mouth shall not offend. What is this but S. James’s “If any man offend not in word, the same is also a perfect man?”* And well might S. Pambo say when he had come to one of the elder saints of the wilderness for instruction in the ascetic life, and had heard from him that verse, “I said, I will take heed to my ways that I offend not with my tongue,”* That is enough for a whole life’s practice; let me go home and attempt it.

4 Because of men’s works, that are done against the words of thy lips: I have kept me from the ways of the destroyer.

The Vulgate is quite different: That my mouth may not speak the words of men: because of the words of Thy lips, I have kept hard paths. And taking it in that sense He would not speak the words of men Who denounced the doings and the traditions of the Scribes and Pharisees; Who exposed them for making clean the outside of the cup and the platter, while their inward parts were full of iniquity. I have kept hard paths. Hard indeed: hard, literally, in His manifold journeys among the mountains of Judæa and the plains of Galilee and the sea-coasts of Tyre and Sidon; hard, mystically, in that life which was but one sorrow from beginning to end; begun in the manger because there was no room for Him in the inn: ended between the two thieves on the Cross. And because of Thy words. Because—“Ought not Christ to have suffered these things?”—Because of the prophecies that He should be despised and rejected of men; because of the types, that He should be the Lamb sacrificed with fire, (Ay.) and together with hyssop and bitter herbs. It is to be noticed that some of the older translations give the passage thus: I have kept the ways of the transgressor: which they interpret to mean that He was numbered with them, reckoned among them, called a man gluttonous and a wine-bibber while He lived, and joined with the wicked in His death. I have kept hard paths. This is the Antiphon which the Church takes as the ordinary interpretation of the Psalm. And well it may be: for what is the whole of the Christian course but a succession of hard paths,—the strait gate and the narrow way which the martyrs and the confessors trod, and which they trod for the same reason, namely, love. Lorinus beautifully applies those words of the heathen poet:

Nam ubi amor condimentum inerit,* cuivis placiturum credo.
Neque salsum neque suave esse potest quicquam, ubi amor non admiscetur.
Fel quod amarum est, id mel faciet: hominem ex tristi lepidum et lenem.

5 O hold thou up my goings in thy paths: that my footsteps slip not.

Hold Thou up, or, as the Vulgate has it, Make perfect. That is, says Gerhohus, in the paths of eternity: because of Thy commandments, I have kept hard paths in this world; let their hardness and sorrow be turned into the joy and glory of the next. Hold Thou up my goings. And where were they so truly held up as on the Cross? There indeed stablished; (C.) there indeed made perfect. Or, again, others will have this expression of making perfect to refer to the example that He left us, that we should tread in His steps; and in this way a very beautiful meaning may be drawn forth. Hold Thou up My goings, that I may leave a pattern to them that shall come after Me to life everlasting, that My footsteps—that is, that their footsteps which are Mine, because taken in My strength, and based upon My example—slip not, notwithstanding all the infirmities of the flesh, and the assaults of the world and of Satan.

6 I have called upon thee, O God, for thou shalt hear me: incline thine ear to me, and hearken unto my words.

The Prophet, (Cd.) as Cajetan very well observes, sets us a memorable example in two respects. The one, his trust in God, Thou shalt hear me: the other, his acknowledgment that he has no merit of his own, (G.) Incline Thine ear to me, because my words have in themselves no power or force to reach it. Or, to apply these words to our Lord: I have called upon Thee, when I said, “The hour is come: glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son also may glorify Thee;” when I prayed, “Father, glorify Thy Name;” when I said, “Father, I will that they also whom Thou hast given Me may be with Me where I am.” But now, as the hour of My Passion approaches, as the redemption or damnation of the human race depends upon My drinking or not drinking the cup, now in a different and deeper sense than before, incline Thine ear unto Me, and hearken unto My words, those seven words which I shall utter on the Cross; for others, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do:” for Myself, “Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit.”

7 Show thy marvellous loving-kindness, thou that art the Saviour of them which put their trust in thee:

First let us separate the last clause from its present awkward junction, and refer it, as it ought to be referred, to the next verse. And then we take the words on our own lips, and having spoken of the Lord’s Passion, pray for that marvellous loving-kindness by which He said to the thief, (G.) “Today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise:” by which He made good the very title of His Cross—Jesus, in that He showed Himself to be the Saviour, the King: in that He accepted the prayer, “Remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom.” Thou That art the Saviour of them that put their trust in Thee. Where notice the condition upon which only He becomes our Saviour,—namely, that we trust in him. But yet observe how faint a degree of hope He sometimes rewards. The disciples had already got into the past tense, “We trusted that it had been He Which should have redeemed Israel,”* when He joined them in the way, and when He taught them of Himself.

Vs 7 cont. with 8 and beginning of 9. From such as resist thy right hand, 8 Keep me as the apple of an eye: hide me under the shadow of thy wings, 9 From the ungodly that trouble me. 

And they expound it of our Lord looking, (G.) in the fulness of His Omniscience, backwards and forwards, to the many times in which He, in His own people, was kept as the apple of an eye: the time when Pharaoh took counsel to oppress the chosen race with heavy burdens: when Satan moved them to murmur in the wilderness: when Saul pursued David for so many long years: when Antiochus stood up against the great and the holy people: when Herod sought to destroy the infants at Bethlehem: when, in the ten great persecutions, “the kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers took counsel together,” and at length in the fulness of their joy struck the medal which declared the execrable superstition to have been crushed: and finally, in the time of Antichrist, when, if it were possible, the very elect should perish; but because they are elect they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of His hand. Or, to take it in another sense, we ourselves ask to be kept as the pupil of God’s Eye,—that is, as the very and eternal Son of God; for the pupil of the eye,* as Hugh of S. Victor reminds us, has been from all antiquity the type of a son. Anastasius IV. found so great consolation in this expression, that Custodi me ut pupillum oculi was his motto. But, as mediæval writers love to tell us, the pupil of the eye, the true type of all God’s servants, is more especially so of those that have entered on the religious life. The eye lies, as it were, enshrined in its own little temple: so they, shut out and shut off from the cares and the allurements of this world. “The Saviour,” says Salvian,* “desirous to have followers of the purest and holiest of all, commanded that by such the most trifling sins should be avoided: that the life of a Christian should be undefined, as is the pupil of our eye: to the end that, as the one cannot abide the smallest particle of dust, (G.) so our life should reject and abhor every spot of defilement.” Under the shadow of Thy wings. “All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth.” There they see the two wings of which the Psalmist speaks: that which protects from temporal,* and that which shields from eternal, dangers. Others take it of the two Testaments: the promises and consolations of each. S. Basil sees in the type of wings the swiftness of God’s protection: others, from that expression, the shadow, would remind us that we are none the less safe in this world for a little temporary darkness.

[Thy right Hand.* The Right Hand of the Father is the Son, and the words therefore are spoken in His person against the Jews, (D. C.) and in that of the Church against the Pagan enemies of His Name. The apple of an eye. This type is used of Christ, because as the eye, itself very small, gives light to the whole body,* so Christ, Who appeared most lowly and obscure, is the “Light of the world”* and of His mystical body, the Church.]

Verse 9 cont. with verse 10. Mine enemies compass me round about to take away my soul.
10 They are inclosed in their own fat: and their mouth speaketh proud things. 

Compass me about. They refer very appositely to that verse, “Then came the Jews round about Him, (G.) and said unto Him, How long dost Thou make us to doubt?”* And notice that the fat was that part of the sacrifice which belonged to God only, and hence one of the sins of Hophni and Phinehas; that, when any man said, “Let them not fail to burn the fat presently, and then take as much as thy soul desireth,”* the answer was, “Nay, but thou shalt give it me now.” And thus our Lord’s enemies, (C.) instead of rendering to God the things which were God’s, (R.) inclosed themselves in, kept back for their own, (B.) those very things. “They loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” “How can ye believe which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour which cometh from God only?”* Others refer it to their sensuality, and being given over to the lusts of the flesh: others, again, as Theodoret and Ludolph, to their having shut themselves up from all compassion, and so they connect it with the next verse. Or, lastly, the expression may but mean such a delicate and luxurious life, as that of the rich man who fared sumptuously every day, and of whom, and of whom only, it is written, that “in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments.”

[Their mouth speaketh proud things,* such as, “We will not have this man to reign over us,” and “We have no King but Cæsar;” and yet again, “He is guilty of death,” (D. C.) “Crucify Him.”* It is said, their mouth, (C.) because the wicked often condemn in their heart the very thing which they utter.]

11 They lie waiting in our way on every side: turning their eyes down to the ground;
12 Like as a lion that is greedy of his prey: and as it were a lion’s whelp, lurking in secret places.

[They lie waiting, &c. The LXX. and Vulgate read here, (D. C.) Casting me out, they compassed me. They cast Him out more than once, as when at Nazareth they “rose up, and thrust Him out of the city,”* intending to throw Him down a precipice.* They cast Him out of the city of Jerusalem, crucifying Him “without the gate,”* and compassing Him upon the Cross. The Syriac and Symmachus read, They praised Me, and now they have compassed Me. And this they did twice, when they tempted Him, saying, “Master, we know that Thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth;”* and again, when they mocked Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews.”*]

Turning their eyes down to the ground: for where the treasure is, (Ay.) there will the heart be also. Or, as others take it, “Watching My steps, if perchance they might find any occasion of stumbling in Me:” as when they sent out those that feigned themselves just men, to entangle Him in His talk. S. Thomas well reminds us how often Holy Scripture bids us to lift up our eyes,—“I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills:”* “Lift up your eyes to the heavens:”* “Lift up your eyes on high,* and behold who hath created these things:” and again, “Lift up your eyes, and behold the fields:”* because we are of our own nature so apt to forget our country and our home, and to fix them on the place of our exile. The lion—that roaring lion, who goeth about seeking whom he may devour; the lion’s whelp, his followers and ministers, of whom it is well said that he lurketh in secret places, because it is written, “Every one that doeth good, cometh unto the light.”*

13 Up, Lord, disappoint him, and cast him down: deliver my soul from the ungodly, which is a sword of thine;

Here, again, the Vulgate entirely differs: Deliver my soul from the ungodly; Thy sword from the enemies of Thy Hand: where they interpret the sword of the Lord Himself. How many a time,* says S. Bonaventura, has the petition, Up, Lord, been uttered by the true of heart! How many a time has it seemed for the present unheard, that it might be answered the more gloriously hereafter! Disappoint him, or rather, be beforehand with him: and S. Jerome has an epistle on the way in which God thus snatches His children from the power of the enemy at the very moment when human hope seems over. So, most wonderfully of all, they were disappointed who remembered that that Deceiver had said, (G.) while He was yet alive, “After three days, I will rise again:” and themselves endeavouring to be beforehand with Him, by the watch and the seal, only rendered more glorious and more manifest the fulfilment of His own words, “I Myself will awake right early.” And if we are to take the last clause in the sense of our own version, the ungodly, which is a sword of Thine, then it can have no better commentary than God’s own words to Sennacherib, “Now have I brought it to pass that thou shouldest be to lay waste defenced cities into ruinous heaps: therefore their inhabitants were of small power.”*

[Christ is called the Sword of God,* “sharper than any two-edged sword,”* for He is two-edged in His twofold nature of God and Man. His soul is the sword wherewith the Father, drawing it out of the sheath of His Body, conquered hell.]

14a From the men of thy hand, O Lord, from the men, I say, and from the evil world: which have their portion in this life, whose bellies thou fillest with thy hid treasure.

[From the men, I say, and from the evil world, &c. The best texts of the LXX. with the Vulgate read, quite differently,* Divide them, O Lord, in their life from the few, off the earth. Do not wait till the Judgment Day to part the sheep from the goats, (D. C.) but even now make the distinction between Goshen and Egypt. Save the little Christian flock when the guilty nation perishes in its own city, and is driven off its own land. Divide evil Christians in this life by excommunication from the Church Militant, that they may repent in time. S. Albert explains the words further of evil Bishops, who are set apart by rank and wealth from the lowly and obscure,* who heap up riches, and are guilty of nepotism.]

14b They have children at their desire: and leave the rest of their substance for their babes.

It is not without reason that they see a terrible meaning in these words. The rest of their substance, (Ay.) that is, of the possessions of the Jews, the chief enemies of Christ, who indeed had their portion in this life, though once filled with the hidden treasure of His knowledge. The rest of the substance which they left to their descendants was none other than that curse, (L.) “His Blood be on us and on our children.” It is not worth while to go through the twelve meanings, partly literal, partly mystical, which the diligence of the commentators has discovered for the very obscure Vulgate: “O Lord, from the few of the land, divide them in their life: with Thy hid treasure is their belly filled.” That is, that the great mass of the Jews, left to their deserved perdition, should be separated from the few of the land who had heard the Apostles’ message, and had repented. But if we follow our own version, the men of Thy hand must be only an amplification of that which went before, “The ungodly, which is a sword of Thine:” the men who, while they seek to carry out their own devices, and to injure Thee and Thine, are indeed but passive instruments in Thine hand. With reference to God’s thus ordering the unruly wills and affections of sinful men, Vieyra says well: (he is speaking of the disciples who went to Emmaus:) “It was the Lord’s intention to send back those disciples with joy to Jerusalem. Why then,* if He purposed to send them to Jerusalem, did He go with them to Emmaus: Et ipse ibat cum illis? The road to Emmaus and the road to Jerusalem are precisely opposite: and does Christ go with the disciples to Emmaus when He wishes to take them to Jerusalem? Yes: for these are the marvels of Divine Providence, to conduct us to its own end by our own ways. To accomplish the designs of God by the straight ways of God, this might be anybody’s providence; but to accomplish the designs of God by the erring ways of men, this is God’s Providence. To go to Jerusalem by the road to Jerusalem is the ordinary road; to go to Jerusalem by the way of Emmaus, that is God’s road.”

[They have children at their desire. The Italic version reads here, (B.) very singularly,* They are filled with swine’s flesh,1 given up, as they are, to every uncleanness, and error forbidden by the Law, and leaving all their evil ways as a legacy to their posterity.]

15 But as for me, I will behold thy presence in righteousness: and when I awake up after thy likeness, I shall be satisfied with it.

With one consent all the mediæval commentators take the righteousness in this place to mean our Lord. I shall behold Thy Presence; (Ay.) but not for any merits of my own: I shall behold Thy Presence, because, as S. Paul says, (G.) I have put on Christ. Or, if the words be spoken by our blessed Lord Himself, then it is, I, Whom they call the Seducer; I, of Whom they said, “Nay, but He deceiveth the people;”* I shall behold Thy Presence in righteousness: righteousness in fulfilling My promises, that where I am, there My faithful people shall be also; in putting down the mighty from their seat, and exalting the humble and meek; and in giving possession to the meek-spirited of the heavenly land. O righteous Father, the world hath not known Thee, but I have known Thee; and therefore, all My sufferings over, all My promises fulfilled, all My glory accomplished, I shall behold Thy Presence in righteousness. And when I awake up after Thy likeness, I shall be satisfied with it. “But when,” says S. Bonaventura,* “O Lord Jesu, when shall that when be?” And S. Augustine dwells upon that word satisfied, knowing, (A.) as he says, “that, without God, all is emptiness.” “This is that glorious satisfying which leaves nothing empty or hollow, nothing which the soul can desire or pursue. Blessed satisfaction without satiety, pleasure without weariness, the use of everlasting delight without softness, continual felicity without any labour. While we live, our eyes and ears are unsatisfied with seeing and hearing; the more they receive, the more they desire. We may have pleasure, but we are never filled: our merriment rises, at it were, to the summit; the depth below is all bitter. Well, therefore, said David, Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire in comparison of Thee.” So writes Drexelius; and I cannot better follow up his words, and end the Psalm, than by the beautiful verses of Bernard of Cluny:

O bona patria, num tua gaudia teque videbo?
O bona patria, num tua præmia plena tenebo?
Die mihi, flagito, verbaque reddito, dicque, Videbis.
Spem solidam gero: remne tenens ero? Die, Retinebis.
O sacer, O pius, O ter et amplius ille beatus,
Cui sua para Deus: O miser, O reus, hac viduatus!

And therefore: Glory be to the Father, Whose Presence we shall behold in righteousness; and to the Son, Who awoke up after His likeness; and to the Holy Ghost, Who is Himself that satisfaction, communicated in this world partly, that in heaven He may be bestowed fully and everlastingly.  As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be: world without end. Amen.

Various Uses

Gregorian. Sunday: II. Nocturn.
Monastic. Friday: Prime.
Parisian. Saturday: Lauds.
Lyons. Sunday: II. Nocturn.
Ambrosian. Monday of the First Week: III. Nocturn.
Quignon. Tuesday: Prime.
Eastern Church. Terce.

Antiphons

Gregorian. Because of men’s works* that are done against the words of Thy lips, I have kept hard paths.
Parisian. O hold Thou up my goings in Thy paths, that my footsteps slip not.
Mozarabic. Hear the right, O Lord, consider my complaint: hearken with Thine ears to my prayer.

Collects

Turn,* O Lord, the eyes of our heart to behold the verity of Thy judgments, that while we are here proved by Thy spiritual fire, we may hereafter be satisfied with the fruit of righteousness by Thy Presence for ever. Through thy mercy.

Christ,* the Son of God, Whose insatiable enemies, enclosed in their own fat, surrounded Thy soul, deliver our souls from the wicked; and let Thy Passion so extinguish our passions, that we may never turn our eyes down to the ground. Amen. Through Thy mercy.

Keep us,* O Lord, as the apple of Thine eye, lest the whirlwind of carnal concupiscence should injure the eyes of our innocence: guard us under the shadow of Thy wings, that we may not be seduced by the allurements of those pleasures that lie in wait for us; that we, who, up to this day, stand firm by the help of Thy grace, may merit, when Thy glory shall appear, to be satisfied with it. Amen. Through Thy mercy.

[Show Thy marvellous loving-kindness, O God, (D. C.) hide us under the shadow of Thy wings, keep us as the apple of an eye, that our goings may be perfected in Thy paths, and we may appear with Thee in righteousness and be satisfied when Thy glory shall appear.]

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 91

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 6, 2019

PSALM 91
THE JUST IS SECURE UNDER THE PROTECTION OF GOD

Explanation of the Psalm

1 He that dwelleth in the aid of the most High, shall abide under the protection of the God of Jacob.

The first verse contains a remarkable promise, in which the Holy Ghost assures us that the divine assistance will never be wanting to those who really put their trust in God. To explain the words. “He,” no matter who he may be, rich or poor, learned or unlearned, patrician or plebeian, young or old, for “God is no respecter of persons,” but he is “rich to all that call upon him”—“that dwelleth,” to give us to understand that this liberal promise does not apply to those who put only a certain amount of trust in God, but that this trust must be continuous, constant, and firm, so that man may be said to dwell in God, through faith and confidence, and to carry it about with him, like a house, like a turtle, “in the aid,” for God’s aid is not like one of the strongholds of this world, to which people fly for defense, but consists in an invisible and most secret tower that can be found, and entered by faith alone. However, the expression in the Greek as well as the Latin conveys, that we must place the most entire confidence in God, but still we are not to neglect the ordinary means that man can avail himself of. The husbandman puts his trust in him who gives the rain from heaven, and makes his sun to rise, but in the meantime he will be sure to plough, to sow, and to reap, knowing that God helps those who help themselves. “Of the Most High,” God has been called by many names, but that of the “Most High” seems the most apposite in this passage, both because God is really most high, sits in the highest place, sees everything, and is aware of every danger around us. And again, not only is he Most High, and sees everything, but all things are subject to him, and therefore, he can deliver us from all manner of danger. “Shall abide under the protection of the God of Jacob.” The second part of the verse, in which a reward is promised to those who put their trust in God, and the meaning is, He that really trusts in the divine assistance will not be disappointed in his hope, but will be completely protected by the Lord. The several words in each member of the verse beautifully correspond with each other. The word “dwelleth” corresponds with “abide under;” the word, “in the aid,” with “protection,” and “the Most High,” with “the God of heavens.” To come now to the several words. The Hebrew for protection signifies shade or shadow, implying that God protects those that trust in him, as the hen that gathers her chickens under the shadow of her wings. Shadow may also signify the grace and favor of princes, a shade that easily, and from a great distance, affords protection, as are read of a stag that roamed about in the greatest security, by reason of its having a label on its neck, “Touch me not, I belong to Caesar;” thus, the true servants of God are always safe, even among lions, bears, serpents, fire, water, thunder, and tempests, for all creatures know and reverence the shadow of God. Even the Latin word “protection” is very significant. To protect means to cover from a distance, and one may be covered from a distance in two ways, by the person standing nigh, and warding off the weapons that are shot from a distance; or by standing afar off, and still warding off the weapons of close combat. God does both, for, abiding in us, he wards off the weapons that are shot from afar, for he sees the very first beginning of the danger; and, by his wonderful power, stifles it in the bud, if he thinks proper; he also, though seated in heaven, puts aside all dangers, however proximate to us, for he has far seeing eyes and long reaching hands, so that he can easily cut short all impending dangers, his eye is his intelligence, his hand is his power, and his power his will. “The God of heaven;” for nobody is all sufficient, needing nothing, and through and in himself omnipotent, but the true God, who made the heavens, “For all the gods of the gentiles are devils; but the Lord made the heavens;” and though the earth, and the sea, and the air are great and wonderful works of God, still, among things created there is nothing greater or more wonderful than the heavens, whether we regard its size, its beauty, its efficacy, its velocity, or its stability; and no wonder the prophet should exclaim in another place, “The heavens show forth the glory of God.”—“Shall abide.” This expression conveys that the person trusting in God will be protected by him, not now and then, or casually, but will be constantly protected by him, that the protection of God will not be like a hut on the roadsides but like one’s own or his father’s house. Here we cannot but wonder at the folly of mankind, who make so little of such a promise. Those in power spend much money on their fortresses and body guards, and yet are often betrayed by them; but here it is not frail and deceitful man, but the Almighty and truthful God that says, “Trust in me, and I will protect you,” and yet scarce can one be found to trust himself to God as he ought.

2 He shall say to the Lord: Thou art my protector, and my refuge: my God, in him will I trust.

The prophet now proves and explains his assertion by the testimony of a just man confiding in God, who gives his testimony from experience. “He shall say to the Lord;” that is, the just man, who dwells in the aid of the Most High, will acknowledge the favor of the protection he had from God. He calls God absolutely Lord, because God alone is truly and strictly Lord, both because he has neither equal nor superior, is subject to no necessity, wants nothing; as also, because all things are at his beck, without him they can neither move nor exist; and finally, because he alone can change, destroy, or repair all things as he pleases. “Thou art my protector, my refuge, my God.” These words represent three of God’s favors, for which the just man returns thanks; one, a past favor; the second, a present; and the third, a future favor. The first favor is that unspeakable mercy of God, through which he supports man after falling into mortal sin, and rushing headlong to hell; of whom is said in Psalm 117, “Being pushed, I was overturned that I might fall; but the Lord supported me;” so St. Bernard explains the passage, and says, “A sign of such support is, when the person who fell rises up more humble, more resolute, and more cautious, as did David, and Peter, and Magdalen.” The just man, then, who confides in God, mentions this favor first, not that it arises from confidence, (for it precedes instead of coming from confidence), but because he says to himself, if God be so good as to protect the enemy who does not confide in him, and to inspire him with penance and confidence, how good and kind must he not be to the friend and child who does confide in him. The second favor is one of the present time, and is contained in the expression, “and my refuge.” For, when God protects anyone through the grace of justification, he does not, at once, take him up to heaven, but he places him in the line of his soldiers, who are fighting here below, but if he trust in the Lord, he will prove “a refuge” to him in every temptation and difficulty, and a most safe and secure refuge, as the Hebrew word for refuge implies. The third favor is a future one, and the greatest of all, and is contained in the words, “my God,” for God is the supreme good, and God is always God in himself, and, therefore, the supreme good; and he will be peculiarly so “when we shall see him as he is,” for then we shall enjoy the supreme good. The just man, therefore, reflecting and allowing that God was one time his protector, then his refuge, and, after this life, will constitute his happiness, comes to the conclusion, “in him will I trust;” that is, I am firmly determined to put my trust in him, through every danger and temptation, as did holy Job, when he said, “Although he should kill me, I will trust in him.”

3 For he hath delivered me from the snare of the hunters: and from the sharp word.

Having said, in the previous verse, that he would put his trust in God, he now assigns a reason for doing so, “For he hath delivered me from the snare of the hunters, and from the sharp word,” in which he alludes to two favors conferred on him, one temporal, the other spiritual. The temporal blessing consists in immunity from snares, stratagems, and frauds of the wicked, the source of much temporal injury; the frauds being designated by the “snares of the hunters,” and the “sharp word” implies the injuries consequent on the frauds. And, as frauds and stratagems are generally effected through the tongue, Eccli. 51 says, “Thou hast preserved me from the snare of an unjust tongue.” God, then, in his singular providence, has caused, and always will cause, the frauds and schemes of the wicked to do no harm to the just, who confide in the aid of the Most High. Another favor, and much a greater one, is an exemption from the temptations of the evil spirits; for such is their craft, that men, however prudent they may be, when compared with them, may be looked upon as half fools. Those demons, then, are the hunters of whom the Apostle says, “For they who would become rich, fall into temptation, and into the snare of the devil;” and again, “And they recover themselves from the snares of the devil, by whom they are held captives, at his will.” Those demons are so numerous as nearly to fill completely the dark prison in which they are confined, and, according to St. Jerome, they are so powerful and so ferocious as to be compared, in the Scriptures, “to lions and dragons;” and they have no other study but constantly “going about roaring, seeking whom they may devour;” and, if we would seriously and attentively keep this fact before us, we would watch with as much fear and trembling in our prayers as it is probable Daniel did in the lions’ den, or the three children in the fiery furnace. All created things are so many snares, which catch the heart of man either through the concupiscence of the flesh, the concupiscence of the eyes, or the pride of life. The wise man says of them, “The creatures of God are made a snare to the feet of the unwise,” Wisdom 14; and Eccli. 9 has, “For thou art going in the midst of snares,” “The sharp word” is that spiritual death incurred by the person caught in such snares, or, if you will, it may mean that sentence that will be pronounced on the wicked, “Go, ye cursed, into everlasting fire;” for what can be rougher or more severe than such a sentence, when it conveys the loss of all that is bright and good, and an accumulation of all that is evil, not for a time, but for eternity. Such sentence of a most just judge will be justly pronounced on those who voluntarily suffer themselves to be tangled in the snares of the hunters, the demons.

4 He will overshadow thee with his shoulders: and under his wings thou shalt trust.

The prophet now speaks in his own person, and addresses the just man, who spoke hitherto, saying, you were right in saying I will trust in him, for “he hath delivered me from the snare of the hunters;” for he really did deliver you, and will always deliver you from every danger, for while you will be but a little one, and no match for your enemies, he will foster you under his wings, like a hen or an eagle. God has been compared to two birds in the Holy Scriptures, the eagle and the hen; to the former in Deut. 32, “As the eagle enticing her young to fly, and hovering over them;” to the latter in Mat. 23, “How often would I have gathered together thy children, as the hen gathereth her chickens under her wings.” God was an eagle before, a hen after the incarnation; or, if it be referred to Christ alone, as God he is an eagle, as man a hen; or he was a hen previous to an eagle after his resurrection. He, therefore, says, “He will overshadow thee with his shoulders.” God, like an eagle or a hen, will gather you under his wings, and will so “overshadow” and protect you, that you will have nothing to fear from the heat of the sun, nor the severity of the rain or the storm, or from birds of prey; lodged, therefore, in the greatest safety “under his wings,” under his care and protection, “thou shalt trust” for deliverance and safety.

5 His truth shall compass thee with a shield: thou shalt not be afraid of the terror of the night.
6 Of the arrow that flieth in the day, of the business that walketh about in the dark: of invasion, or of the noonday devil.

The prophet now explains another figure in regard of the more advanced in years, who can defend themselves; for God arms them with an extraordinary shield. The poets record the shields of Aeneas and Achilles, which were said to have been gifts from heaven, and through which they became invulnerable; but that was all a fable; but the shield of which David speaks is really celestial, and truly renders those invulnerable who know how to make proper use of it; and the prophet says, “He shall compass thee with a shield;” not with a helmet which protects the head only, nor with a coat of mail that protects the breast and shoulders only, but with a shield that may be used for the protection of the entire body, for it may be raised or lowered, turned to all sides, and opposed to every blow. “In all things taking the shield of faith, wherewith you may be able to extinguish all the fiery darts of the most wicked one,” says St. Paul, Ephes. 6. That shield is truth, so the passage says, “His truth shall compass thee with a shield;” as if he said, The truth of the Lord shall encompass thee like a shield. The truth of the Lord has two acceptations in the Scripture. In one sense it means God’s strict observance of his promises, as in Psalm 88, “My truth and my mercy shall be with him;” and in another part of the Psalm, “But my mercy I will not take from him; nor will I suffer my truth to fail.” In another sense it means the truths revealed to the prophets and Apostles, on which we have, in John 17, “Thy word is truth;” and in Proverbs 30, “Every word of God is fire tried; he is a buckler to them that hope in him;” and in Ephes. 6, “In all things taking the shield of faith;” that is, of truth, which is had through faith alone, that being a supernatural truth. Both sorts of truth form the best possible shield to repel all the weapons of the enemy, whether in adversity or prosperity, for God’s promises are so fixed and unalterable, that of them may be said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away;” for the truth of God is like holding ground in which the anchor of hope is firmly fixed. While the anchor is passing through the water it does not hold the ship, for water is a liquid and unsteady element, but once the anchor takes hold in the ground, it keeps the ship in her place. Thus our hope, when it is built on the promise of man, cannot but totter and waver; but when fixed in God’s truth, it remains firm and steady; “For God is true, and every man a liar,” Rom. 3. And who can injure him who has been promised the protection of that God who cannot deceive him? The truth of faith protects us like a shield also when it gives us a certainty that eternal happiness is prepared for the just, and torments everlasting for the sinner after this life; and that judgment will be held on the last day, when all men shall have to render the most exact account of all their deeds, words, thoughts, desires, omissions; in short, of every idle word, however brief, they may have uttered. Such and similar reflections, disclosed to us by the truth of faith, would easily protect us from all temptations, both in adversity and prosperity, if we would daily use them as a shield; that is, if we daily and faithfully meditate on these truths of our religion. Who is he that would not bravely bear up against any terror whatever, by reflecting seriously on those words of our Lord? “And fear not those that kill the body, and cannot kill the soul; but rather fear him that can destroy both soul and body in hell.” And who is there that will not despise the empty pleasures of this world, and the occasions of wronging their neighbor, when they seriously reflect on the following words of our Divine Master? “For what doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”—“Thou shalt not be afraid of the terror of the night; of the arrow that flieth in the day.” He now tells us what the dangers are against which we need the shield of truth. The passage is a very obscure one, and variously explained, but of the various ones offered, we consider one to be the most simple and literal, as follows: You will have no dangers to fear, either by day or by night. “Thou shalt not be afraid of the terror of the night,” you need not fear anything that may frighten you by night; fear, here, being used for the thing that causes it; as it is also in 1 Peter 3, “And be not afraid of their terror;” just as hope is used for the thing hoped for, and desire for the thing desired, as in Titus 2, “Waiting for the blessed hope;” and in Psalm 77, “And he gave them their desire;” that is, the thing they desired. The words, “of the arrow that flieth in the day,” mean, you will have to fear no dangers in the day time; “of the business that walketh about in the dark,” is only a repetition and explanation of “the terror of the night;” “of invasion or of the noonday devil,” is a mere repetition of “the arrow that flieth in the day.” In fine, in these words we have a general promise of security, both by day and by night, to those who trust in God, and are armed with the shield of truth; “For if God be for us, who is against us?” Rom. 8; as also, “And who is he that can hurt you, if you be zealous of good?” 1 Peter 3.

7 A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand: but it shall not come nigh thee.

The prophet follows up the description of the victory of the just man who confides in God, and makes proper use of the shield of truth. He reminds the just of the great value they should set upon such a victory, it being a rare one, and that of the few over the many. For in this fight “a thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh to thee;” neither the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flieth in the day, nor the business that walketh about in the dark, nor the noon day devil shall come nigh to thee. “Thy side” means thy left side, being opposed to the right, and signifies adversity; whilst the right stands for prosperity; and many more fall from the latter than from the former; for prosperity is the source of pride, usury, licentiousness, impudence, and other like vices; while adversity renders men humble, chaste, and patient; for, as the Apostle says, “Tribulation worketh patience.” The numbers, a thousand and ten thousand, merely signify that many will fall on the left, but a great many more on the right hand; and it is in such sense these numbers are understood in Kings, “Saul slew his thousands, and David his ten thousands;” and, in Deut. 32, “How should one pursue after a thousand, and two chase ten thousand?”

8 But thou shalt consider with thy eyes: and shalt see the reward of the wicked.

A fresh source of joy to the just man, who not only has been promised a victory, but that he will, furthermore, have great pleasure in seeing his enemies laid low, and punished according to their deserts, a promise that is sometimes fulfilled even in this world. Thus, the children of Israel saw the Egyptians cast dead on the shores of the Red Sea; Moses and Aaron saw Dathan and Abiron swallowed up alive; Ezechias saw the prostrate corpses of Sennacherib’s army; and Judith, with God’s people, saw the head of Holofernes cut off, and his whole army scattered and routed; but this promise will be completely fulfilled on the day of judgment, when we shall see all our enemies prostrate on the ground, naked and unarmed, without any strength whatever, and consigned to eternal punishment. “But thou shalt consider,” not in a cursory way, or in a hurry, but with diligence and accuracy, you will consider all your enemies, their number, their position, what they deserved, and what they are suffering; “with thy eyes;” you will not take it from hearsay or report, but you shall see with those very eyes with which you saw the arms and the dangers of your enemies: for your eyes will then be your own property, a thing they are not now, while curiosity opens them, sleep closes them, old age dims them, and death destroys them; and all in spite of you. “And shall see the reward of the wicked;” you will then see plainly the reward the wicked get for all their labor. Hence will arise a beautiful order of things, that now seem in general disorder and confusion. For, while punishment should follow sin, and virtue should be rewarded, it often happens that the just are afflicted, and bad men honored; and thus sorrow comes from virtue, joy from sin; but, on the last day, all things will be righted and put in their proper place; guilt will meet its punishment, and that in proportion to its enormity; while, on the contrary, justice shall be rewarded in proportion to its merits, too; and then will be accomplished what is prophesied in Psalm 57, “The just shall rejoice when he shall see the revenge;” that is, when he shall see the sinner duly punished; not that he will rejoice in their misfortunes, but for the vindication of the divine justice and wisdom, that will appear so conspicuous in the punishment of the wicked.

9 Because thou, O Lord, art my hope: thou hast made the most High thy refuge.

This verse is very easy, as far as the words are concerned, all of which have been explained when we discussed the first and second verses; but the connection is not so apparent; because, in the preceding verse, the prophet seems to have addressed the just man; he now seems to speak to God, saying, “Because thou, O Lord, art my hope;” and we don’t see why he says so; and then the second part of the verse, “thou hast made the Most High thy refuge,” is addressed to the just man again, but without any connection between the members of the sentence. The first part of the sentence is the voice of the just man speaking to God; the second part are the words of the prophet; we have already observed that this Psalm is, to a certain extent, dramatic, in the form of a dialogue, though the characters are not named, however; that the prophet speaks at one time, the just man at another, and God at another time. The prophet, then, having said to the just man, “God will overshadow thee with his shoulders,” as the hen does her young; “will compass thee with a shield,” as a general would his soldiers; “you shall not be afraid of the terror of the night, nor of the day;” and hence many will fall on your right and left, but the danger will not come near you, but you will rather see your enemies conquered before your face—the just man, on hearing all this, turns to God, and says, “Because thou, O Lord, art my hope,” I believe every word of it; it’s all true, and that because you, O Lord, art my hope; I trust not in my own strength or arm, nor in the strength nor in the arms of my friends; but in thee alone, who art my whole and sole hope, and in whom alone I confide. Now, God is said to be the hope of the just, because they not only hope for help from him, but they hope he will prove himself a strong citadel in their regard, to which they fly for protection in time of persecution; and dwelling in which, through faith, hope, and charity, through prayer and contemplation, they can suffer no injury. The prophet understood that well, and, therefore, he adds, “thou hast made the Most High thy refuge;” as much as to say, you have acted most wisely and properly in placing your hope in God; for thus you have selected your place of refuge in the highest possible and best fortified citadel you could select, God himself, where (as will be said in the following verse) no harm can possibly reach you.

10 There shall no evil come to thee: nor shall the scourge come near thy dwelling.

The prophet now tells what good the just man is to derive from having made the Most High his refuge, and says it consists in his being most safe from all evil. Evil is two fold, that arising from sin, and that arising from the punishment consequent on sin. The evil of sin is absolutely and radically evil, and to it applies the first part of the verse, “There shall no evil come to thee;” the evil of punishment is not simply evil, and, therefore, to it applies the second part of the verse, “nor shall the scourge come near thy dwelling.” That the evil of sin is simply and absolutely evil, and that such is not the case with the evil of punishment, is clear from the fact that the former renders man absolutely evil, while the latter makes him only miserable; nobody can turn the evil of sin to good account; not so as regards the evil of punishment. The evil of sin cannot be called good, for it is not right to call it so, it being iniquity; nor is it of any use, when he who sins always loses more than he gains; the evil of punishment may be called good, for it is frequently both good and useful. God, being the author of all good, is not the author of the evil of sin; while the evil of punishment has God, as being a just Judge, for its author. That can be inferred from the words of the prophet; for; when, he says, “There shall no evil come to thee,” he speaks of the evil that is in us, and cannot be outside us; such is the evil of sin, which must of necessity be within us, that is, in the power of our free will; and when he adds, “nor shall the scourge come near thy dwelling,” he speaks of the evil that may happen to our property, our children, our house, our land; and such is the evil of punishment. A serious doubt arises here regarding the truth of this promise; for David was certainly one of those just who trusted in God, and still the evil of sin; adultery, murder, and the scourge, nay, even many scourges, “came near his dwelling;” for he says himself, “I washed my hands among the innocent, and I have been scourged all the day;” which may also be said of Job, Tobias, of the prophets and Apostles, nay, even of Christ himself, who, too, was scourged; nay, even the Lord “scourgeth every son whom he receiveth,” Heb. 12. To this objection two answers may be made; the first is, that the promise does not regard this life, but the next, when that prophecy will be fulfilled, “Thou shalt consider with thy eyes; and shalt see the reward of the wicked;” for then, when we shall have entered the heavenly tabernacle, we will be quite safe from all the evil of sin, as well as of punishment; for God’s reason for “strengthening the bolts of the heavenly Jerusalem, and “placing peace in its borders,” was that the scourge may not possibly come near it. The second answer is, that the promise does regard this life, but that is to be understood with some restriction; for the evil of sin will not come near the elect and those who trust in God; not that they cannot possibly fall into sin, but because, through God’s singular providence, their very sins will tend to their improvement, making them more humble and cautious, and more inflamed by the love of God, in proportion to the extent they are indebted to his grace and mercy. So St. Gregory applies it to St. Peter, which also holds in the case of St. Thomas, Mary Magdalen, and many others. The scourge, that is, the evil of punishment, will not “come near their dwelling,” because, in spirit, they are dwelling in the heavenly tabernacles, and, with the Apostle Paul, engrossed entirely in meditation, they scarcely feel such temporal evils, or if they do, they despise them; nay, more, so far from looking upon them as evils, they consider them positive blessings and graces, from which they hope to reap an abundant crop of glory; such were the feelings of the Apostle when he said, “I am filled with comfort. I exceedingly abound with joy in all our tribulation.”

11 For he hath given his angels charge over thee; to keep thee in all thy ways.

The just man might have said, I am quite sure that no evil can possibly happen to me, when I shall have got within that heavenly tabernacle; but I would like to know who is to guard me on the way to it, to prevent my going astray, or falling in with robbers, or into a pit? The prophet replies, Never fear, “For he hath given his Angels charge over thee: to keep thee in all thy ways.” Each word in which requires an explanation. “For” does not refer to the preceding, but to the following sentence the meaning being, whereas God gave you in charge to his Angels, to guard you on the way, the Angels will take you in their hands, for fear you should knock against a stone. “Angels”—Angels are blessed spirits, most noble princes, who guard with the greatest care, being most powerful, wise, and excellent, showing us how God values the human race in assigning such guardians to it. But why Angels, instead of an Angel? According to our Lord, we have a guardian Angel every one of us; for he says, “Their Angels always see the face of my Father;” and when St. Peter knocked at the door, those within said, “It is as Angel.” Granted; but we still have Angels who have common charge of us, such as those who are in charge of towns, states, and kingdoms; on which see chap. 10 of Daniel. “His;” they are called “his” Angels because there are fallen angels also, of whom is said in the Apocalypse, “And the dragon fought and his angels.” God, then, gave you in charge to “his Angels,” and not to those angels who, instead of protecting you, would have sought to destroy you. “Hath given charge;” the reason why the Angels take such care of us is, because God ordered them to do so, gave us in charge to them; for, though they guard us with right good will, loving us as they do, and though they have a horror of the evil angels, and wish the heavenly Jerusalem to be renewed as soon as possible; and though they know all this to be most agreeable to their King, Christ our Lord, still God’s command is uppermost, is their ruling motive for the whole; for they are conscious of being God’s servants, and there is nothing that he requires more strictly from his servants than prompt and implicit obedience; “over thee,” which means that God’s providence extends to all, and that he has given a guardian Angel to each and every human being; but still that he has a peculiar regard for the just, for those that confide in him; and, therefore, that he has given special orders to his Angels to look “over thee,” the just man, who trusts in his help, “to keep thee;” the charge God gave his Angels regarding the just was to preserve him from his enemies, the evil angels; for man, by reason of the flesh that envelopes him, can see nothing save through the eyes of the flesh, and, therefore, is no match for the evil spirits, unless he get help from someone more powerful; “in all thy ways;” not on thy way, but in all thy ways; for numerous are the ways of man, and in every one of them he needs the help of his guardian Angel. The law is the way, according to Psalm 118, “Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord;” and in the same Psalm, “I have run the way of thy commandments.” The way also means the works, as in Proverbs 8, “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his ways before he made anything.” Finally, this life is a way to a certain extent. The way of the law is varied, for there are many laws; the way of the works is equally so, for there are many works; the way of life is also varied, for there are many parts, ages, and states of life. We require assistance in every one of them, since we are liable to fall in every law, work, age, and state of our life.

12 In their hands they shall bear thee up: lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.

A verse full of metaphors, but otherwise easily explained; we, therefore, have merely to explain what he means by the “Angels’ hands,” what the “stones” and the “feet” signify. The Angels’ hands signify the intellect and the will, or wisdom and power, for it is by understanding and by willing they do everything. The stones, all the obstacles that we meet in this life, be they temporal or spiritual, such as scandals, temptations, persecutions, and the like. The feet mean our affections, that very often knock against the stones; and, as St. Augustine, treating of this passage, says, Our feet are two affections, fear and love; and, whenever man proceeds in his actions, words, or desires, he is carried by one or the other, by the desire of acquiring one thing or losing something else, or by a desire of avoiding evil, or the fear of falling into it; we then knock our foot against the stone, when we fall into sin, on an occasion offering of acquiring some temporal good, or of avoiding some temporal evil, whence we lose eternal happiness, and incur eternal punishment; but they “who dwell in the aid of the Most High” are so assisted by the Angel guardian, that the occasion is altogether removed; that is, the stone is taken out of the way, or the mind is so enlightened as to distinguish good from evil; that the feet, that is, the affections are so raised from the earth that the temporal advantage, that could not be had without sin, is easily despised; and the temporal evil, that could not be avoided without sin, is most patiently endured.

13 Thou shalt walk upon the asp and the basilisk: and thou shalt trample under foot the lion and the dragon.

Having made mention of the good Angels who have charge of the just man that trusts in God, he now alludes to the bad angels, and says, so far from their harming the just man, that he, on the contrary, will trample on and crush them, as the Apostle says, “And may the God of peace crush Satan speedily under your feet.” He calls Satan a serpent, by reason of his cunning, and a lion, by reason of his ferocity; and, as there are various sorts of serpents, he calls him an asp, a basilisk, and a dragon, for to the cunning that is common to all serpents, the asp unites obstinacy, the basilisk cruelty, and the dragon great strength and power, for all of which Satan is remarkable. This is not the only passage in which the devil is called a serpent and a lion. In Job 26, and Isaias 27, he is called “the winding snake” and “the crooked serpent.” The Apocalypse calls him “the dragon” and “the old serpent;” and St. Peter calls him “the roaring lion,”

14 Because he hoped in me I will deliver him: I will protect him because he hath known my name.

As we read in Deuteronomy, that “in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall stand,” the holy prophet would have three witnesses to prove what he promised in the beginning of the Psalm, viz., that all who truly trust in God would be protected by him. The first witness was the just man, who, from his own experience gave testimony to the truth of it, when he said, “For he hath delivered me from the snare of the hunters.” The second witness was the prophet himself, who, as the organ or voice of the Holy Ghost declared, “He will overshadow thee with his shoulders.” The third witness is God himself, who, in the last three verses, confirms all that had been said, and adds a great deal more, for these three verses contain eight promises of God, which most appropriately commence with deliverance from evil, and advance up to elevation, to supreme happiness. Four of them, “I will deliver him, protect him, hear him, am with him in tribulation,” belong to this life; and the four others, “I will deliver him, glorify him, fill him with length of days, and I will show him my salvation,” belong to the next life. “Because he hoped in me I will deliver him.” The deliverance that is promised here refers to deliverance from all evil, and may be referred to the deliverance previously mentioned through the Angels, or the shield, or in any other way, so that the meaning is, Let not the just man imagine for a moment that he can be delivered by the Angels, or by a shield, or by any means without me; they can do nothing without me, and it is I that will deliver him through them, and frequently without them, since it was in me principally, and not in them, that he trusted. Looking at the passage from a higher point of view, the deliverance here promised may be said to mean deliverance from the tyranny of sin, which may be said specially to be a mark of the perfect, and a most desirable one; our Savior himself, speaking thereon, says, “Whosoever committeth sin, is the servant of sin. If, therefore, the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.” Now such liberty is not granted unto all, but to those that hope in God, “Because he hoped in me I will deliver him.” It is not, then, every hope, but that confidence that is the fruit of a good conscience, and springs from filial love and affection, that frees man from the vices that tyrannize over him; for, as avarice ties him down, and holds him captive, and the more he advances in charity, the more is his avarice diminished; and when his charity and attachment to the supreme good shall be most perfect, then, too, will his liberty be most complete, that liberty that is styled by the Apostles “the liberty of the glory of the children of God.” The next promise is, “I will protect him, because he hath known my name.” For he that is freed from the tyranny of vice in this world, still is not perfectly free, he needs God’s help to advance in grace until he shall have come to glory. God, therefore, promises continual protection to those “who have known his name;” that is, to those who have come to the knowledge of his power, wisdom and goodness which raises up in them the most firm hope and confidence. They, too, are said “to know his name,” who are on familiar terms with God, and know him as a pastor, a friend, and a father, speaking of which our Savior says, “I am the good shepherd, I know my sheep, and my sheep know me;” and, on the other hand, speaking of the others, he says, “I know you not;” and in 2 Thess. 1, “In a flame of fire, giving vengeance to them who know not God.” Wonderful altogether is God’s kindness to man, when he speaks to him not only as a Lord but as a friend, and no wonder David should exclaim: “Lord, what is man that thou art made known to him?”

15 He shall cry to me, and I will hear him: I am with him in tribulation, I will deliver him, and I will glorify him.

There are four promises in this verse; the first is a general promise of being heard, a promise which God alone can make; and that there is no restriction whatever to the promise of hearing the prayer of all who confide in God, is clear from the words, “and I will hear him;” other passages of Scripture confirm it. Deut. 4, “Neither is there any other nation so great, that hath God so nigh to them, as our God is present to all our petitions.” John 13, “You shall ask whatever you will and it shall be done to you;” and in Mark 11, “All things whatsoever you ask, when ye pray, believe that you shall receive, and they shall come unto you;” and finally, in 1 John 3, “We have confidence towards God, and whatsoever we shall ask we shall receive of him;” and though certain conditions are necessary to have our prayer heard, the principal one is that which is expressed here, when he says, “he shall cry to me;” which implies a vehement desire, springing from confidence and love. The three other promises come next. “I am with him in tribulation, I will deliver him, and I will glorify him.” Three promises correspond most exactly to the three most remarkable days in the year: the Friday on which the Lord, hanging on his cross, was in his greatest tribulation; the Saturday on which he rested in peace from all his troubles; and the Sunday on which, by rising from the dead, he had a most glorious triumph. All the just and the elect have three such days before them; for, with Christ, we must all go through our own tribulations on Friday, that is, in this life, which is the shortest, and is counted but as one day; we must rest in the sepulchre on the Saturday; and, finally, rise on Sunday, and be glorified with Christ. The Lord, therefore, says, “I am with him in tribulation;” for the person praying asked for the gift of patience above all things, “which is necessary for you, that you may receive the promise,” Heb. 10. Now, the Lord who said, “I will hear him,” promises him, in the first place, the gift of patience, when he says, “I am with him in tribulation,” each word of which has a peculiar force of its own. “I am,” in the present tense, whereas everything else was expressed in the future; “I will deliver, I will protect, I will hear, I will glorify, I will fill;” and this was so expressed, with a view to show us that the troubles of this world are momentary, as the Apostle, 2 Cor. 4, says, “For our present tribulation, which is momentary and light, worketh for us above measure exceedingly an eternal weight of glory;” and, therefore, God’s mercy causes our tribulations to fall upon us, as it were, drop by drop, whereas our future glory will flow upon us like the inundation of a river; as the Psalm expresses it, “Thou shalt make them drink of the torrent of thy pleasure;”—“with him” conveys that God is present with everyone, in various ways, but that he is specially, through his interior consolations, and the influx of his unspeakable sweetness, with those who are in trouble; like a fond mother, whose entire care, even to the neglect of the others, is bestowed on the child in sickness; or as we ourselves, who nurse and care the ailing members of our body, and care not for the others. “In tribulation;” this gives us to understand that, however great the consolations, whether temporal or spiritual, bestowed by God upon his friends here below, that they are not without a certain admixture of tribulation. Some, especially among sinners, have their troubles without any consolation; but none, neither just nor wicked, have their consolations without some mixture of trouble; but there is this difference between the good and the bad; that the former, with few tribulations, more apparent than real, get true and solid consolations, for “the fruit of the spirit is charity and joy,” Gal. 6; but as to those who have not the Spirit, how can they expect its fruits? “I will deliver him;” this promise regards the future life, for it is at their death that the just are delivered from all present and future troubles, as St. John has it in the Apocalypse, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord, from henceforth, now and forever; that they may rest from the labors;” and again, chap. 21, “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and death shall be no more, nor mourning, nor crying, nor sorrow shall be any more.” The wicked appear to be delivered from the troubles of this world by death, but it is by no means the fact; for they only pass from temporary to eternal tribulation; they are no more delivered than is the wretch who is brought out of jail to the place of execution. Sometimes, however, the just, even in this life, are delivered from their tribulation. Such was the case with Joseph, Job, David, Tobias, Daniel, the three children, Susanna, and others; but it was only a short and brief delivery. The fourth promise is, “and I will glorify him;” that, to a certain extent, sometimes happens also in this life, for holy Job was not only delivered from many and grievous tribulations, but was even raised to great glory afterwards; so was the patriarch Joseph; so was king David; but, beyond yea or nay, the real and true glorification will be accomplished in the other world only, for “Then shall the just shine as the sun in the kingdom of their Father,” Matt. 13; and he says to the Apostles, “you also shall sit on twelve seats, judging the twelve tribes of Israel;” and, to express their glorious position, the Psalmist says, “Their principality is exceedingly strengthened;” and the Apostle, in speaking on the matter, says, “The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come that shall be revealed in us.”

16 I will fill him with length of days; and I will shew him my salvation.

These are the two last favors promised to those “who dwell in the aid of the Most High,” and may be looked upon as an explanation of the sixth favor. “I will glorify him,” for the glory of the saints consists in their having secured supreme happiness; now, supreme happiness must be everlasting, for happiness, without being everlasting, is nothing more than misery; and eternity, without happiness, is eternal misery. He, therefore, describes real eternity; first, by the expression, “I will fill him with length of days,” and then true happiness by the words, “and I will shed him my salvation.” By length of days is meant a space of time, so extended as fully to satisfy man’s desire, for that is what he promises when he says, “I will fill him with length of days;” and, as man’s desires cannot be satiated but by a continuance of what he desires, this length of days must be taken to mean eternity. The Scripture makes use of such expressions to designate eternity, because it speaks to those who can form no idea of eternity, but from the length or the number of days. In eternity there is no succession of days, but one day always going on, or rather one moment lasting without change, succession, or vicissitude. But it may be said, the vicissitudes of the seasons bring their pleasure with them, and we find men beguiling the length of the day in summer, and of the night in winter; by various amusements. That arises from all the stages of this life being full of various inconveniences and troubles, which make us look forward with impatience to the future, but when the day, than which no better can be expected, shall have come, the wish, then, that it may always last, will be the wish of all. “And I will show him my salvation.” I will cause the just man to live no longer by faith, by belief in what he sees not, but that he may clearly see and feel, and know by experience the salvation I offer him. That salvation consists in the beatific vision promised to us, which renders man’s salvation both perfect and perpetual. The mind will then be cleared of all error and ignorance, when it shall have arrived at the summit of wisdom, which consists in viewing the supreme and sovereign author of all things. From such wisdom there will spring up in the will a most ardent and steadfast love of the supreme good, that will completely take the affections from anything gross or unworthy, and such salvation will have its own effect on the inferior part of man, that thus will become subject to the superior without resistance or rebellion; and on the body itself, which will rise again immortal, impassible, most beautiful, and brighter than the sun. Here we cannot but wonder at the blindness of mankind; for while all wish for eternal happiness, and cannot avoid wishing intensely for it, they will, however, for some temporal or trifling advantage, whether in grasping and hoarding riches, or obtaining and keeping honors and preferments, or in gratifying and indulging their carnal and sensual desires, leave no stone unturned, will run backwards and forwards, watch, labor, sweat, exercise all ingenuity, draw upon their eloquence, apply all their talents; and still, where true, solid, and eternal happiness, real riches, the highest honors, unspeakable happiness that has been prepared for those that love God, are in question, they are so lazy that they will not even condescend to stir one finger for them. It is dreadful to reflect that man, endowed with reason and understanding, should so devote his whole life to the pursuit of things the most likely to shut him out from eternal happiness. We should pray to God, that as he has deigned to promise us such blessings, he may infuse his Holy Spirit into us, so as to enlighten our hearts, that we may know “what is the hope of his calling, and what are the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,” Eph. 1.

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 115

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 29, 2019

1 Not to us, O Lord, not to us; but to thy name give glory.

Having recorded the wonderful things that God did for his people on their departure from Egypt In the previous psalm), he now, in the name of the whole people, prays to him not to regard their shortcomings, but his own glory, and to continue to protect his servants. “Not to us, O Lord, not to us.” We ask not for praise or glory on our own merits, which are none; “but to thy name give glory;” protect us for the glory of your name, and not for our own merits.

2 For thy mercy, and for thy truth’s sake: lest the Gentiles should say: Where is their God?

He, in a very short space, assigns three reasons why God ought to seek the glory of his name in preserving his people. First, because he is merciful; secondly, because he is true and faithful in observing his promise; thirdly, that the gentiles, seeing God’s people in a state of destitution, may have no cause for blaspheming him and them. He, therefore, says, “For thy mercy and for thy truth’s sake,” show your glory, or give glory to thy name, for it is then your glory will be exhibited when you show mercy to your people; and then you will have carried out the truth of the promises you made our fathers, “Lest the gentiles should say: Where is their God?” lest the incredulous gentiles should get an occasion of detracting from your power, and, perhaps, of ignoring your very existence.

3 But our God is in heaven: he hath done all things whatsoever he would.
4 The idols of the Gentiles are silver and gold, the works of the hands of men.
5 They have mouths and speak not: they have eyes and see not.
6 They have ears and hear not: they have noses and smell not.
7 They have hands and feel not: they have feet and walk not: neither shall they cry out through their throat.

He now, on account of his having said, “Lest the gentiles should say: Where is their God?” gives expression to a most beautiful antithesis between the true and false gods; as much as to say, The gentiles should get no opportunity of reproaching us; but if they should do so, saying, “Where is their God?” we will answer, “Our God is in heaven;” and the wonderful things he has done bear testimony to it; for “he hath done all things whatsoever he wished;” while, on the contrary, their gods are on the earth; and thus hitherto are so unable to do anything that they cannot even make use of the members they appear to be endowed with; for, though they have the shape and figure of man, and appear to have all his members and senses, they neither see, nor hear, nor smell, nor touch, nor walk, nor speak; they do not emit anything in the shape of the voice of man, nor even of beasts.

8 Let them that make them become like unto them: and all such as trust in them.

This is a prophecy in the shape of an imprecation, as is usual with the prophets; for the makers of, and the worshippers of idols, will actually become similar to the idols after the resurrection; for, though they will be possessed of feeling and members, the case will be with them as if they had none; they will even desire to have none; for they will see, hear, smell, touch nothing but what will be hateful and disagreeable; and, with their hands and feet tied, they will be cast into exterior darkness, without being able in any way to help themselves. Even in this life they are like idols, because, though they hear and see, it is more in appearance than reality; for they neither see nor hear the things that pertain to salvation, the things that only are worth seeing, so that they may be said more to dream than to see or hear; as St. Mark has it, “Having eyes ye see not, having ears ye hear not.”

9 The house of Israel hath hoped in the Lord: he is their helper and their protector.
10 The house of Aaron hath hoped in the Lord: he is their helper and their protector.
11 They that fear the Lord have hoped in the Lord: he is their helper and their protector.

Having said, Let them that make them become like “unto them, and all such as trust in them,” he adds, by way of antithesis, that the children of Israel trusted in the Lord, and that they had him, therefore, as a protector, naming the house of Israel first, which includes the whole Jewish nation; then the house of Aaron, which means the priests and Levites, the elite of God’s people, and who should, therefore, have special trust in God; and, finally, all those that fear the Lord; for at all times there were pious souls, however few they may have been, not belonging to the children of Israel who feared and worshipped God in all sincerity; such were Job and his friends, and afterwards Naaman, the Syrian, and others.

12 The Lord hath been mindful of us, and hath blessed us. He hath blessed the house of Israel: he hath blessed the house of Aaron.
13 He hath blessed all that fear the Lord, both little and great.

He now confirms what he had asserted, viz., that God would be the helper and the protector of those that trust in him. He ranks himself among the number as having got special help and protection from God. He then, in the same order, confirms his assertions of God having blessed the house of Israel, the house of Aaron, and all who fear him, great or small, without any reference to greatness or littleness, whether of age, power, wisdom, or riches. When God is said to be “mindful,” it means that he regards with a singular providence; “and blessed us,” by assisting and protecting us—“us” meaning the house of Israel, the house of Aaron, and all that fear him.

14 May the Lord add blessings upon you: upon you, and upon your children.
15 Blessed be you of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

“Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh,” as we read in Lk. 6; and as the heart of the holy prophet was burning with desire for the glory of God and the salvation of his neighbor, he turns over the same subject, prophesying at one time, then exhorting, and then by praying all manner of happiness on mankind, in the hope of bringing them to have a holy fear of God, and to repose all their hope in him. Turning, then, to those who fear God, whose blessing he had assured them of, he says to them, “May the Lord add blessings upon you,” and not only on you, but “upon your children.” And thus may you be blessed with a full and entire benediction from the Lord, “who made heaven and earth;” that is, by him in whose hand is the dew of heaven and the fatness of the earth. The saints of the Old Testament were very much in the habit of praying to the Lord for the dews of heaven and the fatness of the earth for their people; for all the fruits of the earth depend on them. In a more spiritual meaning, God blesses with the dews of heaven and the fatness of the earth those to whom he gives spiritual and temporal blessings in abundance; as he did to Abraham, Isaac, Joseph, and David, and such others.

16 The heaven of heaven is the Lord’s: but the earth he has given to the children of men.
17 The dead shall not praise thee, O Lord: nor any of them that go down to hell.
18 But we that live bless the Lord: from this time now and for ever.

These three verses may be differently interpreted, applying them to the Jews under the Old Testament, or to the Christians in the New. If we apply them to the Jews, the meaning is, Having said, “Blessed be you of the Lord, who made heaven and earth,” he now asserts that it is only fair that they who have been blessed by the Lord should, in return, bless him while they live upon this earth, which he gave them for a habitation, leaving to the Angels the duty of blessing him in heaven, that being his habitation and that of his servants who minister unto him. “The heaven of heavens is the Lord’s;” that is, the supreme heaven belongs peculiarly to God and to the Angels who minister unto him; “but the earth,” with the elements that surround it, “he has given to the children of men” for their habitation, and for such a splendid portion of the universe man should constantly return thanks to God as long as they live and enjoy the fruits of that earth. Because “the dead shall not praise thee, O Lord;” for the dead, being devoid of sense, and no longer in possession of the goods of this world, and being even bereft of life, cannot praise God or return him thanks for his benefits. “For any of them that go down into hell.” Not only will the dead lying in their sepulchres not praise the Lord, but also “they that go down to hell;” the spirits who have gone down to the infernal regions; they, too, will not praise God for temporal blessings they cannot now possibly enjoy. “But we that live,” and are in the enjoyment of such blessings, “bless the Lord from this time now and forever,” through all succeeding ages. Applying the passage to the Christians under the New Testament, we are to bear in mind that “the heaven of heaven” means that supreme part of heaven where the children of God reside; of which the Apostle says, “For we know that if our earthly house of this habitation be dissolved, that we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in heaven;” that house God chose for himself, “but the earth,” this visible world, “he has given to the children of men,” as distinguished from the children of God; and, therefore, he adds, “The dead shall not praise thee, O Lord;” that is, they who, though living bodily, are spiritually dead, they will not praise you; “nor any of them that go down to hell;” who have died in their sins, and have gone to eternal punishment; “but we that live” the life of grace, adhering to thee through faith and charity, citizens of our heavenly country, though we are detained here for awhile below upon earth, we, I repeat, “bless the Lord,” and we “bless him forever.”

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 26

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 29, 2019

Psalm 26
David’s prayer to God in his distress, to be delivered, that he may come to worship him in his tabernacle

1 Judge me, O Lord, for I have walked in my innocence: and I have put my trust in the Lord, and shall not be weakened.

David, having a misunderstanding with the king, appeals to the King of kings, there being none other to whom he could appeal. “Judge me, O Lord.” Be you, O Lord, my judge; let not Saul take it on him, but do it yourself. “For I have walked in my innocence,” with confidence I challenge God’s judgment, because my conscience which God alone beholds, does not reprove me, “For I have walked in my innocence.” I have led an innocent life. “I have put my trust in the Lord, and shall not be weakened.” Trusting in God’s justice, I will not fail, but will conquer.

2 Prove me, O Lord, and try me; burn my reins and my heart.

Having stated that he led an innocent life, he proves it by the testimony of God himself, who neither can deceive nor be deceived; for he does not tell God to “prove and try him,” in order to come at truth of which he was ignorant, but that he may make known to others what he in secret sees. David then, on the strength of a good conscience, and in the sincerity of his heart, speaks to the Lord, saying. “Prove me and try me;” search with the greatest diligence, examine the inmost and deepest recesses of my heart; nay more, “burn my reins and my heart,” examine my thoughts and desires as carefully as gold, when tested by the fire. I do not think David asks here to be proved and tried by adversity, or that “his reins and heart” should be scorched by the fire of tribulation, when he seems to be asking for the very contrary; but he asks, as I stated before, to be “proved and tried” by a most minute examination and inspection; and God having the most minute and exact knowledge of everything, that he may declare to the world the innocence of his servant, and thus silence the calumny of his enemies.

3 For thy mercy is before my eyes; and I am well pleased with thy truth.

He assigns a reason for wishing to be “proved and tried,” inasmuch as his conscience encouraged him therein, as if he said, I beg of you to prove me, for I have trod thy paths, for “all thy ways are mercy and truth,” Psalm 24; and “thy mercy is before my eyes,” which I always look upon and consider, in the hope of being able to imitate it, and to act by my neighbors in conformity with it; “And I am well pleased with thy truth.” It has pleased me, and I have therefore lived according to it.

4 I have not sat with the council of vanity: neither will I go in with the doers of unjust things.
5 I have hated the assembly of the malignant; and with the wicked I will not sit.

Theodoret, in my opinion, most properly says, that these words apply to the idolatrous assemblies of the gentiles in their temples, of which David had the greatest abhorrence, and which he witnessed while in exile with the king of the Philistines. Everything, he says, here appears to be put in opposition to what he says in other parts of the Psalm, for instance, “I have loved, O Lord, the beauty of thy house;” and a little before that, “I will compass thy altar, O Lord;” and herein after, “In the churches will I bless thee, O Lord.” He calls the assembly of the idolaters the “council of vanity,” for what can be more vain? What, more vain than idols, false images? As the apostle says, “We know that an idol is nothing in the world,” 1 Cor. 7. Throughout the Scriptures idols are called vain, or vanities, Deut. 32, “They have provoked me with that which was no God and have angered me with their vanities;” and 1 Kings 12, “And turned not aside after vain things, which shall never profit you, nor deliver you, because they are vain.” See also 3 Kings 16; Jeremias 2, and various other passages. The same idolaters are styled, “Doers of unjust things,” because the height of injustice is to give to creatures the worship due to God alone. “The council of vanity,” in one verse is called the “Assembly of the malignant” in the next; “Doers of unjust things” in the same verse are called the “Wicked,” a name peculiarly appropriate to idolaters, in the following verse.

6 I will wash my hands among the innocent; and will compass thy altar, O Lord:

Having expressed his hatred of the conventicles of the idolatrous infidels, among whom he was then living, he adds, that he has, on the contrary, the most intense love for the tabernacle of the Lord and the assembly of the saints; and briefly states what he means to do when, through God’s assistance, he shall have been called from exile to his own country. “I will wash my hands among the innocent; and will compass thy altar, O Lord.” Before I go into thy temple, I will do what all pious people are wont to do: “I will wash my hands,” and go about your altar joining those in the act of it, in hymns of praise. For the meaning. Some will have it, that David alludes to the washing of hands, as a proof or sign of one’s innocence, as Pilate washed his hands before the Jews, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this just man;” as if he said, See, I have washed my hands, do not pollute them with the blood of this just man; and I, therefore, dare not condemn him. We often use a similar expression when we wish to get out of a thing. We say, “I wash my hands out of it.” I consider, however, the sense more likely to be, and more in keeping with the rest of the chapter, to consider David alluding to a custom of the Jews, who, previous to their entering into the tabernacle, purified both themselves and the victims they offered, which purifications or lotions, are called by the apostle Heb. 9, “Divers washings and justifications of the flesh;” and, as those external lotions ought to be the sign of internal purity, David, therefore, says, “I will wash my hands among the innocent,” as a sign of my real internal purity, as an innocent person would wash them; and not with the hypocrites, who do so with clean hands and unclean heart. The expression, “I will compass thy altar,” some understand of the number of victims; but I rather think it refers to those who in hymns of praise will go about the altar, as the following Psalm has it, “I have gone round, and have offered up a sacrifice of jubilation;” and in the very next verse to this we have, “That I may hear the voice of thy praise; and tell of all thy wondrous works.”

7 That I may hear the voice of thy praise: and tell of all thy wondrous works.

An explanation of the expression, “I will compass thy altar, O Lord,” that with the choir of worshipers I may hear, and join in singing the praises of the Lord. St. Augustine, arguing against the Pelagians, proves, with great accuracy and piety, from this passage, that they only hear the voice of God’s praise who refer all their actions, and all they possess, to God’s free gift. For the hearts of the just, “who have ears to hear,” are always devoted to God’s praise, thanking him for all their own merits and virtues; whereas, on the contrary, those who presume on their own justice, and are swollen with the idea of their own perfections, as if they had them by their own exertions, and not from God, do not hear “the voice of thy praise,” but the voice of their own praise.

8 I have loved, O Lord, the beauty of thy house; and the place where thy glory dwelleth.

Nothing gave him more trouble in his exile than the being unable to see the tabernacle of the Lord. His mind, deeply inflamed with the love of God, looked upon no spot on the earth more beautiful than that where God was wont to show himself visibly. The tabernacle that contained the ark of the covenant was called, “The house of God,” “the place of the habitation of his glory,” because a bright cloud would frequently descend thereon, to signify God’s presence there; the God “who inhabiteth light inaccessible,” Jam. 1:6, and because there, too, was the oracle from which God gave his responses.

9 Take not away my soul, O God, with the wicked: nor my life with bloody men:

Having appealed to God, at first, as a judge, and having exposed his innocence, of which God was witness, he concludes by a prayer, that judgment may be delivered in his favor, “Take not away my soul, O God, with the wicked.” Do not condemn me as you do the wicked; “My soul” means me, as it does frequently through the Scriptures; and by “Bloody men,” he means those who, like so many homicides, were persecuting him.

10 In whose hands are iniquities: their right hand is filled with gifts.

He tells us who are the wicked and the bloody men of whom he spoke in the foregoing verse; they are those who receive bribes for unfair judgments, glancing at the sins of those in power, the judges. With much point he says, “In whose hands are iniquities;” attributing the iniquity to that part of the body that touches the bribe, to show the bribe was the cause of the iniquity.

11 But as for me, I have walked in my innocence: redeem me, and have mercy on me.

He repeats his reason for not being condemned with the wicked, namely, because “He walked in his innocence;” that is, led an innocent life. “Redeem me, and have mercy on me.” Deliver me from my present troubles, and then have mercy on me, that I may not fall into them again. The words “redeem” and “deliver,” most frequently have the same meaning in the Scriptures, unless, perhaps, the Holy Ghost may insinuate that any deliverance of the elect from tribulation may be called redemption, inasmuch as such is effected through the blood of Christ our Redeemer.

12 My foot hath stood in the direct way: in the churches I will bless thee, O Lord.

These words have reference to the concluding expression in the last verse, “have mercy on me.” I have asked to be delivered from my present trouble by reason of the rectitude of my life; I ask for future mercy, because “My foot hath stood;” that is to say, is firmly fixed and planted in the direct, honest road, and, therefore, I cannot easily leave the straight path of thy law; and, in thanksgiving for it, “I will bless thee” and praise thee “in the churches,” the assemblies of the pious.

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 106

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 22, 2019

PSALM 106
ALL ARE INVITED TO GIVE THANKS TO GOD FOR HIS PERPETUAL PROVIDENCE OVER MEN

Explanation of the Psalm

1–3 This is the preface of the Psalm, in which David exhorts all who have experienced the mercies of the Lord to declare his praise, and especially to give glory to the Lord himself; because he is truly good and merciful, and his mercy never fails. He specially invites the faithful, redeemed by the blood of his only begotten from the bondage of a most powerful enemy, the prince of darkness, who held them in bonds at his own discretion, whom he afterwards collected and gathered together to be one people, one Church, one kingdom, children of his delight, not from Egypt or Babylon, as formerly were the Jews, but “from the rising and the setting of the sun, from the north and from the sea;” that is, from the four quarters of the world, as we read in Jn. 10. “And other sheep I have that are not of the fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one fold and one shepherd;” and in chap. 11, “For Jesus should die for the nation, and not only for the nation but to gather together into one the children of God that were dispersed.” Though all the faithful, whether Jew or gentile, are specially invited, still the invitation applies in general to all men who may have been at any time, or in any place whatever, delivered by the Lord from any manner of trouble; for redemption is frequently used in the Scripture for any manner of delivery or salvation, without any price having been paid for it. It also applies to those who may have been delivered from the hand—that is, from the power of any enemy; and, finally, to those who may have been delivered from any exile or dispersion in any extremity of the world, and brought back to their country and reunited to their people. The whole world is included in the verse, “from the rising and from the setting of the sun, from the north and from the sea;” in other words, from east to west, from north to south.

4–9 This is the first part of the Psalm, containing an explanation of the first affliction. There are four afflictions of the body common to all, and there are also four spiritual afflictions. The corporeal afflictions are hunger and thirst, caused by the infecundity of the earth, or by want of rain; that is to say, from some natural cause extrinsic to the sufferers; secondly, captivity, caused by the violence of others, that is, from some voluntary, extrinsic source; thirdly, disease or sickness, which arises from some intrinsic source, from bad constitution; and fourthly, the danger of shipwreck, caused by an external, natural cause, as also by an internal and voluntary cause, namely, man’s curiosity, which, not content with the solidity of the earth, must needs make trial of the liquid deep. There are also four spiritual afflictions, called by theologians natural wounds, wounds left in us through original sin; they are ignorance, concupiscence, bad temper, and malice; to which are opposed prudence, temperance, patience, and justice, which are called the four cardinal virtues. In this first division of the Psalm, then, the prophet sings of God’s mercy in delivering us from the first of these afflictions, including both corporal and spiritual; and though he appears to allude barely to the hunger and thirst the Jews suffered in the desert, still, the principles laid down by him are universal, and are applicable to all; and thus, he says, “They wandered in a wilderness, in a place without water.” Many, in quest of their country, have wandered through a pathless country, and one without water, as occurred to the Jews for forty years. “They found not the way of a city for their habitation,” after straying for a long time, and in all directions, they found no way leading to a city where they may safely rest and dwell. “They were hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them.” In their wanderings they met with neither meat nor drink, and they in consequence, all but gave up the ghost. “And they cried to the Lord in their tribulation;” when all human aid failed them they appealed to God, “and he delivered them out of their distresses.” He was not found wanting when they appealed to him, but with that mercy that characterizes him, he delivered them. And he led them into the right way, that they might go to a city of habitation;” the mode he chose for delivering them was to show them the shortest possible way to the city where he dwelt himself. “Let the mercies of the Lord give glory to him.” It is, therefore, only right and just that such benefits conferred on man by God in his mercy, should be praised and acknowledged by all, as true favors from God; “and his wonderful works to the children of men;” the wonderful things he did for the liberation of mankind should also be duly praised and acknowledged. “For he hath satisfied the empty soul.” Because he provided the most extraordinary food, prepared by the hands of the Angels, for a lot of hungry people in the desert, nigh exhausted for want of food. This, as we have already said, is most applicable to the food provided for the Jews; but there can be no doubt but the prophet meant, by this example, to teach all those who have been rescued from ignorance and from the misery of thirst and hunger, that they owe their deliverance to God, and that they should, therefore, thank his mercy. And there can be no doubt but the prophet had specially before his mind that ignorance of the way of salvation, under which so many labor, and who stray about, as it were in a desert, hungering and thirsting for the knowledge of truth, the source of wisdom and of prudence. We naturally look for happiness. There is no one that does not look for it, and, therefore, for the way that leads to it; however, many, preoccupied by the thoughts and the desires of passing good, look for happiness where it is not to be found; nay, even look upon that to be happiness which is anything but happiness; and when they know not in what it consists, naturally know not the way that leads to it. Thus, in their strayings and wanderings, they never find, though they are always hungering and thirsting for the city of their true habitation; because the longings of an immortal soul, capable of appreciating supreme happiness, can never be content with the things of this world, miserable and transitory as they are; while those whom God “hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy,” and “gathered out of the countries,” beginning to feel their own blindness, through the great gift of God’s mercy, “they cry to the Lord,” and are heard by him; they are “led into the right way, that leads to the city;” they know that the kingdom of God is their ultimate end, and that justice is the means of acquiring it; “hungering and thirsting,” then, for justice, they run to the fountain of grace, and, refreshed from that fountain, they arrive at the heavenly city, where they are filled and satisfied with all manner of good things, so that they never hunger or thirst again for all eternity.

10–16 This is the second part of the Psalm, in which he reviews the deliverance from the second affliction, corporal as well as spiritual. The second corporal affliction consists in captivity, through which poor creatures are shut up in dark prisons, bound with chains, and loaded with manacles. He seems to allude to the captivity of the Jews, under various persecutors, in the time of the judges, or perhaps under Pharao; for David does not seem to have taken much trouble in relating matters chronologically; the more so as what he states here is applicable to all captives, to all in chains and fetters, who may at any time have been liberated through the mercy of the Lord. “Such as sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, bound in want and in iron;” that is to say, I have known others who were taken by the enemy and were shut up in loathsome prisons and dense darkness, and were loaded with chains and reduced to beggary, “because they had exasperated the words of God, and provoked the counsel of the Most High.” These were justly afflicted and punished in that manner, because they disregarded God’s precepts and despised his advice. “Exasperating God’s words” means provoking him to anger when he speaks or commands, which is done by those who do not keep his commandments. They, too, may be said to “exasperate God’s words” who provoke his very commandments to anger; for, as the commandments of God crown those that observe them, so they punish those that transgress them; and in this manner they who transgress the commandments provoke them against themselves. There is a certain amount of figurative language in the whole; for “God’s words” mean God, in his discourse or his commands; and the word “exasperating” means God’s punishment being as grievous as if he were capable of being exasperated. A similar figure of speech appears in the following sentence: “and provoked the counsel of the Most High;” for the “counsel of the Most High” must be understood as applying to God in his goodness, with the best intentions, irritated by those who opposed them; or “provoked” may be rendered as condemning or despising, for those who do either provoke, that is, excite to anger. “And their heart was humbled with labor;” their pride was brought down by captivity, chains, and fetters. They are just the things to do it. “They were weakened, and there was none to help them.” They were not able to resist their enemies; and thus, having no one to help them, were led off in captivity. “Then they cried to the Lord” etc.; then they began to implore the divine assistance, to free them as well from their dark prisons as from their chains and fetters; and, to show the extent of their obligations to him, he adds, “he broke gates of brass and burst iron bars,” to show how firmly secured they bad been, and what power is required to liberate them; and thus, on the whole, they are proved to have been delivered from a most severe and wretched captivity. Now, the second spiritual affliction consists in the concupiscence of this world—such as its goods, its wealth, its pleasure, which, like so many chains and fetters, so tie a man down that, though he is fully aware of true happiness existing in God alone, and that, while he remains here below, he must mortify his members, still he remains a captive, without being able to stir, if the grace of God will not set him free. The beginning of his freedom must have its source in his own humility. He must feel that he is a captive, that he has no strength in him, that his heart has been humbled in his labors, and, satisfied of there being no one able to help him but the one heavenly Father, he must, with a contrite and humble heart, with much interior sorrow, exclaim, Lord, I suffer violence; look on me, and have mercy on me. “Unhappy man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” The mercy of the Father will most surely be at hand to bring the captive from his prison, to burst his fetters, so that, on gaining his liberty, he can with joy exclaim, “Lord, thou hast broken my bonds, I will sacrifice to thee the sacrifice of praise.”

17–22 The third part of the Psalm, treating of the third corporeal affliction, which is a most severe disease and languor, such as that of the children of Israel, when God afflicted them with a great plague, through the fiery serpents, so that numbers of them were constantly dying; but no sooner did they cry out to God than they were delivered; and, in like manner, no matter how anyone, or to what extent they may be struck down by sickness or disease, if they will seriously, from the bottom of their heart, in firm faith, and with the other requisites, invoke the Almighty, they will most assuredly be delivered. To enter into particulars, especially as regards expressions not explained before. “He took them out of the way of their iniquity; for they were brought low for their injustices.” We must, of necessity, supply something here; for instance, God saw some of them lying prostrate, “and took them,” that is, raised them up, “out of the way of their iniquity,” in which they were miserably plunged; “for they were brought low for their injustices,” even to the very earth; “their soul abhorred all manner of meat; and they drew nigh even to the gates of death.” The disease must have been very severe when they refused the food necessary to support life, so that death must have, in consequence, been actually at their doors. “He sent his word, and healed them.” And he explains how, by the will or by the command of God alone, without the brazen serpent, or any other created thing; not that things created, such as drugs and medicines, are of no use, but that they have their virtue and efficacy from God, and without his cooperation they are of no value; but God, of himself, without their intervention or application, by his sole word and command, can heal and cure all manner of diseases; in which sense we are to understand that passage in Wisdom, “For it was neither herb nor mollifying plaster that healed them, but thy word, O Lord, which healeth all things;” and, in a few verses before, speaking of those who had been bitten by the fiery serpents, and were cured by looking on the brazen one, he says, “For he that turned to it was not healed by that which he saw, but by the Savior of all.” David speaks figuratively when he says, “He sent his word, and healed them;” as if his word were a messenger or an ambassador on the occasion; unless, perhaps, he alludes to the mission of the Word incarnate, through whom many were healed of their corporeal diseases, and without whom nobody could be healed of their spiritual diseases. “For there is no other name under heaven given to men whereby we must be saved.” The third spiritual affliction consists in the infirmity or weakness and frailty of human nature, corrupted by sin. There are many who understand thoroughly what they ought to do, and are anxious to do it; but they either have no strength, or have not sufficient strength to do it, until they get it from on high. They are also, not infrequently, so affected by a sort of languor or listlessness, that their soul loathes all manner of food; not that they are led into any error, or seduced by any evil concupiscence, but they take no delight in God’s word, they know not what it is to feel any heavenly aspirations, and they run the risk of suffering from hunger, not for want of wherewith to satisfy themselves, but from sheer fastidiousness; and such temptations are neither trifling nor uncommon. They have great need of “crying to the Lord,” to rectify their bad taste, and bring them to have a desire for the milk of divine consolation; and when they shall have begun to relish the things that are from above, and to taste how sweet is the Lord, let them not take the merit of it to themselves; but “Let the mercies of the Lord give glory to him; let them sacrifice the sacrifice of praise, and declare his works with joy;” for it clearly is the work of God, and not of man, to make man, accustomed to nothing but the things of this earth, and to what he sees, to have an ardent desire for and feel a sweet relish in the things of the other world, that are hidden from him.

23–32 This is the fourth part of the Psalm, in which God is praised for his care of those that are in danger at sea. No example of such danger, previous to David’s time, occurs in the Scriptures, but subsequent to David, we have that of Jonas, of the Apostles, and of St. Paul. “They that go down to the sea in ships.” They who cross the deep, and are engaged either in rowing, reefing, or setting the sails, know from experience many wonderful works of God, that many know nothing whatever of, or if they do, have it only from hearsay; for instance, the fury of the storm, the raging and roaring of the waves, the immense extent and depth of the sea, the constant and imminent danger that surrounds them, and the fear that will so lay hold on them betimes, as to make the hearts of the bravest quail. “He said the word and there arose a storm of wind;” God spoke, and the storm, in obedience to its Creator, at once arose, sprung up, and, in consequence, “the waves were lifted up;” so that they seemed almost to touch the skies; and, ultimately, to expose the lowest depths of the sea; “their soul pined away with evils;” fear so laid hold on them, that they became incapable of any manner of exertion; nay more, “They were troubled and reeled like a drunken man and all their wisdom was swallowed up;” a most natural description of the state of those in danger from shipwreck; they lose all presence of mind, can adopt no fixed counsel, and, consequently, cannot act upon any; “and all their wisdom,” in steering and righting a ship, if ever they had any, seems to have entirely taken leave of them. “And they cried to the Lord in their affliction.” This verse, occurring now for the fourth time, has been already explained, and the other verses do not seem to need any.—Now, the fourth spiritual affliction is that malice of the will, which principally consists in pride, that is the queen of vice. And, in fact, when the blasts of pride begin to play upon the sea of the human heart then the billows of its desires are raised up even to the very heavens. We are all acquainted with the language of the prince of the sons of pride, “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God, I will ascend above the height of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.” It was by him the giants of old were inspired to set about building the tower of Babel, that was to have reached the sky. The descendants of those people are they who seek to add kingdoms to kingdoms, and empires to empires; and to whose ambition there is no bounds; whereas, if they would enter into themselves and carefully consider the fearful storms of reflection, suspicion, fear, desires, presumption and despair, that continually harass them, and must, finally, overwhelm them, they would undoubtedly have cried to God, who would in his pity and mercy have delivered them from such a mass of evils; for he would have infused the spirit of his Son into their hearts, to teach them meekness and humility, that the raging billows of their desires, being thus composed, they may find rest for their souls, and be brought into the harbor of his good will; into that harbor of peace and tranquillity that is naturally coveted by all mankind. And this being the greatest favor of God’s mercy, they would naturally chant, “Let the mercies of the Lord give glory to him, and his wonderful works to the children of men.”

33–34 This is the second part of the Psalm. After having sung of the mercy of God in warding off the four afflictions, he now praises him for the omnipotence and providence through which he sometimes changes the nature of things, proving himself thereby to be their Maker and Ruler. He first says that God sometimes “turned rivers into a wilderness, and the sources of waters into dry ground,” that is, that when it pleased him, he dried up entire rivers, and caused the places inundated by them to become perfectly dry; “a fruitful land into barrenness,” which is intelligible enough, “for the wickedness of them that dwell therein,” as a punishment for the wickedness of its inhabitants; an example of which we have in Genesis, where we read, “And Lot lifting up his eyes saw all the country about the Jordan, which was watered throughout, before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, as the paradise of the Lord,” and yet this beautiful and fertile country, a paradise in itself, was dried up by sulphur and fire from heaven, and condemned to everlasting sterility.

35–38 On the other hand, God, when he chose, “turned a wilderness into pools of waters;” caused rivers to flow in desert lands, where they were unknown, and made streams of pure water to run where they never ran before. That made the land habitable; men began to build there, to till the land, and to reap its fruits; and thus man and beast began to multiply thereon. It is not easy to determine what land the prophet alludes to; for, though God brought water from the rock for his people, they did not tarry nor settle there, nor build houses there; and when he brought them into the land of promise, there were rivers, cities, houses, and fields all ready for them. I am, therefore, of opinion that the prophet refers to some early colonization subsequent to the deluge; for, as well as he turned the fertile plains of Sodom and Gomorrah into a wilderness, so he also caused rivers to run, and cities to spring up in places that were previously waste and desolate. Isaias seems to have this passage in view when he says, “I will turn the desert into pools of waters and the impassable land into streams of waters;” and St. Jerome says that he therein alludes to the condition of the gentiles, who were at one time desert and uncultivated, without faith, without the law, without the prophets or the priesthood; but were afterwards to be highly nourished, through Christ, with the gifts of the Holy Ghost; and, therefore, St. Augustine very properly applies this passage to the synagogue, as contrasted with the Church. The synagogue, that one timed abounded in the waters of the word of God, and like a fertile soil, produced its prophets and priests, had its altars, sacrifices, miracles, and visions, now desert and barren, is turned into dry ground, with not one of those things; while, on the other hand, the Church of the gentiles, from having been dry and barren, is turned into pools of water, is become most fertile, replete with the choicest fruit, and has come to be the people of the Lord, the Church of the living God, a holy nation, a royal priesthood, where alone is to be found the true sacrifice, true priests, true miracles, true holiness, true wisdom, and, finally, all the gifts of the Holy Ghost.

39–43 The prophet now teaches us that there is nothing on earth stable or permanent, for they who have been at one time blessed by God, and multiplied through his blessing, in a little time after have been, by reason of their sins, cut away and reduced to nothing; and they who abound in all the good things of this world have, for the same reason, been driven to the direst extremities; and such has proved to be the case, not only with ordinary mortals, but even with princes whose sins have caused God to bring them to be condemned, by his having deprived them of wisdom and prudence, and thus, in consequence, making many and grievous mistakes in all their affairs. However, at the same time, men of honor and virtue were to be found, raised up by God from poverty, and fed and nourished by him as his own sheep. Hence, ultimately, divine providence caused the just to rejoice, and the wicked to be confounded. What has been said, in general, regarding God’s providence towards mankind, applies also to his special providence in regard of the Church, which grew up in a short time; and soon after was lessened, harassed, and afflicted by heresy and schisms; “her princes,” that is, her bishops and priests, were held in contempt, for numbers of them fell back from the path of their predecessors, who had set such an example of holiness and piety to the people over whom they had been placed. However, the Church was not abandoned to such an extent altogether as not to leave a considerable number of princes, and bishops, and priests, and holy laics, whom God enriched with spiritual favors, and whom, as being his own sheep, he led to the choicest pastures, and made them increase and multiply. To come now to the text. “Then they were brought to be few,” after increasing to such an extent, their numbers began to be reduced “and they were afflicted with the troubles of evil and sorrow;” after having had such a flow of prosperity they began to feel sad reverses. “Contempt was poured forth upon their princes.” One of the greatest misfortunes that could befall any people is to have their rulers, whether secular or ecclesiastical, objects of contempt. “And he caused them to wander where there was no passing, and out of the way.” The reason why they were despised was, because the princes aforesaid, having been deserted by the light of grace, in consequence of their own sins, as well as those of their people, did not walk in the right way; that is to say they led a bad and immoral life, scandalized the people by their bad example, and made bad laws in favor of the wicked, and against the just. Observe, that when God is said to procure those things, he does not do it directly: he does it indirectly, by withdrawing the light of his grace. “And he helped the poor out of poverty.” As well as he suffered the proud and haughty princes to fall, and rendered them objects of contempt, so, on the contrary, he raised up the poor and the humble, “and made him families like a flock of sheep;” multiplied his posterity, blessed and protected them as a shepherd would his own sheep. “The just shall see and shall rejoice: and all iniquity shall stop her mouth.” The consequence of this providence of God will be, that the just will rejoice and express their joy in praising and glorifying God; and “all iniquity,” all the malicious and the wicked will be struck dumb, and will not presume to offer the slightest opposition. This we sometimes see in partial instances; but it will be fully developed and made apparent only on the day of general judgment.

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Podcast Study of the Book of Revelation

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 5, 2019

First Class:

 

Second Class:

 

Third Class:

 

Fourth Class:

 

Fifth Class:

 

Sixth Class:

 

Seventh Class:

 

Eighth Class:

 

Ninth Class:

 

Tenth Class:

 

Eleventh Class:

 

Twelfth Class:

 

Thirteenth Class:

 

Fourteenth Class:

 

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Acts 4:1-12

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 13, 2019

In this chapter is recorded the violence offered the Apostles by the Jewish authorities for preaching to the people (Acts 4:1–3). The conversion of large numbers (Acts 4:4). The questioning of the Apostles by the leading men of the Jewish priesthood (Acts 4:5–8). Peter’s address, his vindication of his conduct, and exposition of doctrine (Acts 4:8–13). Consultation among the assembled authorities as to how the Apostles were to be treated (Acts 4:13–20). The liberation of the Apostles out of fear of the people, and on account of the incontestable evidence of the miracle (Acts 4:21–22). The solemn, united prayer to God on the part of the assembled faithful (Acts 4:24–30). The effect of this solemn prayer fully manifested (Acts 4:31). The edifying manner of life pursued by the first Christians, their charitable disinterestedness (Acts 4:32–37).

Acts 4:1 And as they were speaking to the people the priests and the officer of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them,

“Priests.” These likely belonged to the Sanhedrim. They seemed to possess some authority to prevent the Apostles from preaching in the Temple.

“The officer of the Temple” very likely, denotes the captain of the guard stationed in the Tower, Antonia, for the purpose of preserving order and preventing tumults in the Temple, especially on the occasion of Great Festivities. The assembling of the people round the Apostles, after the miraculous cure of the lame man, might lead to a riot.

“The Sadducees” (See Matthew 3:7, 22:23, Commentary). They were a kind of freethinking malcontents among the Jews. They denied the existence of spirits, and the spirituality, as also the immortality of the soul. They were particularly opposed to the doctrine of the Resurrection. Although generally at variance with the Pharisees and the heads of the Jewish church, they still joined them against our Lord and his Apostles (See Matthew 3:7).

“Came upon them,” by surprise and unexpectedly, while speaking to the people.

Acts 4:2 Being grieved that they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead:

“Grieved,” in Greek, means, vexed, annoyed; “taught,” &c, thus causing their own influence and prestige to be lessened.

“The resurrection of the dead,” the general resurrection of all men, of which the Resurrection of Jesus, which they constantly proclaimed, was the model, the exemplary and efficient cause. This was very mortifying to the Sadducees, who saw that the preaching of the Apostles on this point, so opposed to their cherished tenets, was making head among the people. They, therefore, united with the priests in endeavouring to arrest the progress of the Gospel.

Acts 4:3 And they laid hands upon them and put them in hold till the next day: for it was now evening.

Forcibly seizing on them, they put them in safe keeping, either in prison or in charge of some guard “till next day,” when they were to be brought before the Council. It was now too late in the day to convene a Council.

Acts 4:4 But many of them who had heard the word believed: and the number of the men was made five thousand.

The effect of this persecution was to increase the number of believers among the Jews. “Was made five thousand.” This form of expression would seem to signify, not that this number were just now converted and assembled in Solomon’s porch; but, that by the accession of the “many” now converted, to the number of converts already existing, the entire Church now amounted to this number, which shows the wonderful power of God’s grace in so short a time after Pentecost. The interval, though not stated, must be very short.

Acts 4:5 And it came to pass on the morrow, that their princes and ancients and scribes were gathered together in Jerusalem.

The assembly of the Sanhedrim, or great council of the nation, which wielded such authority, probably, the first time, since they condemned our Lord, shows the alarm caused the heads of the Jewish Church by the successes of the Apostles. Hence, they leave nothing undone to stop them. For a full account of the Synedrium, or, as the Talmudists termed it, the Sanhedrin (See Matthew 26:57, Commentary). Seventy-one (72) judges constituted the Sanhedrim, the High Priest being always President. It was composed of the High Priests, that is, such as enjoyed the dignity of High Priests, together with the heads of the twenty-four (24) classes into which the Priests were divided—“the ancients or elders, the chiefs of the Tribes and heads of families; the Scribes” (See Matthew 26:3). There is no mention of the High Priests here. Hence, the description of the Sanhedrim here is incomplete, though, of course, the High Priests formed no inconsiderable portion of the assembly. It was before these same men our Blessed Lord was arraigned; it was they handed him over to Pilate (Matthew 26:50). It was before the same that Peter denied our Lord (Matthew 26:70. &c.).

“In Jerusalem”—in Greek, “into Jerusalem,” conveying that such members of the Sanhedrim as were not actually at the time in Jerusalem, repaired thither for the trial of the Apostles.

Acts 4:6 And Annas the high priest and Caiphas and John and Alexander: and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest.

Having referred, in a general way, to the Sanhedrim, he now mentions some of its most prominent members, “Annas, Caiphas,” &c (See Luke 3). “John and Alexander,” men clearly of eminence among the body, “and as many,” &c., may denote members of the family of Annas and Caiphas, or those nearly related to them.

Acts 4:7 And setting them in the midst, they asked: By what power or by what name, have you done this?

“And setting,” &c., assigning them as culprits a place where all the judges or assembled members of the Sanhedrim might easily see them.

“What power,” from God, or any other source? “Name.” What name did you invoke in order to perform this work? Although they knew it was by the power and invocation of the name of Jesus, still they hoped the Apostles might say it was by the Divine power, without specially referring to the name of Jesus; and thus, some confusion as to the distinct name of Jesus might arise (St. Chrysostom, Hom. x. in Acts).

“You,” is derisive. You, who are of no consideration.

“This” cure. They would not express what it was.

Acts 4:8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said to them: Ye princes of the people and ancients, hear.

“Filled with the Holy Ghost” denotes a particular actual grace given him on this occasion, strongly influencing him; different or distinct from the habitual graces given him on Pentecost Sunday. Ordinary and habitual grace would not suffice for heroic deeds. A new actual grace is required. Thus, it is said of Sampson, on occasion of his wonderful displays of strength, “the spirit of the Lord came strongly upon him” (Judges 15:14).

How different is Peter’s conduct from what it had been on a former occasion. Then, trembling at the empty chidings of a silly maid, he denied his Lord. Now, as head of the Apostolic College, boldly confronting the united authority of the Jews, he makes reparation for his former crime by loudly proclaiming his Divine Messiahship, preaching the glorious Resurrection of the Crucified, whose power they were after witnessing in the miraculous cure of the lame man. Showing the deference due to their office, he respectfully addresses them as representatives of the supreme authority among the Jews, “Princes of the people,” &c. Before the same Council, the same men, in the same place and city, he repaires the scandal he gave in denying his Divine Master.

Acts 4:9 If we this day are examined concerning the good deed done to the infirm man, by what means he hath been made whole:

“If we this day,” &c. If notwithstanding the evidence of the fact, we are to be treated as criminals, brought to trial and subjected to judicial examination for the good deed of having bestowed the blessing of a perfect cure on the infirm man—which should be rather a subject of praise—and called to render an account of how “he has been made whole.” “If” conveys surprise at such an extraordinary proceeding, a matter scarcely credible.

Acts 4:10 Be it known to you all and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God hath raised from the dead, even by him, this man standeth here before you, whole.

As you ask by what name we did this, be it known to you and all the world, it was by invoking the name and exercising the power “of our Lord Jesus Christ of Nazareth.” The term of Nazareth was the epithet by which our Lord was known and scornfully referred to by the Jews. “Crucified,” “raised from the dead.” The contrast is so striking. They put him to death. God raised him up from the dead. The accusers now become the accused. With singular intrepidity and courage, St. Peter heretofore so timid, charges them with the greatest crime that could be perpetrated, the murder of their own long-expected Messiah and deliverer, putting to death the author of life.

“Standeth here,” &c. It may be that the cured man was imprisoned or guarded with the Apostles, and, very likely, brought forward at the trial to confront them.

Acts 4:11 This is the stone which was rejected by you the builders, which is become the head of the corner.

He shows that the ignominious death and Resurrection of our Lord was predicted by the Prophets. He thus strengthens his argument, especially with the Jews, who valued so much the oracles of their inspired Prophets. The first part of Psalm 118, from which the quotation is taken, literally refers to David himself. The second part, also quoted, could refer to our Lord only, in its literal sense, and is quoted by our Lord as applying to Himself (Matthew 21:42). Here is a metaphorical allusion to architecture; skilful architects place in the corners of a building the largest and most binding stone, in order to unite and sustain the two walls of the building. It thus gets the most important place. St. Peter applies this prediction to our Lord, who was scornfully rejected by the Jewish rulers, the Priests, and Scribes, the builders of the Synagogue, who should labour for the construction of God’s spiritual house, and should, therefore, be the first to receive our Lord. But while they rejected Him, God placed Him as the head “corner stone,” sustaining, upholding, and fusing into one the two peoples, Jews and Gentiles, who were to form the Church. He united the old and new dispensations. In Him all the elect of old were justified, no less than the children of the New Law. To this our Lord alludes (Matthew 21:42. See Commentary on).

Isaias had predicted it (Isa 28:16). See also 1 Peter 2–4.

Acts 4:12 Neither is there salvation in any other. For there is no other name under heaven given to men, whereby we must be saved.

Having assured them in figurative terms, that Christ was the Messiah, St. Peter now, in language devoid of all figure, adds, as a consequence, that in him only can man find eternal Salvation.

Name” often signifies person or being. No one else can save us from the consequences of sin, viz., hell and damnation; and bestow on us eternal joy and peace in Heaven—the chief object of our Lord’s Mission. The Apostle avails himself of this corporal cure to place before the assembled Sanhedrim the greater cure and salvation from Hell which our Lord came to bring about.

Our Lord is frequently marked out, “given” as the source of this greater and universal Salvation. (John 3:16), (1 Cor. 3:5), (1 Tim. 2:6), &c.

“Must be saved” in the present order of Divine Providence, whereby our Lord is constituted the only source of eternal life and salvation.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Romans Chapter 16

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 4, 2019

ANALYSIS OF ROMANS CHAPTR 16
Scripture links are to the Douay Rheims translation

In this chapter, the Apostle commends to the Romans, Phœbe, the Deaconess of the Church of Cenchreæ, the bearer of this Epistle, and a benefactress to himself and several others (Rom 16:1-2).

He salutes many of the saints of Rome, and mentions their names with much praise. He exhorts them to note the authors of scandal and dissension, and to shun them; for, such persons are solely actuated by motives of selfishness, only serving themselves and not Jesus Christ. By shunning these, they will preserve their faith without any admixture of error. He prays for them and promises them the divine assistance against such impostors (Rom 16:20). He mentions the names of those who send their salutations to the Romans (Rom 16:21-23), and finally, after blessing them, he closes the Epistle with a doxology, in which he extols the attributes of God (Rom 16:24-27.

COMMENTARY ON ROMANS CHAPTER 16
Text in purple indicates Fr. MacEvilly’s paraphrase of the scripture he is commenting on

Rom 16:1. But I commend to you Phœbe, our sister in the Lord, who discharges the functions of deaconess in the Church of Cenchreæ (and who is the bearer of this Epistle).

Our sister,” in the Christian faith and religion, “who is in the ministry of the Church,” &c. The Greek, ουσαν και διακονον της εκκλησιας, is literally rendered, who is also a Deaconess of the Church, &c.; also, is found in the Codex Vaticanus, but wanting in the common Greek copies. These Deaconesses were an order of devout females, who, from the very days of the Apostles, were deputed to perform certain functions in the Church. They were generally selected from among the ecclesiastical widows, of whom mention is made (1 Tim 5). Hence, St. Epiphanius (Heresi, 79), and the Council of Laodicea (Can. 11), call them, elderly widows. Persons also who lived in perpetual virginity sometimes discharged the office of Deaconesses, as is stated by St. Ignatius (ad Smyrnenses), St. Epiph. (Expos. Fid. Num. 21), and others. It is clear from this passage, that they existed from the time of the Apostles; the junior Pliny (Epist. 96, Lib. x. to Trajan), speaks of having put two Deaconesses to the torture: “Qui magis, inquit, necessarium credidi ex duabus ancillis, quæ ministræ dicebantur, quid esset veri et per tormenta exquirere.” Their age, at the time of the Apostle, should be sixty (1 Tim 5). But, in course of time, this rule was departed from, and it was fixed in the Council of Chalcedon, held under Pope Leo, that they might be admitted at the age of forty; the same was sanctioned in the Council of Quinisextum.—(Canon 14). Their duties were—firstly, to assist at the baptism of females, which was then given by immersion, and thus consult for modesty; secondly, to instruct at their houses the female catechumens, in the Christian doctrine; to carry aid and assistance to the martyrs and confessors detained in prison, when the Deacons were not allowed access to them; and also to attend at the entrance to the church on the side in which the females entered.—(St. Clement, lib. 3, Constit. chap. 15 and 16; St. Epiph. Heresi, 79; St. Ignatius, Ep. 12, ad Antiochenos). The common opinion is, that they were admitted to the rank of Deaconesses by the imposition of hands, which, of course, did not confer on them any holy order or sacrament, but was merely an ecclesiastical cermony. The 19th Canon of the Council of Nice would appear to be opposed to this; but, if examined closely, it is not in reality opposed to it, since the Canon of Nice prevents the cermony of the imposition of hands, only in reference to such as were converted from the heresy of the Paulinianists. The office of Deaconess gradually fell into disuse and was abolished in the Church.—(Vide Devoti, lib. 1, Titulo ix. et Cabassutius, Notitia Ecclesiastica, sec. 2da, Dissertatio 2da.)

“That is in Cenchreæ.” Cenchreæ was one of the ports of Corinth, on the Asiatic side, where St. Paul had written this Epistle, of which Phebe is generally supposed to have been the bearer to the Romans.

Rom 16:2. I beseech you then to receive her in the name of the Lord, in such a way as a holy woman should he received and treated by saints, and to assist her in whatever matters she may require your assistance. She is eminently entitled to this attention from you, for having herself frequently assisted and extended relief to many of the saints, to myself among the rest.

“In the Lord,” i.e., in the name and on account of Christ, “as becometh saints,” in such a way as Christians should receive each other. “For she also hath assisted,” (in Greek, προστασις ἐγενηθν, has been a protectress to) “many” of the saints, or such Christians as required her aid, and to myself among the rest.

Rom 16:3. Salute Prisca, and her husband Aquila, my coadjutors in promulgating the gospel of Christ.

These were of Jewish extraction, well instructed in the faith, and tent makers by trade. They had returned to Rome after the death of the Emperor Claudius, by whose edict all Jews were banished from Rome. “My helpers,” &c. They assisted and co-operated with the Apostle in the work of the gospel.

Rom 16:4. They also were sharers in my dangers; for, they exposed and perilled their lives in defence of mine; to them, therefore, not only I, but all the churches of the Gentiles, whose Apostle they have saved, and in whose conversion they have co-operated, return thanks.

“Who had exposed their necks for my life.” This must have happened either in the tumult raised at Corinth (Acts 18:12), or in the one at Ephesus (Acts 19:24).

Rom 16:5. Salute also their entire Christian family. Salute also Epenetus, who was the first to embrace the faith when I preached in Asia, and is, therefore, my firstborn in Christ from that country.

“The church which is in their house,” i.e., their entire Christian family, which was as orderly and as well regulated as a church; it was also distinguished for piety. It may be that the word “church,” applied to their house, has reference to the constant celebration of the praises of God and divine offices there, before the faithful could have obtained public places of worship.—(See Philemon 3; Col. 4.; 1 Cor. 16.) “The first-fruits of Asia.” Some versions have, “the first-fruits of Achaia,” but erroneously, since Stephanas was the first-fruits of Achaia (1 Cor. 16:15). The most learned among critics prefer the reading in our Vulgate, “Asia,” to the one in which Achaia is found: της Ασιας is the reading of the chief MSS.

Rom 16:6. Salute Mary who has laboured much for you.

“Among you,” in the common Greek, εἰς ἡμᾶς, unto us, or for us. The Codex Vaticanus εἰς ὑμᾶς, onto you. Who she was, cannot be determined with certainty.

Rom 16:7. Salute Andronicus and Junias, my kinsmen, sharers in my sufferings and incarceration for Christ, who are distinguished among the preachers of the gospel, and have this advantage over me, that they believed in Christ before I received that grace.

“My kinsmen,” probably of the same tribe of Benjamin; for there were a great many at Rome of Jewish extraction, who would be equally his kinsmen, if the words merely regarded their being of Jewish origin. “Junias,” is more probably supposed, from the following words, “of note among the Apostles,” i.e., preachers of the gospel, to have been a man, and not the wife of Andronicus, as some imagine. “Fellow-prisoners.” It is not well determined when or where they were in prison with him. They were called to the faith before the Apostle.

Rom 16:8. Salute Ampliatus, most dear to me for his piety.

“Most beloved in the Lord,” expressed his Christian affection for him.

Rom 16:9. Salute Urbanus, our co-operator in the work of the gospel, and Stachys, very much beloved by me.

Rom 16:10. Salute Apelles, who has been tried and proved in the profession of his faith; or, found by experience to be a sincere Christian.

“Approved in Christ.” The Greek word for “approved,” δοκιμον, means found, by trial and experience, to be a true and sincere Christian.

Rom 16:11. Salute the family of Aristobulus. Salute Herodian, my kinsman. Salute the Christian domestics of Narcissus.

“Those that are of Aristobulus’s household,” and of course, Aristobulus himself in the first place. “Herodian my kinsman,” i.e., of the same tribe of Benjamin with me. “Of Narcissus’s household who are in the Lord;” hence, it is probable that some of his household were unbelievers.

Rom 16:12. Salute Tryphena and Tryphosa, who co-operate, in their way, in the propagation of the gospel. Salute Persis, most dear to me, who has laboured much in the cause of the Lord.

These three females laboured, in their own way, towards the propagation of the gospel, by extending hospitality and kindness to its preachers.

Rom 16:13. Salute Rufus, distinguished for his piety, and his mother, whom I also love and venerate as a parent.

“Elect in the Lord,” i.e., distinguished among the Christians, and his mother, for whom I entertain the feelings and veneration of a son.

Rom 16:14. Salute Asyncritus, Phlegon, Patrobas, Hermes, and the other brethren, who are connected and associated with them.

“Hermas,” is supposed by Origen to have been the author of the book called Pastor, which was a work of great authority among the ancients. It was publicly read in some churches of the Greeks, as St Jerome, Eusebius, and Origen testify, but it is not to be reckoned as part of inspired Scripture, as Pope Gelasius has asserted in his decree concerning the Canonical Scriptures and Apocryphal books.

Rom 16:15. Salute Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympias; and all the Christians who live with them.

It is doubted whether Julia was a man or a woman. Origen says that Julia was the wife or Philologus. “Olympias,” in Greek, “Olympas,” Estius thinks, was a man.

Rom 16:16. Salute one another with a holy kiss, which is the sign of mutual and holy Christian love. I am so well assured of the charitable feelings of all Christian Churches towards you, that I send you their salutations.

“With a holy kiss,” the symbol of charity and concord. It was customary with the Christians to salute one another with the words, pax tecum, after the taking of the Holy Eucharist. The men saluted men only; and females those of their own sex, on these occasions. This usage has been long since discontinued in the Church; a vestige of it, however, remains in the kiss of peace given at solemn mass. “All the Churches of Christ salute you.” (“All” is not in the Greek, which simply is, αι εκκλησίαι, the Churches). He knows the charitable feelings of all Churches towards them, and therefore sends their salutation.

From the omission on the part of St. Paul to send his salutations to St. Peter, Protestestants attempt to derive an argument in proof of their unfounded assertion—viz., that St. Peter never was at Rome. But the fact of his having been at Rome, and his having been put to death with St. Paul, under Nero, is so well attested by undoubted historical evidence, that it is needless to dwell on the subject. Why, then, did not St. Paul salute him? Simply because St. Paul knew that he was not at Rome at the time. He was engaged in preaching the gospel in Britain or Spain, or Africa, as we are assured by Innocent, &c., quoted by Baronius and Bellarmine; for he had not returned thither since the time of his expulsion, together with the other Jews, by the edict of Claudius. And if St. Peter were at Rome at this time, would he not have settled the disputes which elicited this Epistle from St. Paul?

Rom 16:17. But I entreat of you, brethren, to mark well those men who beget dissensions and cause scandals amongst you, teaching false opinions, opposed to the true doctrine, which you have been taught; mark these and shun them.

He alludes to some false teachers, who preached up the necessity of the Jewish ceremonial observances. The language here employed is very like that used in reference to the same.—(Philippians 3:9).

Rom 16:18. For, such persons care not about serving Christ our Lord, or about promoting the cause of the gospel; they are only concerned about their own temporal profits, and the indulgence in luxurious living; and, by their bland plausible words—by their hollow, adulatory professions of friendship and regard—seduce the hearts of the artless and unsuspecting.

The first reason for avoiding them is derived from the perverse morals and deceitful, lying conduct of such persons.

Rom 16:19. Moreover, your perfect obedience to Christ in promptly embracing and complying with the gospel, has become known in every place; I, therefore, rejoice on your account; but, at the same time, in order to secure the purity of your faith against being tarnished, I wish you to be prudent and circumspect in embracing what is good, so as not to be deceived by the designing; and to be simple and innocent in regard to evil, so as not to injure or deceive any one.

The second reason is derived from the celebrity of the faith of the Romans which is announced throughout the whole earth (chapter 1), and which they should preserve inviolate, by shunning all intercourse with the false teachers. “In every place.” The Greek is, εἰς παντας, unto all men. “I rejoice, therefore, in you,” in Greek, ἐφʼ ὑμιν ουν χαιρω, I rejoice, therefore, on your behalf.

Rom 16:20. But, may God, the author and lover of peace, quickly crush under your feet Satan, by whom these men are instigated. For this end, may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you and assist you.

He begs of God who is the lover, of peace, and who hates dissensions, to give them grace perfectly to overcome Satan, by whom these men are instigated, and whose instruments, in perpetuating such dissensions, they are.

Rom 16:21. Timothy, my fellow-labourer in the gospel, and Lucius and Jason, and Sosipater, my kinsmen, salute you.

Rom 16:22. I, Tertius, who, at the dictation of Paul, have penned this Epistle, salute you in the Lord.

“Tertius” was the amanuensis whom Saint Paul employed in writing this Epistle: and, hence, while writing, he speaks of himself in the first person: “I, Tertius, salute,” &c.

Rom 16:23. Caius, my host, and the host of all Christians, from what quarter soever they come, salutes you. Erastus, the treasurer of the city of Corinth, salutes you; and so does Quartus, a brother.

“Caius, my host, and the whole Church, saluteth you.” According to the Greek, it is “Caius, my host, και ὅλης τῆς ἐκκλησίας, and (the host) of the entire Church.” i.e., of all Christians from whatever quarter they come, which is a great commendation of his hospitality. “Erastus, the treasurer of the city.” (The Greek for “Treasurer” is οικονομος,). He had charge of the public treasury of Corinth, where this Epistle is generally supposed to have been written.

Rom 16:24. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

Rom 16:25. Eternal glory be given to Almighty God, who is able to strengthen you and confirm you in the doctrine of the gospel, which I, everywhere preach; and which Jesus Christ himself also preached; so as to reveal that great mystery (of the Incarnation and Redemption of mankind through Jesus Christ) which was hidden from the world during all past ages.

This and the two following verses are, in some Greek copies, read at the close of chapter 14, and they are explained in the same place by St. Chrysostom and others. However, the most ancient of manuscripts (the Alexandrian and Vatican), and all Latin interpreters, place them as they are here, and make them the final conclusion of the Epistle; and this arrangement is clearly preferable, since as chap 15 is a continuation of the matter treated of in chap. 14, it is not likely that the Apostle would interrupt, and break the connexion of his subject by the intermediate insertion of these verses in that place. In these words, then, the Apostle bursts forth into the praises of God, for the great benefit of man’s salvation and justification, the nature and mysterious economy of which he had been explaining throughout the entire Epistle, which is thus brought to a suitable close.

“Now to him that is able to establish you,” i.e., to God, “be honour and glory,” (verse 27); for, the sense of the entire passage is suspended until we come to verse 27. “According to my gospel” which I everywhere preach. “And the preaching of Jesus Christ.” Some interpret these words as a mere explanation of the preceding, thus: “according to my gospel and the preaching concerning Jesus Christ.” The interpretation of Piconio has been adopted in the Paraphrase. “According to the revelation of the mystery,” i.e., by the preaching of which gospel is brought about the revelation of the great mystery or secret truth. He refers to the redemption of man through Christ, and the adorable system of supernatural Providence, the great foundation of which was Christ’s incarnation. “Kept secret from eternity.” The Greek words for “eternity” are, χρονοις αιωνιοις, “during the worldly times,” or all preceding ages. The words are used to express eternity.

Rom 16:26. But which mystery now, under the law of grace, has been manifested by the Scriptures of the Prophets, who wrote beforehand concerning Christ and his gospel, and has been made known among all the nations, by the express command of God, commissioning and delegating his Apostles to preach to them, so as to bring all unto the obedience of faith.

“Which,” i.e., mystery (as appears from the Greek, φανερωθεντος, “manifested,” referring to μυστηριου, which preceded, with which also “kept secret,” σεσιγημενου, verse 25, and “known,” γνωρισθεντος, verse 26, agree), “has been made manifest by the scriptures of the prophets,” who wrote and predicted concerning the mysteries of our Saviour’s life and gospel: “According to the command of the eternal God.” These words are to be connected with the last words of the verse, “known among all nations.” This mystery, and all the gospel economy founded on it, were by God’s command proclaimed by the Apostles, and made known among all the nations of the earth, “for the obedience of the faith,” so as to induce them to embrace the faith.

Rom 16:27. To the Omnipotent and only Wise God, (I say), be rendered honour and glory, through Jesus Christ for ever and ever. Amen.

“To God the only Wise,” i.e., alone Wise by his nature and essence. Here the sentence, commenced at verse 25, is completed. The words “to whom” are redundant; they are used by the Apostle, according to a Hebrew idiom. In these last verses, the Apostle closes the Epistle as he had begun it, by asserting that the gospel which he preached contained nothing false or novel; that it was perfectly in accordance with the oracles and predictions of the ancient prophets. The words “made manifest by the scriptures of the prophets,” verse 26; and “which he hath promised by his prophets in the holy scriptures,” (Rom 1:2), are almost identical.

I cannot forbear quoting the beautiful paraphrase of these three verses, as given by A’Lapide: “O King of ages! O Revealer of the mystery concealed during the ages of eternity! O eternal God, immortal and invisible! O thou, who dwellest in the lofty mountains of eternity; who, from thy elevated eminence, dost behold the narrow span of our life, and of all times, gliding beneath thee; to thee be honour, to thee be glory, for ever and ever! Thou, by thy triumph over death, hast thrown open to us the portals of a happy eternity. Grant us to live always mindful of it—justly, soberly, and piously—so as to be one day partakers of it. Grant us to pass this fleeting moment of life in such a way, by the exercise of heroism and sanctity, as to merit admission to thy enjoyment for ever; to praise thee, to celebrate thee, in the company of all thy angels and saints. O true charity! O beloved eternity! My God and my all.” Amen.

O sweet and amiable Mary, Mother of Jesus, powerful Virgin! pray for us.

The ordinary Greek copies have the following subscription:—“Written to the Romans from Corinth by Phœbe, Deaconess of the Church at Cenchreæ.” This, although correct, is not to be regarded as belonging to the Sacred Text. It was most likely, added by some Greek author to point out the bearer of the Epistle, and the place where it was written. It was wanting, either altogether, or in part, in the ancient MSS. In the Codex Vaticanus we simply have: “Written to the Romans from Corinth.”

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Romans Chapter 15

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 1, 2019

ANALYSIS OF ROMANS CHAPTER 15
Scripture links are to the Douay Rheims translation

In this chapter, the Apostle, addressing the better instructed among the Christians at Rome, exhorts them to bear patiently with the infirmities and unmeaning scruples of their weaker brethren, and to seek to promote their interests, even at the sacrifice of personal gratification and the abandonment of personal opinion (Rom 15:1-2); and for this purpose he proposes the example of Christ (Rom 15:3-4). He next prays God to grant them the grace and blessing of perfect concord, and encourages them to its practice, by the example of what Christ did for both Jew and Gentile. The Gentile should bear in mind that our Redeemer was himself a Jew, and sent to the Jews, in the first place, in order to fulfil God’s promise; and the Jews should be reconciled to the Gentiles, by the consideration, that the Prophets had foretold the gratuitous and merciful call of the Gentiles to be members of the same fold with themselves (Rom 15:5–12). He begs for them the blessing of God’s grace (Rom 15:13).

He, then, with a modesty and prudence truly Apostolic, apologises for whatever in his admonitions might be calculated to give them offence; and says, it was only in the exercise of his Apostolic ministry, he wrote to them at all (Rom 15:14-15). After stating the nature of his ministry, the cause he had for glorying in it, owing to the wonders God wrought through him (Rom 15:16-19), and the vast districts he traversed (Rom 15:20-23), he expresses his purpose of visiting them after his return from Jerusalem (Rom 15:25–30), He recommends himself to their prayers, and prays, in turn, for them (Rom 15:31-33).

COMMENTARY ON ROMANS CHAPTER 15
Text in purple indicates Fr. MacEvilly’s paraphrase of the scripture he is commenting on

Rom 15:1. Now, we who are more advanced in knowledge and in Christian virtue, should not only avoid scandalizing our weaker brethren, but we should, as a matter of duty, charitably bear with their ignorance and infirmities, and not seek our own pleasure or advantage, regardless of the interests of others.

“To bear.” The Greek word, βασταζειν, contains an allusion to strong persons, who help their weak fellow-travellers, by occasionally carrying their burdens. It here regards the duty of charitable forbearance and condescension towards our weaker brethren. “Infirmities;” ασθενηματα, the ignorance and scruples, no matter how unfounded. “And not to please ourselves,” may also mean, and not to feel complacency in ourselves, on account of our superior knowledge and virtue, which would make us disregard the good of others. As in the natural body, the stronger members support and bear up the weaker; so also should it be in the body of the Church; the stronger ought to support the weak, by communicating to them their knowledge and their strength; and instead of feeling complacency in their own superior attainments, they should employ them for the advantage and salvation of their neighbour.

Rom 15:2. Let each one of us make it his duty to gratify and serve his neighbour in things that tend to his advantage and spiritual advancement—viz., in matters appertaining to faith and eternal salvation.

“Let every one.” In some Greek copies we have, “for let every one.” For, is wanting in the chief MSS. and rejected by critics. “Of you,” (in Greek, of us); “please his neighbour,” i.e., endeavour to gratify him; not, however, in acceding to his wishes and feelings when they lead to evil; but, “unto good, to edification,” by leading him to good, and by promoting his spiritual welfare. In this, worldly cupidity differs from charity; that the former seeks to gratify our neighbour, even in evil, to his perdition; the latter wishes to please, only to secure his salvation.

Rom 15:3. For our heavenly model, Christ, did not seek his own pleasure and advantage, regardless of the good of others; on the contrary, he sought our advantage at the sacrifice of great personal sufferings; as he says of himself, when addressing his Father (Psalm 69:13), the reproaches and insults offered you by men, so affected me, that I took upon me to expiate them, and thus secure man’s salvation.

Although everything that Christ did was most pleasing, still, he did not seek his own ease, nor his own will, to the exclusion of the interests of others, which is the meaning of the word “please” in this passage. “But as it is written:” “but” he sought to advance the glory of his Father, and our salvation, “as it is written.” “The reproaches,” &c., may refer to his anxiety for his Father’s glory, which was so great, that the reproaches and the insults which his Heavenly Father received, affected him as much as if they were heaped upon himself. This is the meaning intended in Psalm 69. But the meaning given in the paraphrase, which makes the words “fell upon me,” referred to his having endured death to expiate the crimes of man, and thereby to save him at the sacrifice of his own life, is the one directly intended here by the Apostle, and the one best accommodated to his purpose, which is to show that we should undergo some sacrifice for our neighbour, as Christ as done for us.

Rom 15:4. Now, although this directly regards Christ, it still, in a certain sense, regards us also, and was intended for our instruction; for, all the SS. Scriptures were written for our instruction, that by the exercise of patience, to which they stimulate us, and by the consolation which the examples and promises they contain carry with them, we might have hope of eternal happiness, in the midst of suffering and adversity here below.

He now assigns his reason for quoting, for our instruction, a text, which directly and immediately had reference to Christ; because the entire scriptures “were written” (the common Greek text has “written before,” προεγραφη, in both places), and intended for our instruction, that, deriving courage from the exercise of patience, which they strongly commend, and supported by the consolation which the examples and promises they contain hold out to us in adversity, we might look forward with stronger and firmer hope to the blessings promised us in the life to come. “And the comfort,” &c. The chief MSS. have “and through the comfort,” &c. We see here the fruits we are to expect and to derive from the reading of the Holy Scriptures—“patience, comfort, and hope.” They are intended to enlighten our faith, strengthen our hope, and increase our charity. How many, nevertheless, read them from mere curiosity? How many read them without the proper dispositions, without due humility of heart, without proper feelings of docility to the Catholic Church, which God has appointed as the infallible interpreter of those obscure oracles, wrested by many to their own destruction, as the history of modern sectaries too clearly testifies? “We nourish ourselves,” says an ancient Father reproachfully, “by the rind of the book, and not by the bread of the word.”

Rom 15:5. Now, I pray God—the source of patience and of consolation—to grant you perfect concord and unanimity; such concord, as becomes Christians, or, such as the life and example of Christ inculcates.

God is the author and giver of the patience, of the comfort, and of the hope which he wished us to seek for in the SS. Scriptures, “to be of one mind, one towards another,” i.e., to have the same judgments—the same feelings. “According to Jesus Christ,” may mean, according to the example left us by Christ, who sought our good at so much sacrifice.

Rom 15:6. That with one heart and soul, and one expression of the same thoughts and feelings, you may, laying aside all dissensions, glorify God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

By unanimity of heart and soul, and indentity of confession and expression, they would give God the greatest amount of glory, and show the world that they obeyed his commandments, and were truly his disciples. “God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” may mean, “the God and the Father of our Lord,” &c. This is the meaning of the Greek, τὸν θεὸν και πατέρα τοῦ κυρίου ἡμων, the article is not repeated, and so the words, “of our Lord,” must depend on “God” as well as on “Father.”

Rom 15:7. Wherefore, mutually receive and charitably sustain and cherish one another, as Christ has received and associated us all to himself, to make us partakers with him of God’s glorious inheritance of salvation.
Rom 15:8. Christ received us all, both Jew and Gentile, and associated us to himself. For, I say, that, in the first place, Jesus Christ became himself the minister, the preacher of salvation to the Jews, to prove that God is veracious in fulfilling to the children the promises made to their fathers.

“Receive one another,” cherish and prop up one another; the strong him that is weak: the learned, him that is ignorant. Let the Gentile cherish the Jew, and the Jew, the Gentile; “as Christ has received us”—has taken care of the salvation of us all. “Unto the honour of God,” is connected by some Commentators with the words, “receive one another, unto the honour of God:” for thus God’s honour and glory shall be promoted, and his religion cleared from calumny. Nothing so much attracted the Gentiles in the infancy of the Church, as the love of the first Christians for one another; hence, they would exclaim in admiration: “see how they love one another.”—(Tertullian). Others connect it, as in the Paraphrase, with the words immediately preceding.

The Apostle in this and in the following verses, shows how Christ received all, both Jews and Gentiles; the Jews, in order to redeem the promise made to their fathers; the Gentiles, through pure mercy, without any promise being pledged them to that effect; their call was, however, predicted by the prophets. In this he also assigns reasons for the most perfect concord of both. The Gentile should not despise the Jew, to whom Christ himself in person announces the tidings of redemption: nor ought the Jews feel indignant that the Gentile should be sharers in the blessings which their own prophets had predicted for them.

“Jesus Christ was minister of the circumcision,” i.e., of the Jews; to them alone did he announce his gospel: “the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

Christ received us all, both Jew and Gentile, and associated us to himself. For, I say, that, in the first place, Jesus Christ became himself the minister, the preacher of salvation to the Jews, to prove that God is veracious in fulfilling to the children the promises made to their fathers.

Rom 15:9. And I say that the Gentiles, who have been admitted through the pure mercy of God to the blessings of salvation, should glorify him for this great favour, to which they had no claim, even on the grounds of a promise made their fathers, as in the case of the Jews, but which was still predicted by the prophets (v.g.), in Psalm 18. Therefore, will I celebrate thy glory amongst the Gentiles, admitted by faith into thy Church; and I will sing a canticle of praise to thy name.

“But that the Gentiles,” &c. Some word is understood to fill up the sense. “But (I say) that the Gentiles should glorify God for his mercy,” i.e., for calling them to his faith out of pure mercy, without the interposition of a previous promise, as in the case of the Jews, although this did not make it cease to be a great mercy, even with respect to the Jews themselves; since, the promise itself proceeded from mercy; “as it is written.” He proves from the Old Testament that this great blessing was to be extended to the Gentiles. “Therefore I will confess to thee, O Lord! among the Gentiles.” “Therefore” has reference to the promise contained in the preceding part of the Psalm respecting the subjection of the nations to him, &c.—Psalm 18. “I will confess” regards the confession of divine praise; it means, I will celebrate thy divine praises “among the Gentiles” associated to thy Church. “And I will sing to thy name;” these words are spoken in the person of Christ addressing his heavenly Father. The words, “O Lord!” are not found here in the Greek. Hence, they must have been taken in the Vulgate from Psalm 18, where they are found.

Rom 15:10. And again, in the canticle of Deuteronomy, the Scripture says: “Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people,” of whom you form a part.

“Rejoice ye Gentiles,” &c. These words are taken from the Canticle of Moses (Deut. 32:43), according to the Septuagint version. In our Vulgate, they have been translated by St. Jerome from the Hebrew, “praise, ye nations, his people.”

Rom 15:11. And again (Psalm 117): “Praise the Lord all ye Gentiles, and magnify him all ye people,” for his mercy to you through Christ.

“Praise,” &c. (Psalm 117). In both the Hebrew and Greek it is, “praise the Lord all ye nations, and praise him all ye people.” In these words, all the nations and peoples of the earth are called upon by the Jews to praise God, which is a proof that they were to be partakers of salvation, and to be mercifully called to the faith. This, then, is a clear prophecy of the gratuitous call of the Gentiles, “the Gentiles are to glorify God for his mercy.”—(Verse 9).

Rom 15:12. And again, Isaias says (Isa 11:10): There shall come forth a descendant of the race of Jesse (viz., Christ descended of David, the son of Jesse); and he shall stand forth as a leader to rule the Gentiles, who shall flock to his standard; and in him all the Gentiles shall hope.

This quotation is taken from Isaias, 11:10, according to the Septuagint. According to the Vulgate it is, “in that day the root of Jesse, who standeth for an ensign of people, him the Gentiles shall beseech.” In which words there is an allusion to the banner or ensign of his cross, around which the Gentiles shall flock. The sense of both the Vulgate or Septuagint has been given in the Paraphrase. “A root of Jesse,” i.e., an offshoot from the root of Jesse; or, “root” most probably means a descendant from Jesse, the father of David. He alludes to Christ, “he shall rise tip to rule the Gentiles,” who shall form a part of his people; “in him the Gentiles shall hope” as their Saviour. These multiplied quotations from the Old Testament are adduced to convince the Jews, whom it was most difficult to persuade, that the Gentiles were to be called; and hence, they should cordially unite with them, as forming a part of the same people of God.

Rom 15:13. But I pray God, the author of peace, to grant you the abundance of spiritual joy and concord in the belief and profession of the same faith; so that, having laid aside all dissensions, your hope may increase; and be strengthened more and more through the grace and powerful gifts of the Holy Ghost, which serve as an earnest of future glory.

The prayer contained in this verse is a sort of connecting link between the foregoing admonitions and the following apology, “that you may abound in hope and in the power,” &c.; “and” is not in the Greek which runs thus, “in hope, in the power of the Holy Ghost;” according to which reading, the meaning is, that the power of the Holy Ghost, his grace and gifts, which are an earnest of future glory, would increase their hope in this glory, of which they have received the earnest. In our reading, the words, “and in the power,” &c., may refer to charity, which is infused by the power of the Holy Ghost; and hence, according to it, he prays for them, faith, hope, and charity.

Rom 15:14. (But in asking these blessings for you, and thus admonishing you, I have not the remotest idea of depreciating your virtues); for, I am fully assured, regarding you, that you are gifted with charity and benignity; and that you are furnished with all necessary knowledge, of yourselves, without any admonition from me, to admonish each other.

The Apostle, with truly apostolic prudence and modesty, apologises for anything in the preceding admonitions that might give them offence. In his admonitions he did not wish to imply that they needed his instructions, since they fully possessed the two qualities necessary for admonishing each other—viz., the science, which fits us for this duty, and the charity or benignity, which urges us to it. “That you are also full of love,” of yourselves, without any instruction from me.

Rom 15:15. But I have written to you, indeed perhaps a little too freely, not so much with a view of removing ignorance, under which you did not labour, as of recalling to your minds what you before knew; and this I did in the discharge of a function which has been gratuitously conferred on me by God.

He excuses himself for any excess of freedom or boldness which may appear in his admonitions, “because of the grace,” i.e., the function of Apostle.

Rom 15:16. The function confided to me is that of being the sacred minister of Jesus Christ unto the Gentiles, sacrificing, not mute animals, but spiritually immolating men converted to the faith, so that the Gentiles thus spiritually immolated may become an oblation acceptable to God, and sanctified by the fire of the Holy Ghost.

He explains the nature, and at the same time extols, the dignity of his minister by a metaphor or allegory derived from the priestly functions of offering sacrifice. “The minister,” the Greek, λειτούργος, means a sacred or priestly minister; and according to ecclesiastical usage, it means one employed in offering sacrifice. “Sanctifying the Gospel of God;” in Greek, ἱερουργοῦντα, “consecrating or sacrificing the gospel of God,” i.e., preaching it, as a priest of the new covenant. “That the oblation of the Gentiles,” i.e., that the Gentiles thus spiritually offered up as living victims (chapter 12) may be an “acceptable” oblation to God, and “sanctified,” not by mere external rites, but by the influences of the Holy Ghost. In the words, “sanctified in the Holy Ghost,” there is an allusion to a rite of the Jewish sacrifices, whereby the victims were prepared to be an acceptable sacrifice by some external purification. The Apostle here exhibits the conversion of the Gentiles as a metaphorical sacrifice, in which St. Paul is the priest; the Gentiles the victim; the preaching of the gospel, the consecration of the victim; and the Holy Ghost, the fire by which the victim is consumed.

The fact of the Apostle here calling the conversion and faith of the Gentiles a sacrifice, in a metaphorical sense, is no argument against the existence of a true sacrifice and priesthood in the Church; since it is clear that he speaks in a figurative sense; the use of such a figure supposes the existence of the reality from which the figure was borrowed. From this passage, those who are engaged in the exalted ministry of preaching, may derive a wholesome lesson regarding the great purity and zeal with which they should acquit themselves of this sacred function.

Rom 15:17. I have, then, in this capacity, matter for glorying before God, not in myself, but in Jesus Christ, whose place I hold, and by whose power I am sustained.

“Glory,” καυχησιν, matter for glorying.

Rom 15:18. For, I have not the presumption, like others, to mention things which were never wrought through my ministry. It is sufficient for me to mention the great things he made me instrumental in performing towards the conversion of the Gentiles, both by the word of preaching and the operation of miracles.

Some Expositors understand these words to mean, “I cannot bring myself to mention all that Christ has done through me,” i.e., how much he has done through me. It is more probable, however, that he disclaims every idea of arrogating to himself what he was never made instrumental in performing, in which he censures some false teachers, who scrupled not to do so, and leaves us to infer, on the contrary, that all he lays claim to was real, and that this was sufficient matter for him to glory in. “For the obedience,” i.e., conversion to the faith, which requires obedience of the intellect and will.

Rom 15:19. Through the power of working strange and stupendous wonders, and through the gifts of the Holy Ghost, which were abundantly shed on them; so that from Jerusalem, in a circuitous route, to Illyricum, I diffused the Gospel far and wide, and propagated it through the adjacent countries.

“By the virtue of signs,” &c. “Christ worketh by me,” (verse 18), by the virtue of signs, i.e., the power of working wonders and prodigies (v.g.) casting out devils, curing diseases, raising the dead, &c. “In the power of the Holy Ghost.” “In the ordinary Greek, πνευματος θεον, of the Spirit of God,” i.e., in communicating the gifts of the Holy Ghost (v.g.) tongues, prophecies, &c. The Codex Vaticanus has simply, πνευματος θεον, of the Spirit. “So that from Jerusalem,” not in a direct line, but “round about,” in a circuitous route, “to Illyricum”—(a Roman Province, which lay between the Save, the Drave, and the Adriatic)—including, therefore, the provinces of Asia Minor, Achaia, and Epirus. Its extent and boundaries were different at different periods. “I have replenished the Gospel of God.” In Greek, ware ὡστε με πεπλερωκεναι, so that I have filled the Gospel of God; the meaning of which, most probably, is to preach fully, to extend and announce the Gospel.

Rom 15:20. But I have taken special care to preach this gospel in places where the name of Christ was not previously announced, and where the glad tidings of salvation had not already reached; lest, as Apostle, I should be building on the foundation already cast by others.

“And I have so preached.” The Greek, φιλυτιμοῦμαι εναγγελιζεσθαι, means, “I have anxiously exerted myself to preach,” like the anxiety of a man ambitiously striving for honours. “Lest I should build on another man’s foundation.” He regards the foundation of faith laid by the preaching and labours of others. The Apostle did sometimes preach where Christ was before heard of, as at Damascus, and, in the present instance, to the Romans; but he acted not as an Apostle, whose chief duty it is to preach to infidels, he only confirmed and comforted them.

Rom 15:21. But, by preaching in places where he was not before heard of, I fulfilled the prophecy of Isaias. The Gentiles, to whom no announcement was made regarding him, shall see him by the eyes of faith through the preaching of the Apostles; and they who heard nothing regarding him, shall know him through the same faith.

These words are taken from Isaiah 52:15, according to the Septuagint, and are referred by the Jews themselves to the Messiah.

Rom 15:22. On which account, I was oftentimes prevented from carrying out my desire of going to see you; and I am still impeded by the multiplied cares and occupations of my ministry.

“For which cause,” i.e., on account of my constant occupation in carrying the gospel to places where it had not been heretofore announced. The words, “and have been kept away till now,” are not in the Greek, and only explain the preceding words.

Rom 15:23. But now, since there is no longer any place in these regions in which the gospel has not been announced, and since, moreover, for many years past, I ardently desired to visit you:

“No more place,” not before favoured with the gospel; or, “place” may mean, no more occasion for my ministry here.

Rom 15:24. When I shall proceed on my journey into Spain, I hope to see you on my way, and to be brought thither by you, after having first been partly refreshed and cheered by your presence and conversation.

He intends passing from Greece through Italy into Spain. After the words, “my journey into Spain,” are found, in some copies, I will come to you, but they are wanting in the chief MSS., and rejected by critics generally. “If first, in part, I shall have enjoyed you.” He says “in part,” to show the greatness of his desire to see them, which he does not expect fully to satisfy, but in part only.

That St. Paul did not immediately, after executing his commission to Jerusalem, set out on his intended journey to Spain, is clear from Acts, chap. 21, where it is stated, that after having been apprehended at Jerusalem, he was sent a prisoner to Rome, and detained there for two years: whether, after his liberation from prison, he set out for Spain, is disputed.—(Vide Baronium, lib. 1, Annal, a.d. 61).

Rom 15:25. But, at present, I am about setting out for Jerusalem on a message which has for object the relief of the temporal wants of the poor and afflicted Christians there.

He adds this to show that they are not to expect him very soon. He was to be the bearer of the alms, which the Christians of the Churches of Achaia and Macedonia (the names of the wo Roman provinces into which northern and southren Greece was divided) had contributed in support of the poor Christians at Jerusalem, of whom some had voluntarily laid all their property at the feet of the Apostles, and others were plundered of their goods.—Heb. 10. “To minister,” διακονῶν, giving relief.

Rom 15:26. For it pleased and seemed fit to the Churches of Macedonia and Achaia to make some contribution out of their means, towards the relief of the poor distressed Christians of Jerusalem.
Rom 15:27. It seemed good to them to do so, and deservedly, since they are the debtors to these Christians of Jerusalem; for, if the Gentiles have shared in the spiritual riches of the Jews, from whom the Apostles came forth to preach the gospel, it is but just that they should, in turn, minister to the poor of Jerusalem, and make them sharers in their temporal wealth.

He says, this was justly determined on by the Macedonians and Achians, since they were only discharging a debt which they owed the Jews; for, if the Gentiles were made sharers in the spiritual riches of the Jews from among whom the Apostles came forth to preach, &c., the Gentiles should, in turn, minister to their corporal wants out of their temporal substance.

The Greek word for “minister,” λειτουργησαι, means to sacrifice; it shows the great excellence of alms-deeds, which is a sort of acceptable sacrifice offered to God. How much must the Apostle not value the ministry of attending to the relief of the poor, since for it he relinquished the great ministry of preaching to the Gentiles! Who, then, can deny that among the first duties of the pastoral is to be reckoned “the paternal care of the poor and of other miserable persons?”—(Cone. Trid. ss. xxiii. de Ref. c. i.)

Rom 15:28. As soon, therefore, as I shall have discharged this duty of charity, and shall have safely and securely deposited in the hands of the afflicted poor, this fruit of holy benevolence, I shall pass into Spain, making my way by you.

“And consigned to them.” The Greek word for “consigned” σφραγισάμενος, means, to deliver up sealed. Hence, it would appear, that the Apostle wished that this money should be sealed, to avoid the remotest imputation of appropriating any of it to himself—a wise precaution, which should never be forgotten by those who are entrusted with the charities of the poor. “This Fruit,” i.e., alms, which were the fruit of his own teaching, of the piety of the faithful, of the tears and sighs of the poor themselves.

Rom 15:29. But I know that my visit to you shall be marked by the plentiful effusion of the blessings and graces of the gospel of Christ.

St. Chrysostom explains the words thus: “I know that at my coming I shall find you replenished with all spiritual gifts; so that, instead of imparting, I shall profit by receiving spiritual graces from you”—a meaning which accords well with the Apostle’s modesty, and with his words, verse 14. In the interpretation adopted in the Paraphrase, he expresses his conviction, that his visit shall be productive of abundant spiritual blessings, and a more abundant knowledge of the mysteries of faith, of greater charity, and spiritual consolation among them. “Of the blessings of the gospel of Christ.” The word “gospel” is wanting in the chief MSS., which are read thus: of the blessing of Christ.

Rom 15:30. In the meantime; I beg of you, brethren, through the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ, through the charity infused into our hearts by the Holy Ghost, to assist me in my struggles by your fervent prayers to God in my behalf.

By the charity of the Holy Ghost.” In Greek, “by the charity of the Spirit.” “Holy” is not in the text. The Apostle foresaw that he had a great conflict before him (Acts 20:22); and hence, he begs the assistance of their prayers. If, then, the Apostle did not derogate from the honour due to God and the supreme mediation of Christ, in begging the prayers of the faithful on earth, as well here, as Eph. 6.; Col. 4.; 1 Thes. 5.; 2 Thes. 3.; Heb. 12.; surely, it cannot derogate from the same to beg the assistance of St. Paul in turn, and of the other saints now in heaven to intercede for us; and if he placed such reliance in the efficacy of the intercession of the saints on earth, as to beg it in the most solemn language of obtestation; surely the intercession, of God’s friends now reigning with him in glory cannot be less efficacious.—(See 1 John 2:1-2). “That you may help me.” The Greek words συναγωνισασθαι μοι, mean, to strive earnestly together with me, which shows the value of mutual intercession.—(Kenrick.)

Rom 15:31. Implore first for me, that after I shall have come into Judea, I may be delivered from the unbelieving Jews; and, secondly, that my ministry of carrying and distributing the alms may be acceptable and grateful to the holy poor of Jerusalem;

The unconverted Jews bore St. Paul a deadly hatred, and sought his life; and even with the converted Jews he was an object of suspicion, as the enemy of the law and the patron of the Gentiles; hence, his doubts whether his ministry would be accepted by them, i.e., whether they would receive the alms conveyed by him or not. “That the oblation of my service.” In the common Greek it is ἵνα ἡ δισκονια μου “that my deaconship or ministry.” In the Vatican and other MSS. it is ἡ δωροφορια μου, “my ministry of carrying presents.” This latter is the reading followed by the Vulgate.

Rom 15:32. And, thirdly, that after having been successful in my ministry, I may come to you with joy, and may be for some time refreshed with the pleasure of your society.

“With joy.” After having succeded in his ministry of carrying alms to the distressed brethren of Jerusalem, it would be a source of grief to him, if they declined receiving the alms from him. “And may be refreshed with you.” The ordinary Greek is, “and I may rest with you.” There is no word in the Codex Vaticanus for either rest or refresh; hence, they are rejected by critics.

Rom 15:33. But I pray that God, the author and preserver of peace and concord, may always remain with you and assist you. Amen.

After soliciting their prayers, he, in turn, begs for them the priceless blessings of concord and peace.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Romans Chapter 14

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 30, 2019

 ANALYSIS OF ROMANS CHAPTER 13
Scripture links are to the Douay Rheims translation

The Apostle devotes this chapter to the removal of a practical cause of some differences that existed between the Jewish and Gentile converts. Many among the former; not fully instructed in the faith, were inordinately attached to certain portions of the ceremonial law of Moses: and among the rest, they could not be brought to give up the distinction which the law made between clean and unclean meats, and thus abstained from partaking of the latter description of food. These observances were tolerated in the converted Jews, until such time as they should be more fully instructed, in accommodation to their weakness, and for the purpose of “burying the Synagogue with honour.”—(St Augustine). The same indulgence was never extended to the converts from Paganism (as is seen, Epistle to Galatians). The tolerated observance of these ceremonial ordinances was made the occasion of differences among the early converts. The Gentile despised the Jew for so doing, and had no regard to his weak conscience; while the Jew censured the other party as violating the law. In order to effect a reconciliation, the Apostle first recommends the Gentiles to instruct the Jews (verse 1); and, after stating the cause of difference (Rom 14:2), he recommends them to abstain from despising or condemning one another (Rom 14:3); to leave such judgments to God (Rom 14:4). And after giving another example of a cause of difference (Rom 14:5), he shows, that both may follow whatever opinion they please on the subject; that neither should be judged, since both intend the glory of God, as well in this point (Rom 14:6-7), as in all the other actions of their lives (Rom 14:8-9); and that all judgment belongs to Christ, to whom, therefore, it should be left (Rom 14:10-13). Having, in the preceding part of the chapter, cautioned the weak against unjust judgments, he now cautions the better instructed against giving scandal; he tells them to respect the consciences of their weaker brethren, and not induce them to commit sin, and violate conscience, by their example (Rom 14:13–22). He, finally, exhorts the weak not to act contrary to conscience, but in all their actions to have an undoubted conviction of the lawfulness of what they were about doing (Rom 14:23).

COMMENTARY ON ROMANS CHAPTER 14
Text in pruple indiocates Fr. MacEvilly’s paraphrase of the scripture he is commenting on

Rom 14:1. Among the other duties of fraternal charity, you who are better instructed in the doctrines of faith, should take into friendly intercourse, with the view of charitably instructing them, such of your brethren as are still weak, and not yet fully instructed in the faith; and you should forbear contending in argument and acrimonious reasonings.

“Weak in faith,” i.e., not fully instructed in faith or with respect to the abrogation of the ceremonial law. “Take unto you,” i.e., admit to free and friendly intercourse, in order charitably to instruct him. “Not in disputes about thoughts,” μη εἰς διακρίσεις διαλογισμων, i.e., forbear disputing with him, and perplexing him by your untimely reasonings, lest you might increase his doubts, and drive him to apostacy.

Rom 14:2. As an example of the subject of weak faith, to which I refer, take the following case: One man fully instructed in the faith is firmly persuaded that it is perfectly lawful for him to partake of all kinds of meats; while another, not so well instructed, partakes of herbs, lest he might eat of anything prohibited by the law of Moses.

“But he that is weak, let him eat herbs.” In Greek, we have the indicative mood, εσθιει, “eats herbs;” and this reading is the more probable; for, in this verse the Apostle is only adducing an instance of the cause of disputes, and of the matter of weakness in faith, in regard to which, he points out, in the next verse, the duties of each party. “Eat herbs;” those among the Jews who were not sufficiently grounded in the Christian faith, in order the more securely to avoid the violation of the law respecting the distinction of clean and unclean meats, contented themselves with partaking of herbs, in which no distinction was made by the law.

Rom 14:3. Now, the man who, in the enjoyment of his Christian liberty, partakes of everything set before him, should not despise his weaker brother, who abstaining from meats, owing to the weakness of his faith, feeds on herbs; and, on the other hand, the man who abstains should not judge him that partakes of all kinds of meats; for, the Lord has accepted him, and made him partake of his holy religion.

The Apostle, after stating the case in dispute, endeavours to reconcile both parties, by telling those who, from a full knowledge of the Christian faith, and of the exemption from all ceremonial ordinances which it conferred, partook of all kinds of meats, not to despise their less instructed brethren who abstained from certain meats, from an impression that these ceremonial ordinances were to be continued; on the other hand, he tells such as abstained, to forbear from judging of the others as violators of the law. From the words of this verse Estius infers, that the question in dispute was not between the Jews and Gentiles—for, how could the Jews for an instant, suppose that the converted Gentiles were sinning in not observing a law (the Law of Moses) which they never received?—but between the well-instructed, and the imperfectly instructed, or weak-minded among the Jewish converts themselves. The common opinion of commentators, however, is, that it was between the converts from among the Jews and Gentiles these disputes had existed; and that it is the converted Jews on one side, and the converted Gentiles on the other, the Apostle addresses; no doubt, the same reasons adduced with reference to the converted Gentiles, will apply to the well-instructed among the Jews also, who did not sufficiently respect the consciences of their weaker brethren. The reason adduced by Estius would only prove, that those who were “weak in faith,” were very imperfectly instructed in the Christian religion; and owing to this, it is not to be wondered at, if regarding the Mosaic ceremonies as a part of Christianity, they should erroneously suppose all converts from whatever quarter, to be bound by them. “For God hath taken him to him,” i.e., has taken him as his servant and worshipper, and has made him a sharer in the blessings of his religion. He is, therefore, God’s, and it belongs to God alone to judge him.

Rom 14:4. But who art thou to assume the right of passing sentence of condemnation on the servant of another? He shall stand or fall by the sentence of his own master; but he shall stand, i.e., he shall be acquitted and succeed in judgment; because God, who is his master, has power and clemency to absolve him.

He urges the reason referred to in the preceding words, “God has taken him;” he is God’s servant. What right, therefore, hast thou to sit in judgment on another’s servant? You have no authority whatsover for this. He has his own master to judge him; to him “he standeth,” i.e., he shall be acquitted by him, and shall come off victorious in the cause; or, “falleth,” be worsted and condemned in the cause. “But he shall stand,” i.e., he shall be acquitted and come off victorious; “for God is able,” &c.: under the word “able” is included not only ability or power, but clemency, and a will to acquit him. Why, therefore, should any one presume to condemn the servant whom God acquits and absolves?

It has been already remarked that the Jewish converts were permitted to retain the use of the Mosaic ceremonies; but, no such indulgence was ever allowed the converts from Paganism.

Rom 14:5. The distinction of days affords another example of the matter to which I refer; for, the man of weak and imperfect faith makes a distinction between one day and another, for religious purposes; while another, better instructed, judges all days to be alike for such purposes. This should not weaken concord amongst you. Let each one follow the full persuasion of his own judgment in this matter.

Another example of the legal observances which was the occasion of dissensions, is the distinction of festival days, as in use among the Jews, such as Sabbath days, New Moons, Passover, Pentecost. To these the Apostle refers in his Epistle to the Galatians 4:10, as forming part of the first elements of Jewish infancy. Some Commentators, and among the rest, A’Lapide, say, that by “days” here are meant not festival days, as above, but days of fasting and abstinence. So that here there is only a more diffuse explanation of the foregoing example of Jewish ceremonial ordinances. In the former example, he refers to perpetual abstinence from certain meats; in this, to abstinence from certain kinds of food, on particular days (v.g.), from leavened bread during the octave of the Pasch. “For one,” the Greek reading in the Codex Vaticanus is έις μεν, “indeed one,” and this is the more probable reading, as the Apostle is here only stating another case in dispute. “Let every man abound in his own sense.” The Greek word for “abound,” πληροφορεισθω, means, to have a fulness, which must be determined from the subject matter to which in each particular case it refers; here, it refers to the fulness of conviction and firm persuasion of the lawfulness of his line of conduct. It means, “let each person follow in this matter the full conviction of his own judgment.” I said, in this matter, because the Apostle is treating of feasts and abstinences, instituted by the Mosaic law, and abrogated by Christ, but still permitted to be observed on the part of the Jewish converts for a time. It is only in reference to this matter that the words, “let each one abound,” &c., are used by the Apostle. But in reference to fasts or festivals instituted by the Christian Church, the Apostle would never have left it optional with the faithful to attend to them or not: he would have commanded them strictly to observe them, as he did in reference to the decrees of the Apostles.—(Acts 16:4). The same is clearly deducible from the doctrine laid down by him in the preceding chapter, when treating of the obligations of such as are subject to others.

Rom 14:6. The man who distinguishes one day from another, does so for the glory of God (and the man who observes all days alike, has the same object in view); and the man who partakes of all means promiscuously, does so for the glory of the Lord, for he gives thanks to God for the food of which he partakes; and the man who abstains, does so from religious motives, for the glory of the Lord; and he in like manner, gives God thanks for the food which he regards as permitted to him, or for the gift of abstinence.

“He that regardeth the day,” i.e., distinguishes one day from another for the purpose of religious worship, “regardeth it unto the Lord,” i.e., does so with reference to the will of the Lord. In the common Greek we have these words added, and he who regardeth not the day, regardeth it not unto the Lord, the meaning of which is quite clear from the opposite clause. The words are wanting in the chief MSS. Beelen thinks them genuine, and fully warranted by the negative placed after the affirmative form of expression in reference “to eating,” in the following part. “And he that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth thanks to God” for the food he receives, and the Christian liberty which exempts him from the yoke of Jewish ceremonies. In the words, “giveth thanks there” is an allusion to the practice among the Jews of giving thanks before and after meals, a custom sanctioned by the example of our Divine Redeemer (Matt. 15:26; Mark 8:14; Luke 22; John 6), and universally and at all times observed in the Church.—(1 Tim. 4). “And he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not,” i.e., he is to be presumed to have the glory of God in view, “and giveth thanks to God,” for this gift of abstinence, or, for the food of another description which he receives; and it is to this latter meaning that the words are restricted by Estius, who remarks that the Apostle does not say, as in the preceding “for he giveth,” &c., but, “and he giveth thanks,” as if to say, he refers this act of abstinence to the glory of God, who looks not only to our actions but also to our intentions; “and he gives God thanks,” for the other food permitted to him. From this passage we are to infer, that unless in matters clearly and manifestly sinful, no one is to be condemned by us, but rather excused on the grounds of good intention.

Rom 14:7. Both of them bless God and give him thanks; or, none of us, after our call to Christianity, is to live or die for his own advantage or glory, but for the glory of the Lord, whose servants we are become.

The Apostle proves that they both refer their actions, in each case, to God; no wonder, he says, that particular actions should have reference to God, when our entire life, and death itself, are subservient to his glory, and should be referred to this end by all Christians, who, by their very profession, are become the servants of God,

Rom 14:8. For, whether we live, we live for the glory of the Lord, or whether we die, we die for the glory of the Lord, and in obedience to his will. Whether, therefore, we are living or dead, we are the Lord’s who ransomed us by the effusion of his most precious blood.

We live and die unto the Lord, who made us his own, and to whom, therefore, we should consecrate our life, death, and all that we have. “Whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s,” who paid the heavy price of his own most precious blood for us. As slaves, therefore, have nothing of their own—all they possess belongs to their master—so we, the servants, and purchased slaves of God, have nothing of our own; our life, death, and entire being, all belong to Christ.

Rom 14:9. For, unto this end, has Christ died, and thus paid the price of our ransom, and risen from the dead to lead a glorious and immortal life, that he should exercise dominion over the living and the dead.

He assigns a reason, why we should live and die unto Christ, and refer our all to his glory. “For, unto this end Christ died, and rose again.” In the Greek it is, “Christ died, and rose again,” and has lived again. In some readings, as in the one from which our Vulgate is taken, this latter clause is omitted. In others (v.g.), in the Codex Vaticanus, the middle member of the sentence, “and rose again,” is omitted: it runs thus, και απεθανεν και εζησεν, died and lived. The sense is, however, fully expressed in ours. “That he might be Lord both of the living and of the dead.” Christ, from the instant of his incarnation, had this dominion. To him “was given all power in heaven and on earth,” i.e., over the whole Church, militant and triumphant; but, it was only after his death and resurrection, that he was to exercise his dominion, “that he might be Lord of the dead and the living,” i.e., of us, while in this world and in the next. The Apostle places “the living” after “the dead” to show that this perfect dominion is to regard such as live a life of glory in the future world; for, it is in the elect, that his reign of glory will be conspicuous.

Rom 14:10. Since, then, we are all the purchased servants of Christ, why shouldst thou, who abstainest, judge thy brother, as guilty of violating the law, when in the exercise of his Christian liberty he partakes of every kind of meat? and, on the other hand, why shouldst thou, who exerciseth this Christian liberty, despise as ignorant and weak-minded, thy brother, who, from weakness of faith, abstains from certain meats? You have no authority for doing so; you are only usurping the function of Christ, before whose tribunal we shall be placed for judgment.

No one should judge his neighbour. This is the peculiar province of Christ, and no one should despise his brother, since we know not what judgment an infinitely just and righteous judge may pass on him; perhaps, the very matter for which we despise him, may be the subject matter of his reward. Let us recollect the tremendous judgment of God, and it will be the best check on our rash judgments.

Rom 14:11. For, it is of Christ, as supreme judge of all, we are to understand the words of the Prophet Isaiah 45:23: I swear by my life (saith the Lord) that every knee shall be bent before me as Supreme Lord and Sovereign Judge, and every tongue shall confess me to be their God by whom alone they shall swear.

These words are taken from Isaiah 45:23. There is some slight variation from the Hebrew and Septuagint, but very little difference in the sense. In place of, “I live,” it is in the Septuagint, “I swear by myself.” However, the former expression is equivalent in sense to the latter; for, as it was an ordinary kind of oath among the Jews to swear, “the Lord liveth;” so, is God often introduced in SS. Scripture, swearing by himself in the words, “I live,” Num 14; Isa, 49; Ezek 14, &c. (“saith the Lord”), are added by the Apostle himself. “Every knee;” after these words, in some Greek copies, are added, of things in heaven, on earth, or under the earth, but they are rejected by critics. “Every tongue shall confess to God.” In Isaias it is, “and every tongue shall swear by God;” or, as in the Hebrew, “shall swear,” which is a homage to his sovereign truth. This power Christ possessed over the good and bad at his first coming; but it shall be fully exercised and perfected only at his second coming. The prophet speaks in the name of the supreme Jehovah; St. Paul, by applying these words to Christ declares his divinity.

Rom 14:12. Each one, therefore, shall be presented before the judgment seat of a most just and righteous Sovereign Judge, to give an account for himself and not for others, over whom he has no charge.

“For himself” (in Greek, περι ἑαυτοῦ, “of himself,”) not to any other, but “to God,” the supreme and sovereign Judge. In the preceding verse, there is a forcible proof of the divinity of Christ. Since it is to prove that Christ is sovereign Judge, before whom all shall appear (verse 10), that he adduces this testimony from Isaias, which shows that adoration shall be paid him; moreover, he calls him “God” in this verse.

Rom 14:13. We should not, therefore, form unfavourable judgments regarding each other; but you should rather resolve on this, not to place an obstacle or stumbling-block in the way of your neighbour’s salvation.

As, then, each one is to render an account of himself, let us forbear from judging or condemning each other. “But judge this rather,” i.e., determine and resolve upon this, “not to put a stumbling-block or a scandal in your brother’s way.” The words “stumbling-block “and “scandal” refer to the same thing, viz., whatever may be the occasion, whether it be word, deed, or omission, of the spiritual fall and ruin of our neighbour. In the Codex Vaticanus, the word “stumbling-block,” προσκομμα, is omitted. In the preceding part of the chapter, the Apostle principally addresses himself to the weak; he addresses himself in the remaining portion to the well-instructed, whether converted Jews or Gentiles, and cautions them against giving an occasion of scandal to their weaker brethren, whose infirm consciences he bids them to respect.

Rom 14:14. So far as I am myself concerned, I know for certain, and I am most firmly persuaded from the doctrine of the Lord Jesus, that no food is unclean of its own nature. But still it happens accidentally that food is unclean, for him who, through ignorance, thinks it to be such; see, then, the great caution with which we should use our gospel liberty in presence of the weak or ignorant.

“In the Lord Jesus,” i.e., by the teaching of Jesus Christ himself, “that nothing is unclean of itself, δἰ αὑτοῦ; in the Codex Vaticanus δἰ ἑαυτοῦ; in some readings it is, “that nothing is unclean by him,” δἰ αὐτου, without the aspirate, and this is the reading followed by the Vulgate, per ipsum, i.e., by his religion, in which all distinctions of this kind are abolished. The former reading, which is the more common, has reference to the false opinions entertained by certain Jews, who, not fully acquainted with the nature of the prohibition of the law, thought that the law forbade the use of certain meats as being of their own nature unclean; both readings are true. “But to him that esteemeth,” i.e., to the man who, from an erroneous conscience, believes “anything to be unclean, it is unclean,” and prohibited; hence, the others should take care not to provoke him by their example to commit an act which, from ignorance, he believes to be sinful; for by performing it, he sins.

Rom 14:15. But if your weaker brother, thinking certain kinds of food to be unclean, sees you partake of them, and is, therefore, troubled with either rash judgment regarding you, or with remorse of conscience for having partaken of such food, after your example, with a conviction of its sinfulness, you no longer observe fraternal charity. Do not so far undervalue your brother, for whom Christ died, as to give occasion to his spiritual ruin on account of your food.

If in consequence of seeing you eat meat, your brother “is grieved,” i.e., is impelled to rash judgment, or is induced to act against conscience by your example, and so to incur remorse; or, perhaps, in consequence of being perplexed with doubts, to relapse into Judaism; “thou walkest not,” &c., i.e., thou sinnest against fraternal charity. “Destroy not him with thy meat,” i.e., by taking meats under circumstances, in which it shall be to him an occasion of sin, “for whom Christ died,” i.e., whom Christ valued so highly, as to die for him. Hence, Christ died for more than the elect.

Rom 14:16. Let not, then, our holy religion be subjected to the blasphemies and reproaches of those who are without, on account of your contentions and divisions about eating or abstaining from certain meats.

“Our good,” in Greek, ὑμῶν τὸ ἀγαθον, “your good.” The meaning is the same. By “our good “some understand the advantage and blessing of Christian liberty which we enjoy. “Be evil spoken of,” βλασφημεισθω, by the weak and infirm brethren, who, seeing us avail ourselves of this liberty, in certain circumstances, judge us as violating the law; others understand by it the Christian religion (as in Paraphrase).

Rom 14:17. For, true religion, by which God reigns in our hearts, and on account of which he prepares for us a kingdom in heaven, does not consist in the choice of meat and drink; but in innocency of morals resulting from the observance of God’s Law; in cultivating peace with our neighbour; and in spiritual joy which always accompanies a good conscience.

The Christian religion, by which God reigns in our hearts, &c., does not consist in the exercise of one’s right to partake of all kinds of meat, &c., or in the choice and selection of meat and drink, but in “justice,” whereby the law of God is observed. “Peace,” has reference to our neighbour; “and joy in the Holy Ghost,” i.e., true spiritual joy, resulting from the observance of God’s law, and from the cultivation of peace with our neighbour, a joy which the Holy Ghost pours into the hearts of the truly peaceful and devout.

There is not the slightest ground for objection here against the merit of abstinence prescribed by the Catholic Church. 1st. The Apostle does not depreciate the merit of abstinence at all; it is of the use of meat and drink he speaks, and not of abstinence from them, 2ndly. The Apostle in the entire chapter, is only referring to the abstinence prescribed by the ceremonial law of the Jews. 3rdly. Although the use of food be not of itself sinful, nor abstinence from it of itself meritorious; still, the Apostle would not hold that when this abstinence is commanded by legitimate and competent authority, it would not be so, as is clear from the case of Adam. And that the Church has power to command abstinence in certain cases, is clear from the conduct of the Apostles, in the First Council of Jerusalem, prohibiting the use of Idolothytes—a matter in itself indifferent—to the inhabitants of Antioch and of the adjoining countries.

Rom 14:18. For, whosoever, serves Christ in the cultivation of these virtues, pleases God, and receives the approbation of good men.

“He that in this.” The common Greek has, in these, i.e., in the cultivation of these virtues of true piety towards God, peace towards our neighbour, spiritual joy, wherewith to console our neighbour, instead of irritating him by contentions. The chief MSS. support the Vulgate, and have ἐν τούτω: such a person “pleaseth God,” &c.

Rom 14:19. Let us, therefore, diligently cultivate what things soever tend to promote peace; and let us carefully attend to such things as serve to advance mutual edification.

“And keep the things that are of edification one towards another.” The word “keep” is not in the Greek. We only have in it, “Let us follow after the things that are of peace, and the things that are of edification,” &c. The word “edification” is a metaphorical expression, well adapted to convey the benefits of good example given to our neighbour; for, Christians are the temples of the Holy Ghost; every act or word, therefore, that promotes their spiritual advancement, builds up and conserves this edifice of sanctity, founded by the Holy Ghost. Two things in particular promote this, viz., teaching and example.—(See 1 Cor. 8:1).

Rom 14:20. Beware, then, of destroying, on account of food, the spiritual edifice of God; that is to say, your infirm brother, in whom God dwells by his grace. I admit that, both of their own nature and by the law, all kinds of food are clean; still the man who partakes of this food, in circumstances where his doing so is an obstacle, and a source of scandal to his weak brethren, commits sin by the act.

“Destroy not the work of God,” i.e., do not spiritually ruin by inducing him to commit sin, your infirm brother, in whom God resides as in his temple, and whom he prepared for this by his grace. “Destroy him not for meat,” i.e., by availing yourself of your perfect right to partake of food in circumstances where he may be induced to follow your example in violation of his conscience, which, although erroneous, it would be sinful for him to violate. “But it is evil,” i.e., it is a sinful act on his part “who eateth with offence,” i.e., he commits a sin, who without necessity, performs an act otherwise licit, in circumstances where another is led to violate conscience, and thus to commit sin, after his example.

Rom 14:21. It is a matter of duty, or, it is far better to abstain from eating meat, and from drinking wine, and from doing anything else, which may prove the occasion of stumbling or falling to your brother, and which may serve to make him more perplexed, and weaker in faith.

“It is good,” may mean, it is a matter of strict duty to abstain from meat and wine, or “anything else,” i.e., from doing anything else “whereby thy brother is offended.” Some versions have “offends.” i.e., impinges or stumbles against some obstacle; the Greek, προσκοπτει, admits of this latter construction. “Or scandalized,” means the same as the preceding term, in perhaps a more aggravated form, so as to fall, by either rash judgments, or by imitating, in eating meats, the better instructed; or doing anything else in itself lawful, which they may still, from ignorance, repute unlawful. In such a case they sin, since it is always sinful to act against conscience, even when erroneous; the only remedy is, to correct such a conscience. “Or made weak,” perplexed in faith, and tempted to abandon it altogether by apostacy. In such a case the well instructed are bound by the law of charity to respect the consciences of their weaker brethren, when the advantage they obtain is not necessary for them, and not to be compared with the loss it entails on their neighbour.

Rom 14:22. You may tell me that from the teaching of your religion, you have a firm and undoubted conviction, that all meats are clean, and that you may lawfully partake of them indiscriminately. Keep this conviction within yourself, and in the presence of God; and do not proclaim it aloud to the spiritual detriment of your neighbour. Happy is the man who does not condemn himself interiorly, in that which he approves of, and adopts in his conduct exteriorly (by violating his conscience, either from the force of bad example, or from any other motive whatsoever).

“Hast thou faith?” Some read these words declaratively, “thou hast faith.” There is no difference in sense. The Apostle addresses the well instructed, who knew from the principles of his faith, that all things were clean; and who, therefore, might say, he had a right to act upon this faith. By “faith” is not meant so much a belief in revealed truths, as a firm conviction of the lawfulness of a certain course, although in the present instance, the former followed from the latter; the firm conviction that all things were clean, flowed from the firmness of Christian faith. “Have it to thyself,” &c. There are times when it is a matter of duty to proclaim our Christian faith; but when we are not interrogated by competent authority, and no good, but, on the contrary, evil would result from declaring it—for instance, if there were a probable danger of our denying it, in case of torture, or, should contempt and blasphemies follow—then it would be unlawful to “profess it,” as St. Cyprian assures us.—(Epist. 83).

“Blesseth is he that condemneth not,” &c. These words are addressed to the weak brother, who violates his conscience, and does exteriorly what he thinks to be unlawful; in such a case, he commits sin by acting against his conscience.

Rom 14:23. But he who doubts (whether it be lawful for him to eat or not), if he eat in such a state of conscience, is guilty of sin, and is exposed to condemnation nay, condemned in his own judgment; because his act is not in accordance with the certain dictates of his conscience; or, because he does not act with a firm persuasion, that he is acting well. But, whatever is done against the dictates of conscience, or without a firm conviction that it is lawful, is a sin.

“He that decerneth.” (In Greek, διακρινομενος, doubts or fluctuates), “because not of faith,’ his act does not proceed from a firm conviction and full persuasion that it is lawful, so long as he is in this state of doubt. By “faith” here, and verse 22, is meant, not divine faith; but a practical faith or firm persuasion regarding the lawfulness of an action. “For all that is not faith is sin.” Whoever, therefore, acts with a dubious conscience commits sin. Before a man performs any act, he should resolve his doubts into a certainty, by some reflex judgment, as is always done by the advocates of Probabilism. They never allow one to act on a proximately probable or dubious conscience. By a reflex principle (v.g.), that the obligation of law is doubtful, and, therefore, not binding at all, Lex dubia non obligat, &c., they render the conscience, which was remotely probable and dubious, unhesitating, and practically certain, before performing the action; and hence, they act in every case from “faith,” in the sense required here by the Apostle.

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