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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Romans Chapter 8

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 17, 2019

Scripture links are to the Douay Rheims translation

In this chapter, after inferring from the foregoing that the baptized have nothing deserving of damnation, except so far as they consent to the motions of concupiscence (Rom 8:1), the Apostle tells us that we are rescued from the dominion of concupiscence by the grace of the Gospel (Rom 8:2-4.) He shows the different motions and effects of the flesh and of the spirit (Rom 8:4–9). He exhorts us to live according to the spirit, and points out the spiritual and eternal life of both soul and body, resulting from such a course (Rom 8:9–11). He next exhorts us to follow the dictates of the spirit, and to mortify the deeds of the flesh, in order to escape death and obtain life (Rom 8:12-13)—to act up to our calling as sons of God, and to conform to the spirit of charity and love, which we received, unlike to that of the Jews of old, and by thus acting as sons of God, to secure the Heavenly inheritance, which we shall certainly obtain, on condition, however, of suffering (Rom 8:13–17). Lest this condition should dishearten them, he points out the greatness of God’s inheritance,—so great indeed is it, that he personifies inanimate creatures, and represents them as groaning for this glorious consummation. The very Christians themselves, although in the infancy of the Church, they received the sweet pledge of future glory in the choice gifts of the Holy Ghost, were sighing for it (Rom 8:17–24). The Holy Ghost, besides the assurance he gave them of being sons of God, was also relieving their necessities and prompting them to pray with ineffable ardour of spirit (Rom 8:25-27). The Apostle encourages them to patient suffering by pointing out to them that they were predestined for these sufferings as the means of their sanctification and future glorification (Rom 8:28–30), and, finally, he excites them to confidence in God (Rom 8:31–39).

Text in purple indicates Fr. MacEvilly’s paraphrase of the scripture he is commenting on

Rom 8:1. There is nothing, therefore, deserving of damnation to be found in those who, by baptism, are engrafted on Christ Jesus, unless they themselves voluntarily consent to the desires of the flesh, and execute them in act.

“Therefore, now there is no damnation,” &c. This is the conclusion which the Apostle derives from the latter portion of the foregoing chapter. Whereas the man who is baptized and justified does not consent to the irregular sallies of concupiscence, there is nothing deserving of damnation in him, only as far as he voluntarily consents to them, “who walk not, &c.” Hence, by the grace of Baptism, sin is really remitted—(Council of Trent. SS. v. Can. 5). From this it by no means follows, that after the guilt of sin is remitted, there does not, sometimes, remain a temporal debt to be remitted, as Catholic faith teaches—(Ibidem, SS. xiv. Can. 12). For, such temporal debt is not “damnation.” 2ndly, All that would follow at best is, that no such debt to be expiated is left by Baptism (for it is to Baptism he alludes here), and this we freely admit. The conclusion drawn from the foregoing, in this verse, clearly shows: that in the latter part of the preceding chapter, the Apostle is describing the state of those who are justified. In the common Greek, the words, but according to the spirit, are added to this verse. They are, however, rejected by the best critics. They are wanting in the Alexandrian and other MSS., and also in some ancient versions. In the Vatican and other leading MSS. the words, “according to the flesh,” are also wanting, and the probability is, that, being taken from verse 4, as a marginal gloss, they crept into the Sacred text.

Rom 8:2. For, the grace of the vivifying spirit which is diffused in our hearts, instigating us to good, like a law, has liberated me and all Christians from the guilt and dominion of concupiscence, which ends in death.

“From the law of sin,” i.e., has delivered me and all “who are in Christ Jesus,” from the tyranny of sin and death, by giving us strength to resist its motions and dictates.

Rom 8:3. For, what was impossible to the law, inasmuch as it was weakned by corrupt nature, God (effected) when he sent his Son to assume real flesh, like sinful flesh, and condemned sin of injustice in the flesh of his Son.

“For that which the law could not do,” in Greek, αδυνατον τοῦ νομοῦ, is properly rendered in the Vulgate, “quod impossibile erat legi.” “In that it was weak through the flesh.” This he adds, lest he might be understood to attribute the commission of sin to the law itself; or, rather, to show how utterly impossible it was for the law to confer justification. For, even though it had not to contend with sinful flesh, of its own nature, without the grace of the Gospel, it could not justify, and how much more impossible it was for it to do so, when weakned by the rebellious flesh. “God sending his Son.” God (did or effected), when he sent his Son; the word did, or some such, must be understood in order to complete the sense. Others, with great probability, connect the passage thus: “For God, by sending (πεμψας) his Son into this world, in his assumed flesh, like unto our sinful flesh, and indeed on account of sin (και περι αμαρτιας), condemned sin by destroying its dominion in our flesh, a thing which the law could not effect, being weakned by the flesh rebelling against reason.” In this construction the word “did” need not be supplied; by giving the words “and of sin” the meaning referred to, which the Greek will admit, and by connecting them with “sending,” and not with “condemned,” there will be no difficulty. “In the likeness of sinful flesh;” he assumed real flesh, which was like our sinful flesh; “and of sin hath condemned sin,” because, “sin”—which the Apostle here personifies—had unjustly inflicted the punishment of death due to it, on Christ, who was wholly innocent. Hence, God deprived it of its power, which it exceeded and abused. The idea is the same as that in the Epistle to the Hebrews 2:14. According to the other interpretation referred to, the words, “condemned sin in the flesh,” will mean abolished, destroyed, the dominion which sin exercised in our sinful flesh. The Greek words, κατεκρινε την αμαρτιαν εν τῃ σαρκι, will admit of this meaning.—(Vide Beelen).

Rom 8:4. This was the thing impossible to the law, which, however, God accomplished, viz., that we might fulfil the entire law (“the doers of which will be justified,” Rom 2:13), who obey not the dictates of the flesh, but live according to the spirit of grace, which enables us to fulfil the entire law.

This is what was impossible to the law, viz., to enable us to fulfil its precepts, and thus insure its justification; for, “the doers of the law will be justified,” (Rom 2:13), and by the death of the Son of God, the grace was merited for us, which enabled us to observe God’s commandments. In the other interpretation, this verse is connected with the word “sending.” The object God had in sending his Son to destroy the dominion of sin was, “that the justification of the law,” &c. These understood “what the law could not do” to refer to the destroying the dominion of sin in our flesh.

Rom 8:5. For, as to those who live according to the flesh, they are too much engrossed with the things of the flesh, to mind the observance of the law, which is all spiritual; it is only those who live according to the spirit, that attend spiritual matters.

“They that are according to the flesh, mind,” (φρονουσι) i.e., have their entire thoughts and attention devoted to “the things that are of the flesh,” and hence, in reference to such, as they do not co-operate in observing God’s law, but rather oppose it, the grace of the New Testament will not give them strength to observe God’s law. The “flesh,” here, as in many other passages of St. Paul (v.g., Gal. 5:19), includes not only the animal propensities which reside in the sensual appetite, but the entire corrupt nature of man, even the spiritual faculties of the soul. In like manner, “sin,” or concupiscence, in the preceding, is not confined to carnal concupiscence; it extends to the disorderly affections of the soul, which are the source of spiritual sins.

Rom 8:6. Now, to be wholly engrossed with the things of the flesh is death to the soul; but to attend to spiritual things is the source of life and peace.

“For the wisdom of the flesh.” The Greek for “wisdom of the flesh” (φρόνημα τῆς σαρκος), means the same as “mind the things of the flesh,” (verse 5). Hence, the meaning is, and the proper rendering should be, the minding of the things of the flesh.

Rom 8:7. This wisdom of the flesh, or, this total giving one’s self up to be engrossed by the things of the flesh, is the source of death, because, it is at enmity with God, and rebellious against his law; hence, it is neither subject, nor can it be subject to the law of God; for, they are of their own nature perfectly irreconcilable.

The reason for which is, that this wisdom of the flesh is at enmity with God; for, it is rebellious against his law, it is not subject to it, nor can it be; for, the wisdom of the flesh and the observance of God’s law are perfectly irreconcilable; it must cease to be wisdom according to the flesh, when it obeys the law of God.

Rom 8:8. Hence those who live according to the flesh, cannot please God, nor can they observe his precepts so as to obtain the justification of the law.

This is the conclusion which the Apostle draws from the preceding verses. His argument is this:—I have said (verse 4), that it is only those, who walk according to the spirit, that can observe God’s law, “for those who walk according to the flesh, mind the things of the flesh (verse 5). But, to mind the things of the flesh is death,” (verse 6). Hence, those who walk according to the flesh cannot please God, which they would do were they to observe his commandments. They cannot please God, any more than rebels, continuing such, can please their lawful sovereign.

Rom 8:9. But you, after having been regenerated in Christ by baptism, do not live according to the flesh, but according to the spirit of grace which you received; if this spirit, however, still dwells in you. But if anyone does not preserve the Spirit of Christ, he is no longer a living member of him.

“You are not in the flesh.” You are not subject to the flesh, nor do you follow its desires, but you walk according to the spirit. He addresses those who were baptized. “If so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you,” i.e., if he has not departed from you on account of your actual sins, but dwells in you, as in his temples. The bodies of the just are the temples of the Holy Ghost. “Now, if any one hath not the Spirit of Christ,” i.e., if the Holy Ghost, who is the “Spirit of God,” and the “Spirit of Christ,” abide not in a Christian, he is merely a Christian in name, but he is not a living member of the mystical body of Christ.

Rom 8:10. But if Christ dwell in you by his spirit, your body is indeed subject to death, as a punishment of sin; but your spirit or soul enjoys the life of grace here on account of justification, and shall live a life of glory hereafter.

“The body is dead” (is and be are wanting in the original text), i.e., of necessity, liable to death, or, mortal, on account of the sin of Adam, in punishment of which “death entered into this world” (chap. 5) and he says “it is dead,” νεκρον, because it contains within it the seeds of certain death, and is gradually dissolving and approaching its final end. “But the spirit liveth.” (In Greek, τὸ πνευμα ζωη, the spirit is life) that is, the soul lives a spiritual life, “because of justification,” i.e., on account of the justifying graces with which it is adorned, and it shall hereafter live a life of glory, of which grace is the seed.

Rom 8:11. But if the spirit of God the Father, who raised Jesus from the dead, dwell in you by justice, this same spirit, that raised Jesus Christ from the dead, shall also vivify and endow with glory and immortality your mortal bodies, on account of their present dignity in being the dwelling-place of his spirit.

Not only will the immortal soul enjoy a glorious immortality, but even the mortal body shall share in and possess the attributes of glory and immortality. “Raised up Jesus Christ.” “Jesus” is wanting in the Greek.

Rom 8:12. As, therefore, brethren, we are in the spirit and not in the flesh, and as it is from the spirit that we have received past blessings and hope for greater in future, we are no longer debtors to the flesh, so as to walk or live according to its dictates or allow its dominion over us.

This is the conclusion which the Apostle derives from the foregoing. As it is to the spirit, we owe our spiritual life of grace here, and as it is from it we expect a life of glory hereafter; therefore, we are no longer debtors to the flesh, so as to follow its dictates; it is to the spirit alone that we are indebted. The Apostle personifies the “flesh” here; he supposes it to be a master demanding our service, as he did before regarding “sin.”

Rom 8:13. For, if you live according to the desires of the flesh, you shall die a spiritual death here which is the precursor of an eternal death hereafter. But if by the spiritual fervour infused into you by the Holy Ghost, you mortify the vicious desires and corrupt inclinations of the flesh, you shall live both a life of grace here and of glory hereafter.

This is an additional reason why we should serve not the flesh, but the spirit (by serving one we renounce the other); it is derived from the consequences of our service in both cases. “You mortify the deeds of the flesh.” In Greek, τοῦ σώματος (of the body), that is, kill within you those risings of corrupt passions, in subduing which are felt the pains of death.

Rom 8:14. For, whosoever are efficaciously moved by the Holy Ghost, and under his influence mortify the flesh and live a spiritual life, they are truly sons of God, and will, therefore, enjoy the inheritance of life eternal.

This is a proof of the foregoing, viz., that by mortifying the deeds of the flesh “they shall live;” because, by acting up to the inspirations of the Holy Ghost, they become “sons of God,” and as “sons of God,” they are his “heirs” (verse 17), i.e., they shall enjoy the never-ending inheritance of eternal life. Therefore, “they shall live” (verse 13). The Apostle supposes them to be baptized, as a condition of this divine filiation. The word “led,” implies only moral impulse, which by our own free will we might resist; it involves no loss of human liberty; for, in the preceding the Apostle supposes human liberty, when he speaks of “mortifying the deeds of the flesh,” &c. The same is observable, Phm. 11-13, where, after speaking of the operation of God, he tells them to “work out their salvation,” &c.

Rom 8:15. That you are the sons of God is clear from the spirit you received in baptism, for you have not received under the new dispensation, as the Jews did in the promulgation of the old on Sinai, the spirit of servitude, to inspire you with fear, but you have received the spirit of charity and loveadopting you as sons, under the influence of which, you freely and confidently call on God, or the entire Blessed Trinity, as the common Father of all the faithful, both Jews and Gentiles.

In this verse, he shows from the spirit they received that they are sons of God; or, perhaps, in it is conveyed an additional motive for them to walk according to the spirit, viz., in order to correspond with the spirit they received. “You have not received the spirit of bondage again in fear” (in Greek, εἴς φόβον, unto fear). He evidently refers to the spirit of fear which the Jews received on Sinai, and which was given them as a gift of the Holy Ghost, in order to deter them from violating God’s commandments. Ut probaret vos, venit Deus, et ut terror illius esset in vobis (for God is come to prove you, and that the dread of him might be in you, and you should not sin.).—Exodus 20:20. Although the fear proceeded from the Holy Ghost, the servility of the fear came from themselves. The graces whereby the Jews of old were justified, belonged not to the Old Law as such, but to the New Covenant. “But you have received the spirit of the adoption of sons.” He contrasts this latter gift of the Holy Ghost with the former gift, which it far excelled. “The spirit of adoption of sons,” the spirit of love, the sanctifying grace of the Holy Ghost, by which we are become the adopted sons of God, and under the influence of which we confidently and freely call God Father. “Whereby we cry Abba (Father).” The more probable reason why the Apostle repeats the word “Father,” in Hebrew, “Abba,” and in Greek πατηρ, is to show that God is the common Father of all the believers, whether Jews, in whose language “Abba” means “Father;” or Gentiles, who call him πατηρ.

Rom 8:16. And this same spirit of God, whom we have received, bears testimony to our spirit, that we are the sons of God.

This same spirit, by whose influence “we cry out Abba, &c.,” by this filial affection whereby he inspires us to utter such a cry, “testifies together with our spirit,” (this is the meaning of the Greek word συμμαρτυρει), in other words, confirms the testimony of our spirit, “that we are sons of God.” The compound verb in the Greek may simply mean, to testify, as in Paraphrase. Verses 15-16 are to be read within a parenthesis, and verse 17 immediately connected with verse 14. For in verse 15 there is given, incidentally, one proof of verse 14, viz., calling God Father; and in verse 16 another, viz., the testimony of the Holy Ghost.

Objection.—Does it not follow, then, that each man is absolutely certain of his salvation?

Resp.—By no means. If we give the words, “giveth testimony,” the full meaning of the compound Greek word, συμμαρτυρει; in Latin, contestatur, all that would follow is, that the Holy Ghost confirms our own testimony, that we are the sons of God, by inspiring us to repeat the prayer in which we address God as our Father. This would certainly convey no absolute certainly of faith on the subject; or, as the Council of Trent describes, “certitudo fidei, cui non potest subesse falsum.”—(SS. vi., ch. ix.) If the words be understood in a simple form, all that would follow is, that we arrive at a moral, or rather conjectural certainty from the signs which come from the Holy Ghost—viz., horror of sin, love of virtue, peace and tranquillity of conscience, &c. Besides, the Apostle does not say that the Holy Ghost tells every individual by a revelation, that he is the son of God. This would be opposed to the clear order of his Providence, in which “no one knows whether he be worthy of love or hatred,” and to the command, “to work out their salvation with fear and trembling.”

Rom 8:17. But, if we are the sons of God, we are therefore, his heirs, that is to say, we are heirs of God, as his sons, and co-heirs of Christ, as his brethren. It is on condition, however, that we suffer with him, and in the same spirit with him, that we shall be partners in his glory.

God has wished that his children should have, besides the title of inheritance, the title of merit also, to eternal life. “Yet so, if we suffer with him,” the very adoption on which the title of inheritance is founded, is the reward of merit. While infants can only have the title of inheritance, adults must have the twofold title of inheritance and merit.

Rom 8:18. (Nor should the annexed condition of suffering dishearten or discourage us. The difficulty vanishes when we consider the magnitude of the reward and inheritance), for I am firmly persuaded, that the sufferings of the present time, viewed in themselves, bear no proportion whatever to the future glory and happiness which shall be revealed in us.

He stimulates them to submit to the painful condition of suffering, without which no one will enter the kingdom of God, by pointing out the immensity of the reward. If you regard the substance of the works and sufferings of this life, they bear no proportion whatever to the future glory which is to be their reward. But, if they be regarded as emanating from God’s grace, and if we take into consideration God’s liberal promise, attaching eternal life to them, there is some proportion; but which, still, is neither exact nor adequate; the one being temporal, the other, eternal. It is the substance of the sufferings and their duration, that the Apostle here compares with the future glory, as in the 2 Cor 4:17–“For, that which is at present momentary and light—worketh for us an eternal weight of glory.”

Rom 8:19. So great is this future glory of the sons of God, that inanimate creatures themselves are anxiously yearning and earnestly looking forward to its manifestation, as they are to be sharers in it, in a certain way.

The Apostle employs a bold figure of speech, prosopopœia, to convey to us an idea of the magnitude of the bliss in store for the sons of God. He represents inanimate creatures themselves anxiously looking out for the manifestation of the glory of the sons of God. The Greek word for “creation,” κτισις, is taken in Scripture to denote inanimate nature (Rom. 1:25), and it is here distinguished from rational beings, verse 23.

Rom 8:20. For, inanimate nature is rendered subject to corruption and decay, notwithstanding the natural tendency of everything to attain its full perfection, in obedience to the will of him, who, in punishment of original sin, subjected it to corruption, but only for a time, with a hope, however, to which it anxiously looks,

For, inanimate creation was rendered subject to corruption and mutability, in punishment of the sin of man, for whose service it was destined; “not willingly,” i.e., notwithstanding the tendency of everything to attain its natural perfection, or, from no inherent defect of its own. “But by reason of him that made it subject,” i.e., by the ordination of God, who subjected it to vanity, i.e., to corruption and change, in punishment of the sin of man, at whose fall everything destined for his use became deteriorated. “In hope,” the object of the hope is expressed next verse.

Rom 8:21. Of being emancipated from the slavery of corruption, and of being asserted into the glorious liberty suited to the glorified state of the sons of God, to whose service it will administer.

This is the object of the hope—viz., that it shall be rescued from the corruption in which it now is, serving sinful and mortal man, and be transferred to a state of incorruption suited to the glorious liberty of the sons of God, for whose service the “new heavens and the new earth in which justice dwells,” (2 Peter 3:13), are destined.

Rom 8:22. When it shall be freed from these pangs and painful throes, which we know it has been suffering from creation to the present moment, in the hope of this happy and blessed deliverance.

He expresses, in the strongest form, the desire of inanimate nature to be rescued from corruption, by comparing it with the anxious desire, for a happy delivery, of a woman enduring the painful throes of childbirth.

Rom 8:23. And not only do inanimate creatures thus groan, but even we Christians, who have received the first fruits of the Holy Ghost, which are a sure earnest of our being on a future day glorified, groan within ourselves, anxiously expecting the consummation of our adoption as sons of God, when this body of sin and death shall be endowed with glorious immortality.

“But ourselves also,” is referred by some to the Apostle. It more probably, however, has reference to all Christians in the days of the Apostle. “Who have the first fruits of the spirit,” i.e., who have received the gifts of the Holy Ghost, sanctifying grace, faith, hope, &c., and the other gifts which were abundantly conferred in the primitive Church, and which were so many pledges of future glory. “Waiting for the adoption of the sons of God,” i.e., their perfect, consummate adoption, by receiving the glorious inheritance. We have already received the imperfect, incomplete adoption by grace. “The redemption of our body.” This is the perfect state of our adoption in our resurrection and glorification. “Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”—(Rom 7:24).

Rom 8:24. We are only in a state of expectancy; for, we have here only obtained the salvation of hope. Now, hope is incompatible with actual fruition; it must cease to be hope when we enter on the fruition of the object hoped for; since, who ever made the things which he enjoys the object of his hope.

The Apostle, in the preceding verse, said, that we are anxiously expecting the glory of the blessed, the liberation of our body from the slavery of corruption. The connexion of this verse with it is, “I said we were expecting,” &c., for, that we are yet only expecting is clear from the fact, that it is only the initial salvation by hope we enjoy here below. Now, hope and fruition are perfectly incompatible; for, hope has reference to future, but not to present good or actual possession. “Hope that is seen,” means hope, the object of which is obtained.

Rom 8:25. If, then, we have not the things we are anxiously hoping for, we are only to wait and expect them by patiently enduring the evils of this life.

If hope excludes actual possession of the thing hoped for, we ought to wait with patience for the object which must be at a distance. “Patience,” in the Greek, ῦπομονῆς, means, the patient suffering of evils; it has reference to the words, verse 17, “yet so if we suffer with him.” As we have not yet attained the objects of hope, viz., the inheritance of the sons of God, we must wait to receive them through the patient suffering of the crosses and evils of this life.

Rom 8:26. And not only have we received from the Holy Ghost the many favours referred to, particularly the testimony, that we are sons of God; but the same Spirit helps in sustaining our many infirmities, which are so great, that far from being able to perform good works, we even know not what to pray for, or how to pray, as we ought, and He Himself inspires us to pray with groans, that is to say, with a degree of spiritual fervour and strength, that cannot be fully expressed, or, with a fervour to ourselves inexplicable.

“Likewise the Spirit also helpeth.” This is more probably connected with verse 16, as in Paraphrase. The Holy Ghost “helpeth,” the Greek word, συναντιλαμβανεται, means to lay hold of a weight, on the opposite side, so as to help in carrying it. It implies the free concurrence of man with the aid of the Holy Ghost. “Our infirmity.” (in the common Greek, ἀσθενείαις ἡμῶν, our infirmities. The Vulgate, ἀσθενείᾳ, is supported by the chief MSS.) “For, we know not what we should pray for,” &c. So great is our weakness, that we know not how to pray as we ought, or what to pray for, much less to perform actions, the aid for which must be derived from prayer. The Apostle instances our inability to pray, as one out of the many cases of infirmity under which we labour. “But the Spirit himself,” which evidently refers to the Holy Ghost, “asketh for us, with unspeakable groanings;” “he asketh” by inspiring and making us to ask; and hence he is said “to ask,” because his grace is the principal agent, assisted by our free will, in making us pray “with ineffable groanings,” i.e., with a fervour of spirit which cannot be fully expressed, or, which is even to ourselves unaccountable. The Holy Ghost, then, asks along with us, and through us, by enlightening us, by exciting us as his members, to pray with an ardour and vehemence which we can neither fully express nor account for; hence it is said elsewhere, “non vos estis qui loquimini sed spiritus patris vestri,” &c.—(Matt. 10:20.) “Misit spiritum … clamantem, abba pater.”—(Gal. 4:6).

Rom 8:27. But although these groans which we send forth under the influence of God’s Spirit, be to us inexplicable, still God, the searcher of hearts, attends to them, and approves of them, because the Holy Ghost asks things, and asks them in a manner conformable to the will of God, when supplying the defect in the prayers of his saints.

But though these groans be to us inexplicable, still, God knows and fully approves of them, because they proceed from his Spirit, whose prayers for us, i.e., to supply our deficiency, are always according to God’s will, “because he asketh for the saints,” i.e., in order to supply the deficiency in the prayers of the saints. Others connect the words thus: The Spirit also, as well as the hope of future bliss, sustains us in all our distresses and weakness.

Rom 8:28. But although out infirmity be so great as not to know what to pray for, or how to pray as we ought; still we should not be disheartened under crosses and sufferings. For, we know that by the disposition of an all-wise Providence, all things work together unto the good of those who love God; of those, I say, who have been, by his gratuitous decree, called by him to the profession and practice of sanctity, and obey his call.

“To such as, according to his purpose, are called to be saints.” The word “saints” is not in the Greek: “called,” as appears from the Greek, τοῖς κατὰ πρόθεσιν κλητοῖς οὖσιν, is not a participle, but a noun.

This passage is intended by the Apostle to stimulate the Romans to the patient endurance of the crosses of this life; for we know that all things, whether prosperity or adversity, nay, even their very sins (as is added by some of the Commentators), which serve the purpose of humiliation, work together unto the good of those who love God. And to show that this love regarded the faithful among the Romans, the Apostle explains it, by saying, “such as according to his purpose,” πρόθεσιν, i.e., his gratuitous decree, “are called to be saints.”

Commentators are greatly divided as to the object of this “purpose” or decree in question. Some assert that it regards the decree of giving glory; and even these are divided on this subject; one class of them says, that the decree of giving glory is prior to, and quite independent of, the good works of man. Those hold predestination to glory to be, ante prævisa merita. On the other hand, a second class maintain that the prevision of man’s future merits is prior, in the divine mind, to the decree of giving glory. These are the advocates of Predestination to glory, post prævisa merita. Others assert, that this decree in question regards not glory directly, but grace and sanctity. The advocates of the former opinion ground their interpretation: 1st, On the words “all things work together,” &c. Now, it is only of those called to glory, this could be true. 2ndly, They say, the word “purpose,” in Greek, πρόθεσιν, signifies a decree or infallible efficacy. 3rdly, The words, “called according to his purpose,” (for the words “to be saints,” are not in the Greek), are restrictive of the preceding. 4thly, The word “glorifies,” (verse 30), shows glory to be the term of the decree.

The advocates of the interpretation, which makes the decree refer to grace and sanctity, ground it: 1st, On the words, “called to be saints,” which is the term of the decree, and the words mean, called to state and profession of sanctity—the meaning in which the same words are taken in the different introductory salutations in the Epistle of St. Paul, 2ndly, The very object of the Apostle introducing the concurrence of all things towards their good, as a motive to induce them to bear patiently the crosses of this life, would prove the same; since all whom he addresses were called to grace and sanctity, but they could not all regard themselves as called to glory. Finally, the general objects of the Apostle in this Epistle, which regards the gratuitous call to grace of the Romans (for it was regarding this alone there was any controversy), makes it probable that here, too, he refers to the same.

In reply to the arguments of the preceding interpretation, they say: 1st, That “all things,” may be restricted by the subject matter to mean, all sufferings; and that the words, “work together,” do not necessarily imply actual working together, but only that these sufferings are intended, according to the antecedent will of God, for their sanctification. And even though all sufferings may not work together for the good of such as fall away from justice; still the Apostle, in the fervour of his charity, abstracts from the possible chance of their not persevering, and to draw a line of distinction between those called to glory and those rejected from it, would only injure the object he has in view, by throwing some into despondency. 2ndly, They say the word “purpose,” does not involve absolute infallible efficacy (v.g. Acts 11:23); and morever, even though it did, no inconvenience would result; because, the grace and sanctity, which, in their opinion, it regards, are infallibly conferred. 3rdly. These words are explanatory, not restrictive. 4thly, Glory is only the reward of justice, and are we to wonder if the great charity of the Apostle made him abstract from the possibility of their not persevering, who were called, and represent all those whom God predestined to sanctity, as receiving the crown of glory which is decreed only for those who persevere? The latter opinion seems far the more probable. Hence, we have nothing to do here with the relative probability or improbability of the opinions regarding the decrees of glory, ante prævisa merita, or post prævisa merita. No doubt, the latter opinion appears far more in accordance with the doctrine of the Apostles, asserting that “God wishes all men to be saved,” and “none to perish;” more in accordance with our ideas of the goodnesss of God manifested in the death of Christ for all, and his tears and labours for the conversion of sinners during his mortal life. It is still free for any Theologian to hold either opinion. It is, however, to be observed, that although we can hold, that in predestinating men to glory, God is actuated by the prevision of the good works of those whom he predestines—post prævisa merita—and this is even, as has been just stated, the more probable opinion; still, no one could hold, without falling into the semi-Pelagian heresy, that in predestining men to grace, God is actuated by the prevision of their correspondence with this grace, as the motive of his conferring it. And although we may hold, negative reprobation, or, the non-predestinating, and selecting men out of the mass of perdition, to be, ante prævisa demerita—no doubt a very improbable opinion—still, no one, without falling into the shocking heresy of Calvin, could hold positive reprobation, or the decree of devoting anyone to eternal punishment, to be, ante prævisa demerita. The reason is, that Predestination ante prævisa merita, being a free gratuitous act of goodness of the part of God, he could exercise it as he pleased; but it would be unjust to inflict a punishment without some fault. Hence, God would be cruel and unjust in marking out men for punishment without some fault, i.e., in reprobating them positively, ante prævisa demerita. Of all the errors of Calvin, this is, perhaps, the most shocking and blasphemous.

Rom 8:29. Because these are they whom he foreknew, nay, even predestined to a conformity in patience with the model presented by his Son in patient suffering; in order that he who, in his Divine nature, is the only begotten Son of God, would, as Man, be the first begotten among many adopted brethren.

In this verse, the Apostle explains why all things work together unto the good of those “called according to the purpose,” or gratuitous decree of God. The construction of the verse, adopted by the generality of Commentators, is this, “for whom he foreknew (those) he also predestinated.” Such of them as make the passage refer to predestination to glory, by “foreknew,” understand “those whom he foreknew by a knowledge of love and predilection,” i.e., whom he loved from eternity, those he predestined. The others say the words mean, “those whom he foreknew would be conformable to the image of his Son, he predestined to be such.” A’Lapide, whose interpretation has been adopted in the Paraphrase, says that the Apostle in this verse enters on an explanation of the nature of predestination referred to here, and then resumes the word “predestinated,” in next verse (30) in which the sentence suspended is completed. This construction perfectly accords with the style of the Apostle, who, carried away by some idea that occurs to him, sometimes, defers, for a long time, the completion of a sentence (v.g. Rom 5:12; Ephesians 3). According to this construction, the words of our English version: “For whom he foreknew, he also predestinated,” should be rendered from the Vulgate, quos præscivit et prædestinavit, “whom he foreknew and predestinated;” and, then, a marked difference is clearly perceptible in the text, between the mode in which the words, “he foreknew,” and “predestinated,” in this verse are connected, and the connexion which exists between any of the verbs in next verse. He says here, “whom he foreknew and predestinated.” In the next verse, “whom he predestinated, them he also called—whom he called, them he also justified,” &c. And this interpretation of A’Lapide requires the introduction of no other word in the sentence. Hence, his interpretation is adopted in the Paraphrase, in preference to any other. He connects verses 29 with 28, thus: “all things work together, &c.” (verse 28). Because these are they whom God foreknew, and predestinated to be conformable to the image of his Son, or to the model which his Son presents (verse 29). This conformity is to exist in suffering and justice; no doubt, it will extend to glory also. According to A’Lapide, “also” or “and” has the meaning of “because,” “nay even,” as if to say, “he foreknew, because he predestined them to be conformable to the image of his Son,” in justice and suffering. “That he might be the first-born,” &c. This predestination redounds to the glory of Christ, who, as God, is the only begotten, and as Man, is the natural Son of God, and first-born among the others who are only his adopted sons.

Rom 8:30. Those (I say), whom he predestined to a conformity in suffering with his Son, he called to these sufferings; and whom he called, he has justified by these sufferings; and whom he justified, he has glorified.

“And whom he predestinated.” Resuming the sentence suspended last verse, he says, “those (I say) whom he predestinated” to a conformity with the Son in suffering, he called to the same; “whom he called, he justified” by these sufferings, “and whom he justified, he glorified” by the same. The Apostle uses the past tense, though some of the events are future in regard to many, to show the certainty of the future events marked out in God’s decrees. We are not to suppose each of the terms which express the order in which the decrees of God are executed to be equally extensive, so that all are glorified, who are called. The words only mean, that out of the “called” are the “justified,” and out of the “justified” the “glorified.”

Rom 8:31. Alter this abundant manifestation of concern on the part of God for us, what shall we say? Shall we despond? By no means; since, it God be for us (as he really is), who can succeed in opposing us?

This is said to animate them with greater courage in bearing up against the crosses and persecutions of this life, knowing that God is for them, and destines all temporal evils for their good (verse 28); how, then, can any temporal misfortune or persecution from men ultimately harm them.

Rom 8:32. He who has not spared his natural, only begotten Son, but rather delivered him up to death for us all, what will he not give us? In giving us his Son, has he not with him given us every grace and blessing that shall secure our final happiness?

God has given us the greatest earnest and pledge of his love, in delivering up to death, and in not sparing “his own Son,” his natural, well-beloved Son, for our sakes. “Hath he not also given us,” &c.; in the Greek it is in the future, χαρισεται, “will he not also give us all things?” The meaning, however, is not changed, for in giving us Christ, he has virtually given with him all blessings and graces, and he has given us a sure earnest of arranging the decrees of his Providence, so as to lead securely to our final happiness. Having given us what is greater, when we were his enemies, he will not hesitate to grant us what is less, when we are his friends; having obtained the master, why hesitate about the possessions?—St. Chrysostom. What an excess of charity on the part of God. “He spared not,” whom?—His own Son, “by whom all things were made.” On whose account? On account of us, his wretched creatures, the work of hands, his sworn enemies, owing to our manifold sins.

Rom 8:33-34. Who shall institute an accusation against those whom God has elected and made his own by grace? It is God, the judge of all, who pronounces their sentence of acquittal; who then can presume to condemn them? It is Christ Jesus himself who died for us, who has risen from the dead for us, who sits at the right hand of God the Father, that intercedes for us, as our advocate.

There is a great difference of opinion regarding the punctuation of these two verses. Some persons place a note of interrogation after each member of the sentences, thus: “Who then shall accuse against the elect of God? Is it God that justified?” To which the implied answer is: By no means. “Who is he that shall condemn? Is it Christ Jesus that died—yea, that is risen again?” &c. By no means. Others following the punctuation, as given in the Vulgate, interpret the words thus: “Who shall accuse the elect of God?” No one; since God has pronounced the sentence of their acquittal. “Who shall condemn?” No one; since Christ Jesus has died to save them, &c. In the Paraphrase is preferred the interpretation and construction adopted by Estius, who, adhering to the punctuation of the Vulgate, connects the words “God that justifies,” not with the preceding clause, but with the following: “who then shall condemn?” And the words, “Christ Jesus that died—yea, that is risen,” &c., with the following verse (35), “who then shall separate us from the love of Christ.” There apppears to be an allusion in these words to the 50th chapter of Isaias, and with this allusion the interpretation now given accords best. In verse 33 the Apostle appears to be arming and encouraging the Romans against the assaults and persecutions of their external enemies, whether Jews or Gentiles. In this, he is strengthening them against the alarms and terrors of conscience, which their past sins were apt to engender. “Who sits at the right hand of God,” i.e., as man, he holds the highest place next to God in heaven. “Who also maketh intercession for us.” He intercedes not by suppliant prayer, but by exhibiting his wounds, and the merits he gained by his sufferings.—(See Hebrews 9:24).

Rom 8:35. What, then, after receiving so many blessings from God, shall separate us from the charity which in turn we owe to Christ? Is it bodily affliction? mental anguish? famine? nakedness? danger? persecution? the sword?

“The love of Christ” may refer to the love Christ has for us, but it more probably refers to our love for Christ, since it alone could be effected or endangered by the causes referred to in this verse, how could “tribulation, famine,” &c., affect the charity of Christ for us? Hence, the words mean, who or what can deprive us of the love for Christ, which these great favours and sufferings on his part so imperatively demand at our hands?

Rom 8:36. Which afflictions, David predicted, would be always the lot of the pious and virtuous, in whose person he speaks when he says (Psalm 44, Ps 43 in Douay Rheims): “For thy sake are we put to death all the day long. We are regarded as sheep destined for the slaughter.”

As it is written: “For thy sake,” &c. These words are taken from the 43rd Psalm, and are generally supposed to have been written by David. In it, the Psalmist is supposed by the Greeks to represent, in a prophetic spirit, the sufferings of the Machabees. The Latins say that the Psalm is prophetic of the sufferings of the early martyrs of the Christian Church. Most probably, it refers to both; it is here taken by the Apostle, to refer to the sufferings, which the faithful are destined to undergo, in defence of the law of God in all ages.

Rom 8:37. But, far from yielding in these trying circumstances, we even obtain by means of them a triumphant victory through the grace and strength imparted to us by him who has loved us.

“We overcome;” the Greek, ὑπερνεικῶμεν, means “to obtain a most complete victory,” i.e., we have more than sufficient strength to overcome our enemies. What a beautiful illustration of this is furnished us by St. Chrysostom, after having been expelled by Eudoxia (Epistola ad Cyriacum), “since the queen wishes to drive me into exile, let her do so; the Lord’s is the earth and its fulness. If she wishes to have me sawn in two, let her do so,; Isaias suffered the like punishment. If she wishes to cast me into the deep, I will remember Jonas; to stone me, I shall have Stephen, the first martyr, for an associate; to take away my head, I shall have for an associate John the Baptist; to deprive me of my substance, let her do so, “naked have I come forth from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thereto.”

Rom 8:38. For I entertain a confident hope and firm persuasion, that neither threats nor fears of death, neither hopes nor promises of life, that neither spiritual powers, however strong, whether demons or good angels, from whatsoever order of spirits (were they to attempt it); that neither things present nor things to come, that neither the strength of earthly powers,

St. Augustine quotes this passage from the Apostle, from verse 31 to the end, as a specimen of the most finished and impassioned oratory. “I am sure.” The Greek word, πεπεισμαι, only expresses a moral certainty, a firm persuasion, and confidence. It is taken in this sense, and it could bear no other, in Rom 15:14, 2 Timothy 1, Hebrews 6 and Hebrews 11. Here, therefore, it furnishes no argument in favour of the special faith of heretics. We can, moreover, say that St. Paul is speaking of himself in the person of the elect, and who can say, regarding himself, that he is among the elect? And some of the Protestant writers themselves say that the “love of God,” referred to here, is the love of God for us. So that, even following their interpretation, there is not a shadow of argument for their erroneous doctrine. “Nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers.” These words refer to three of the different orders of angels, and under the three orders the rest are included; by some Commentators, they are referred to the demons, who fell from the different; orders of blessed spirits; by others, to the good angels, in which interpretation the Apostle makes an impossible hypothesis, as in Galatians 1:8-“If an angel from heaven should preach a different doctrine,” &c. “Nor might” is not in the Greek; it, most probably refers to the powers of this world, as opposed to the spiritual powers referred to before.

Rom 8:39. Nor the height of prosperity, nor the depth of adversity; in a word, that no creature whatsoever shall be able to separate us from the charity by which we are united to God, through Christ Jesus our Lord.

“Height, depth,” may also mean the things in the heavens, in the air, and under the earth and sea, &c.

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Haydock’s Commentary on 2 Kings 5:1-15

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 16, 2019

2 Kings 5:1 (D-R) Naaman, general of the army, of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master, and honourable: for by him the Lord gave deliverance to Syria: and he was a valiant man, and rich, but a leper.

King, Benadad, who had defeated Achab, and was slain by Hazael; (C. 8. T.) or, according to Salien, Hazael was already king. M.—Josephus passes over this history. It is not known for what reason, (C.) unless he was staggered at the petition of Naaman, v. 18. 19. H.—Syria. The Rabbins say, by killing Achab. 3 K. 22:34. But their authority is very small; (H.) and he might signalize himself on many other occasions.—Leper. This malady did not exclude him from court. The Hebrews allowed such to appear in public, till the priests had declared them unclean; and other nations viewed the leprosy with less horror.

2 Kings 5:2 Now there had gone out robbers from Syria, and had led away captive out of the land of Israel, a little maid, and she waited upon Naaman’s wife.

Robbers; soldiers. T. 2 K. 4:2.—Such invaded the dominions of Joachin. C. 24:2. Irruptions of this nature were then very common, (see Judg. 11:3. Job 1:15) and regarded as noble military exploits. When the Greeks first became acquainted with navigation, they exercised themselves in this manner; (Thucyd. l.) and the Germans allowed their citizens to take from other people. Juventutis exercendæ ac desidiæ minuendæ causâ. Cæsar. Bel. Gal. vi. Those who had been plundered, were allowed to redeem their goods. Strabo xi.—The Arabs still maintain their right to live upon their neighbours. C.—The Christian religion has introduced more gentle manners.—Maid. It seems, however, she was well informed of the miraculous powers and goodness of Eliseus. H.

2 Kings 5:3 And she said to her mistress: I wish my master had been with the prophet that is in Samaria: he would certainly have healed him of the leprosy which he hath.
2 Kings 5:4 Then Naaman went in to his lord, and told him, saying: Thus and thus said the girl from the land of Israel.
2 Kings 5:5 And the king of Syria said to him: Go; and I will send a letter to the king of Israel. And he departed, and took with him ten talents of silver, and six thousand pieces of gold, and ten changes of raiment;

Ver. 5. Raiment; the tunic and the cloak, (C.) of a finer sort. T.

2 Kings 5:6 And brought the letter to the king of Israel, in these words: When thou shalt receive this letter, know that I have sent to thee Naaman, my servant, that thou mayst heal him of his leprosy.
2 Kings 5:7 And when the king of Israel had read the letter, he rent his garments, and said: Am I God, to be able to kill and give life, that this man hath sent to me to heal a man of his leprosy? mark, and see how he seeketh occasions against me.

Ver. 7. Leprosy. The cure was deemed very difficult; as it generally kept gaining ground, and destroyed the constitution. See Num. 12:12. Isai. 53:4. C.—Me. The letter was, in effect, written in a haughty style, (M.) and the king might naturally infer that war would be the consequence. H.

2 Kings 5:8 And when Eliseus, the man of God, had heard this, to wit, that the king of Israel had rent his garments, he sent to him, saying: Why hast thou rent thy garments? let him come to me, and let him know that there is a prophet in Israel.

Ver. 8. Israel; able to perform much greater wonders, by God’s assistance. M.

2 Kings 5:9 So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and stood at the door of the house of Eliseus:
2 Kings 5:10 And Eliseus sent a messenger to him, saying: Go, and wash seven times in the Jordan, and thy flesh shall recover health, and thou shalt be clean.

Ver. 10. Messenger. Eliseus supports the dignity of God’s envoy, and shews the general that his cure was to be attributed, not to the presence of the prophet, but to the will and goodness of God.

2 Kings 5:11 Naaman was angry, and went away, saying: I thought he would have come out to me, and standing, would have invoked the name of the Lord his God, and touched with his hand the place of the leprosy, and healed me.
2 Kings 5:12 Are not the Abana, and the Pharphar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel, that I may wash in them, and be made clean? So as he turned, and was going away with indignation,

Ver. 12. Pharphar. Benjamin (p. 53) informs us that the former river serves to water the city, and the second the surrounding gardens. Maundrell could discover no vestiges of these names in Syria, but he describes the Barrady, which supplies Damascus with abundance of water. Stephanus calls it Bardine; and others, the Chrysorroas. The Orontes, which is supposed to be one of these rivers, flows by Antioch into the Mediterranean sea. C.

2 Kings 5:13 His servants came to him, and said to him: Father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, surely thou shouldst have done it: how much rather what he now hath said to thee: Wash, and thou shalt be clean?

Father; a title given to masters, kings, &c. The Romans senators were styled, “conscript fathers;” and Homer calls kings “the fathers and shepherds of the people.” See Gen. 45:8. C.—Masters may often derive benefit from the observations of their servants, as Naaman did repeatedly, v. 2. This may serve to correct their pride. H.—Clean. The patient ought not to prescribe rules to his physician. M.—How justly might these words be addressed to delicate penitents! H.

2 Kings 5:14 Then he went down, and washed in the Jordan seven times, according to the word of the man of God; and his flesh was restored, like the flesh of a little child: and he was made clean.

Clean. If bathing seven times in the Jordan had been an infallible remedy, there would soon have been no lepers in the land; and our Saviour plainly intimates that the cure was miraculous. Luke 4:27. The leprosy of Naaman, though inveterate, was cured in an instant. To bathe in a rapid stream, is allowed to be very salutary for removing the diseases of the skin. C. Vales. 38.—The fathers discover in this miracle, a figure of the Gentiles called to the faith by the Synagogue, which is in servitude. Gal. 4:25. Baptism cleanses us from all the seven capital sins, (Tert. c. Marc. 4.) so that no vestiges remain. S. Amb. &c. C.

2 Kings 5:15 And returning to the man of God, with all his train, he came, and stood before him, and said: In truth, I know there is no other God, in all the earth, but only in Israel: I beseech thee, therefore, take a blessing of thy servant.

A blessing. A present, (Ch.) accompanied with wishes of happiness, on both sides. We have seen that the prophets generally received such presents. But Eliseus acts with more reserve in regard of this stranger, as S. Paul did towards the new converts; though he received some sustenance from those, who would be less in danger of suspecting that he was actuated by selfish views in preaching the gospel. 2 Cor. 10:7 and 12:14. Matt. 10:8. C.—They abstained from every appearance of evil, (H.) though they might lawfully have accepted such presents. Eliseus wished to convince Naaman that God’s grace was not to be purchased, and to leave a lesson of moderation to future teachers. M.

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St Jerome’s Commentary on Daniel Chapter 9

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 16, 2019

Verses 1, 2. “In the first year of the Darius who was the son of Ahasuerus of the race of the Medes and who reigned over (678) the kingdom of the Chaldeans, in the first year of his reign. ...This is the Darius who in cooperation with Cyrus conquered the Chaldeans and Babylonians. We are not to think of that other Darius in the second year of whose reign the Temple was built (as Porphyry supposes in making out a late date for Daniel); nor are we to think of the Darius who was vanquished by Alexander, the king of the Macedonians. He therefore adds the name of his father and also refers to his victory, inasmuch as he was the first of the race of the Medes to overthrow the kingdom of the Chaldeans. He does this to avoid any mistake in the reading which might arise from the similarity of the name.

Verse 2. “I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of the years concerning which the word of the Lord had come to the prophet Jeremiah, that seventy years would be accomplished for the desolation of Jerusalem.” Jeremiah had predicted seventy years for the desolation of the Temple (Jer. 52:29), at the end of which the people would again return to Judaea and build the Temple and the city of Jerusalem. But this fact did not render Daniel careless, but rather encouraged him to pray that God might through his supplications fulfil that which He had graciously promised. Thus he avoided the danger that carelessness might result in pride, and pride cause offense to the Lord. Accordingly we read in Genesis (chap. 9) [sic!] that prior to the Deluge one hundred and twenty years were appointed for men to come to repentance; and inasmuch as they refused to repent even within so long an interval of time as a hundred years, God did not wait for the remaining twenty years to be fulfilled, but brought on the punishment earlier which He had threatened for a later time. [This deduction seems to have been based upon the fact that Gen. 5:32 mentions that Noah was five hundred years old when he had begotten Ham, Shem, and Japheth, and therefore |91 was still the same age when God appointed the one hundred twenty years in Gen. 6:3. Since the Flood dried up in the six hundred and first year of Noah (8:13), therefore the waiting period could not have been more than a hundred years. Yet it could also have been that the age given in Gen. 5:32 was the age when, within the one hundred twenty year period, Noah’s family was complete, the youngest son being born within that period, and being old enough to be married by the time the Flood itself actually occurred.] So also Jeremiah is told, on account of the hardness of the heart of the Jewish people: “Pray not for this people, for I will not hearken unto thee” (Jer. 7:16). Samuel also was told: “How long wilt thou mourn over Saul? I also have rejected him” (I Sam. 16:1). (p. 540) And so it was with sackcloth and ashes that Daniel besought the Lord to fulfil what He had promised, not that Daniel lacked faith concerning the future, but rather he would avoid the danger that a feeling of security might produce carelessness, and carelessness produce an offense to God.

Verse 4. “‘I beseech Thee, O Lord God, who art mighty and terrible….'” That is, Thou art terrible towards those who despise Thine injunctions.

“‘…Who keepest covenant and mercy towards those who love Thee and keep Thy commandments.’ ” It is not therefore the case that what God promises will come to pass without further ado, but rather, He fulfils His promises towards those who keep His commandments.

Verse 5. ” ‘We have sinned, we have behaved wickedly (A) and impiously, and we have departed….'” He reviews the sins of the people as if he were personally guilty, on the ground of his being (679) one of the people, just as we read the Apostle does also in his Epistle to the Romans.

Verse 7. ” ‘Justice belongeth unto Thee, O Lord, but for us there is only confusion of face. .. .'” It is of course just that we suffer what we deserve.

Verse 8. ” ‘Unto Thee belongeth mercy, O Lord our God, and also propitiation. . . .’ ” Concerning the same God of Whom he had previously said, “To Thee, O Lord, belongeth justice,” he now says (since the Lord is not only just but also merciful): “To Thee belongeth mercy.” He says this in order |92 that he might call upon the Judge to show mercy, after His sentence has been imposed.

Verse 11. “‘And (the curse) has come upon us drop by drop.'” That is, Thou hast not poured out upon us all of Thy wrath, for we should not have been able to bear it, but Thou hast poured forth a mere droplet of Thy fury, in order that we might return unto Thee once we have been immeshed in Thy snare.

‘The malediction and the curse which were written in the book of Moses, the servant of God. .. .’ ” In Deuteronomy we read the curses and blessings of the Lord (Deut. 27), which were afterwards uttered in Mount Gerizim and Ebal upon the righteous and upon the sinners.

Verse 13. “‘All this evil has come upon us, and we have not entreated Thy face, O Lord our God, that we might turn back from our iniquities and consider Thy truth.'” Their obduracy was so great that even in the midst of their toils they would not entreat God, and even if they had entreated Him, it would not have been a genuine entreaty, because they had not turned back from their iniquities. Yet to consider the truth of God is equivalent to turning back from iniquity.

Verse 14. ” ‘And the Lord hath kept watch over the evil and hath brought it upon us. .. .'” Whenever we are rebuked because of our sins, God is keeping watch over us and visiting us with chastenment. But whenever we are left alone by God and we do not suffer judgment but are unworthy of the Lord’s rebuke, then He is said to slumber. And so we read in the Psalms as well: “The Lord has risen up as one (B) who was slumbering or as a man out of a drunken sleep” (Ps. 77=78). For our wickedness and iniquity inflames God with wine, and whenever it is rebuked in our case, God is said to be keeping careful watch and to be rising up out of His drunken sleep, in order that we who are drunken with sin may be made to pay careful heed unto righteousness.

Verse 15. “‘And now, O Lord our God….'” Daniel remembers God’s ancient kindness in order that he may appeal to Him for a similar act of clemency.

Verse 17. “‘And show Thy face upon Thy |93 sanctuary, which lies desolate.'” By deed fulfil that which Thou (p. 541) hast promised in word, for the approximate period of desolation has elapsed.

Verse 18. “For Thine own sake, O my God, incline Thine ear and hear; open Thine eyes and behold our desolation ….” This appeal is couched (680) in anthropomorphic language (anthropopathos), with the implication that whenever our prayers are heard, God seems to incline His ear; and whenever God deigns to have regard to us, He appears to open His eyes; but whenever He turns His face away, we appear to be unworthy of attention either from His eyes or His ears.

Verse 20. “Now while I was yet speaking and praying and confessing my sins and the sins of my people, Israel, so as to present (Vulg.: and was presenting) my petitions in the presence of my God on behalf of the holy mountain of my God. …” And so, as we have pointed out above, he not only thought upon the sins of the people but also upon his own sins, as being one of the people. Or else it was by way of humility, although he had not personally committed sin; his purpose being to obtain pardon by reason of his humility. Observe what he said here: “I was confessing my sins.” For there are many passages in Scripture where confession does not imply an expression of repentance so much as an expression of praise to God.

Verse 21. “While I was still speaking in my prayer, behold the man Gabriel, whom I had seen (A) at the beginning of the vision.” He calls the previous vision preceding this one the beginning. The effect of his prayer was considerable, and the promise of God was fulfilled which says, “While thou art yet speaking, lo, I am at hand” (Isa. 58:9). And Gabriel appears not as an angel or archangel, but as a man (vir), a term used to indicate the quality of virtue rather than specifying his sex.

“. . .he quickly flew to me and touched me at the time of the evening sacrifice.” It is stated that he flew, because he had made his appearance as a man. It is said that it was at the time of the evening sacrifice, in order to show that the prophet’s prayer had persisted from the morning sacrifice even unto the evening sacrifice, and that God for that reason directed His mercy towards him.

Verse 22. “And He instructed me and spoke to me, |94 saying. …” The vision was so obscure that the prophet needed the angel’s teaching.

” ‘.. .Now, 0 Daniel, I have come forth that I may instruct thee and that thou mayest understand.'” That is, I have been sent to thee and have come (B) forth, not from the presence of God in the sense of departing from Him, but only in the sense of coming unto thee.

Verse 23. ” ‘From the very beginning of thy prayers the word went forth and I myself have come to show it to thee, because thou art a man of desires.'” That is, at the time when thou didst begin to ask God, thou didst straightway obtain His mercy, and His decision was put forth. I have therefore been sent to explain to thee the things of which thou art ignorant, inasmuch as thou art a man of desires, that is to say a lovable man, worthy of God’s love —- even as Solomon was called Idida (var: Jedida) or “man of desires.” I have been sent because thou art worthy, in recompense for thine affection for God, to be told the secret counsels of God and to have a knowledge of things to come (681).

‘Thou therefore pay heed to the word and understand the vision.’ ” Thus [reading sic instead of si] Daniel is told, “Pay diligent heed, in order that thou mayest hear and understand what thou seest.” We too should do (p. 542) this, for our eyes have been blinded by the shadows of ignorance and the darkness of sins.

Verses 24—-27. ” ‘Seventy weeks are shortened upon thy people and upon thy holy city, (C) that transgression may be finished, and sin may have an end, and iniquity may be abolished, and everlasting justice may be brought to bear, and that the vision and prophecy may be fulfilled that the Holy One of the saints may be anointed. Know therefore and take note that from the going forth of the word to build up Jerusalem again, unto Christ the prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks, and the street shall be built again, and the walls, in distressing times. And after sixty-two weeks Christ shall be slain, and ((D) the people that shall deny Him) shall not be His. And a people, with their leader that shall come, shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. And the end thereof shall be devastation, and after the end of the war there shall be the appointed desolation. And he shall confirm the covenant with many in one xveek; and in the middle of the week |95 both victim and sacrifice shall fail. And there shall be in the Temple the abomination of desolation, and the desolation shall continue even unto the consummation and the end.’ ” Because the prophet had said, “Thou didst lead forth Thy people, and Thy name was pronounced upon Thy city and upon Thy people,” Gabriel therefore, as the mouthpiece of God, says by implication: “By no means are they God’s people, but only thy people; nor is Jerusalem the holy city of God, but it is only a holy city unto thee, as thou sayest.” This is similar to what we read in Exodus also, when God says to Moses, “Descend, for thy people have committed sin” (Ex. 32:7). That is to say, they are not My people, for they have forsaken Me. And so, because thou dost supplicate for Jerusalem and prayest for the people of the Jews, hearken unto that which shall befall thy people in seventy weeks of years, and those things which will happen to thy city.

I realize that this question has been argued over in various ways by men of greatest learning, and that each of them has expressed his views according to the capacity of his own genius. And so, because it is unsafe to pass judgment upon the opinions of the great teachers of the Church and to set one above another, I shall simply repeat the view of each, and leave it to the reader’s judgment as to whose explanation ought to be followed. In the fifth volume of his Tempora [“Chronology”], Africanus has this to say concerning the seventy weeks (682) (and I quote him verbatim): “The chapter (E) which we read in Daniel concerning the seventy weeks contains many remarkable details, which require too lengthy a discussion at this point; and so we must discuss only what pertains to our present task, namely that which concerns chronology. There is no doubt but what it constitutes a prediction of Christ’s advent, for He appeared to the world at the end of seventy weeks. After Him the crimes were consummated and sin reached its end and iniquity was destroyed. An eternal righteousness also was proclaimed which overcame the mere righteousness of the law; and the vision and the prophecy were fulfilled, inasmuch as the Law and the Prophets endured until the time of (F) John the Baptist (Luke 16), and then the Saint of saints was anointed. And all these things were the objects of hope, prior to Christ’s incarnation, rather (p. 543) than the objects of actual possession. Now the angel himself specified |96 seventy weeks of years, that is to say, four hundred and ninety years from the issuing of the word that the petition be granted and that Jerusalem be rebuilt. The specified interval began in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes, King of the Persians; for it was his cupbearer, Nehemiah (Neh. 1), who, as we read in the book of Ezra [the Vulgate reckons Nehemiah as II Esdras], petitioned the king and obtained his request that Jerusalem be rebuilt. And this was the word, or decree, which granted permission for the construction of the city and its encompassment with walls; for up until that time it had lain open to the incursions of the surrounding nations. But if one points to the command of King Cyrus, who granted to all who desired it permission to return to Jerusalem, the fact of the matter is that the high priest Jesus [Jeshua] and Zerubbabel, and later on the priest Ezra, together with the others who had been willing to set forth from Babylon with them, only made an abortive attempt to construct the Temple and the city with its walls, but were prevented by the surrounding nations from completing the task, on the pretext that the king had not so ordered. And thus the work remained incomplete until Nehemiah’s time and the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes. Hence the captivity lasted for seventy years prior to the Persian rule. [This last sentence is bracketed by the editor.] At this period in the Persian Empire a hundred and fifteen years had elapsed since its inception, but it was the one hundred and eighty-fifth year from the captivity of Jerusalem when Artaxerxes first gave orders for the walls of Jerusalem to be built. [Actually only 141 years, the interval between 587 B.C. and 446 B.C.] Nehemiah was in charge of this undertaking, and the street was built and the surrounding walls were erected. Now if you compute (683) seventy weeks of years from that date, you can come out to the time of Christ. But if we wish to take any other date (A) as the starting point for these weeks, then the dates will show a discrepancy and we shall encounter many difficulties. For if the seventy weeks are computed from the time of Cyrus and his decree of indulgence which effectuated the release of the Jewish captives, then we shall encounter a deficit of a hundred years and more short of the stated number of seventy weeks [only seventy-eight years, by more recent computation, for Cyrus’s decree was given in 538 B.C.]. If we reckon from the day when the angel spoke |97 to Daniel, the deficit would be much greater [actually not more than a few months or a year]. An even greater number of years is added, if you wish to put the beginning of the weeks at the commencement of the captivity. For the kingdom of the Persians endured for two hundred and thirty years until the rise of the Macedonian kingdom; then the Macedonians themselves reigned for three hundred years. From that date until the sixteenth (i.e., the fifteenth) year of Tiberius Caesar, when Christ suffered death, is an interval of sixty [sic!] years [reckoning from the death of Cleopatra, the last of the Macedonian Ptolemies]. All of these years added together come to the number of five hundred and ninety, with the result that a hundred years remain to be accounted for. On the other hand, the interval from the twentieth year of Artaxerxes to the time of Christ completes the figure of seventy weeks, if we reckon according to the lunar computation of the Hebrews, who did not number their months according to the movement of the sun, but rather according to the moon. For the interval from the one hundred fiftieth year of the Persian Empire, when Artaxerxes, as king thereof, attained the twentieth year of his reign (and this was the fourth year of the eighty-third Olympiad), up until the two hundred and second Olympiad (for it was the second year of that Olympiad which was the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar) comes out to be the grand total of four hundred seventy-five years. This would result in four hundred ninety Hebrew years, reckoning according to the lunar months as we have suggested. For according to their (p. 544) computation, these years can be made up of months of twenty-nine (variant: twenty-eight) and a half days each. This means that the sun, during a period of four hundred ninety years, completes its revolution in three hundred sixty-five days and a quarter, and this amounts to twelve lunar months for each individual year, with eleven and a fourth days left over to spare. Consequently the Greeks and Jews over a period of eight years insert three intercalary months (embolimoi). (684) For if you will multiply eleven and a quarter days by eight, you will come out to ninety days, which equal three months. Now if you divide the eight-year periods into four hundred seventy-five years, your quotient will be fifty-nine plus three months. These fifty-nine plus eight-year periods produce enough intercalary months to make up fifteen |98 years, more or less; and if you will add these fifteen years to the four hundred seventy-five years, you will come out to seventy weeks of years, that is, a total of four hundred and ninety years.”

Africanus has expressed his views in these very words which we have copied out. Let us pass on to Eusebius Pamphili [the famous church historian, who assumed the cognomen Pamphili in honor of his beloved mentor, Bishop Pamphilus], who in the eighth book of his Euangelike Apodeixis [the full title was Euangelikes Apodeixeos Proparaskeue or “Preparation for the Demonstration of the Gospel”; the Latin title is Praeparatio Evangelica] ventures some such conjecture as this: “It does not seem to me that the seventy weeks have been divided up without purpose, in that seven is mentioned first, and then sixty-two, and then a last week is added, which in turn is itself divided into two parts. For it is written: ‘Thou shalt know and understand that from the issuing of the word (command) that the petition be granted and Jerusalem be built until Christ the Prince there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks.’ And after the rest which he relates in the intervening section, he states at the end: ‘He shall confirm a testimony (covenant) with many during one week.’ It is clear that the angel did not detail these things in his reply to no purpose or apart from the inspiration of God. This observation seems to require some cautious and careful reasoning, so that the reader may pay diligent attention and inquire into the cause for this division (variant: vision). But if we must express our own opinion, in conformity with the rest of the interpretation which concerns this present context, in the angel’s statement: ‘From the issuing of the word that the petition be granted and that Jerusalem be built, until the time of Christ the Prince,’ we are only to think of other princes who had charge of the Jewish people subsequent to this prophecy and subsequent to the return from Babylon. That is to say, we are to think of the arkhiereis [high priests] and pontiffs to whom the Scripture attaches the title of christs, by reason of the fact that they have been anointed. The first of these was Jesus [Jeshua] the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and then the rest who had that office up until the time of the advent of our Lord and Savior. And it is these who are intended by the prophet’s prediction when it states: ‘From the issuing of the word that the petition be granted and Jerusalem be built even unto |99 Christ the Prince there shall be seven weeks, and sixty-two weeks.’ (685) That is to say, the purpose is that seven weeks be counted off, and then afterward sixty-two weeks, which come to a total of four hundred and eighty-three years after the time of Cyrus. And lest we appear to be putting forth a mere conjecture too rashly and without testing the truth of our statements, let us reckon up those who bore office as christs over the people from the time of Jeshua, the son of Jehozadak, until the advent of the Lord; that is to say, those who were anointed for the high priesthood. First, then, as we have already stated, subsequent to Daniel’s prophecy, which occurred in the reign of Cyrus, and subsequent to the return of (p. 545) the people from Babylon, Jeshua the son of Jehozadak was the high priest, and together with Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel, they laid the foundations of the temple. And because the undertaking was hindered by the Samaritans and the other surrounding nations, seven weeks of years elapsed (that is to say, forty-nine years), during which the work on the temple remained unfinished. These weeks are separated by the prophecy from the remaining sixty-two weeks. And lastly, the Jews also followed this view when they said to the Lord in the Gospel-narrative: ‘This temple was built over a period of forty-six years, and shalt thou raise it up in three days’ (John 2:20). For this was the number of years which elapsed between the first year of Cyrus, who granted to those Jews who so desired the permission to return to their fatherland, and the sixth year of King Darius, in whose reign the entire work upon the temple was finished. [Actually the two dates involved are 538 B.C. and 516 B.C., an interval of only twenty-two years.] Furthermore Josephus added on three more years, during which the periboloi (precincts) and certain other construction left undone were brought to completion; and when these are added to the forty-six years, they come out to forty-nine years, or seven weeks of years. And the remaining sixty-two weeks are computed from the seventh year of Darius. At that time Jeshua the son of Jehozadak, and Zerubbabel (who had already reached his majority) were in charge of the people, and it was in their time that Haggai and Zechariah prophesied. After them came Ezra and Nehemiah from Babylon and constructed the walls of the city during the high priesthood of Joiakim, son of Jeshua, who had the surname of Jehozadak. After him Eliashib succeeded |100 to the priesthood, then Joiada and Johanan after him. Following him there was Jaddua, in whose lifetime Alexander, the king of the Macedonians, founded Alexandria, (686) as (A) Josephus relates in his books of the Antiquities, and actually came to Jerusalem and offered blood-sacrifices in the Temple. Now Alexander died in the one hundred and thirteenth Olympiad, in the two hundred thirty-sixth year of the Persian Empire, which in turn had begun in the first year of the fifty-fifth Olympiad. That was the date when Cyrus, King of the Persians, conquered the Babylonians and Chaldeans. After the death of the priest Jaddua, who had been in charge of the temple in Alexander’s reign, Onias received the high priesthood. It was at this period that Seleucus, after the conquest of Babylon, placed upon his own head the crown of all Syria and Asia, in the twelfth year after Alexander’s death. Up to that time the years which had elapsed since the rule of Cyrus, when computed together, were two hundred and forty-eight. From that date the Scripture of the Maccabees computes the kingdom of the Greeks. Following Onias, the high priest Eleazar became head of the Jews. That was the period when the Seventy translators (Septuaginta interpretes) are said to have translated the Holy Scriptures into Greek at Alexandria. After him came Onias II, who was followed by Simon, who ruled over the people when Jesus the son of Sirach wrote the book which bears the Greek title of Panaretos (“A Completely Virtuous Man”), and which is by most people falsely attributed to Solomon. Another Onias followed him in the high priesthood, and that was the period when Antiochus was trying to force the Jews to sacrifice to the gods of the Gentiles. After the death of Onias, Judas Maccabaeus cleansed the Temple and smashed to bits the statues of the idols. His brother Jonathan followed him, (p. 546) and after Jonathan their brother Simon governed the people. By his death the two hundred and seventy-seventh year of the Syrian kingdom had elapsed, and the First Book of Maccabees contains a record of events up to that time. And so the total number of years from the first year of Cyrus, King of Persia, until the end of the First Book of Maccabees and the death of the high priest Simon is four hundred twenty-five. After him John [Hyrcanus] occupied the high priesthood for twenty-nine years, and upon his death Aristobulus became head of the people for a year and was the first |101 man after the return from Babylon to associate with the dignity of high priesthood the authority of kingship. His successor was Alexander, who likewise was high priest and king, and who governed the people for twenty-seven years. Up to this point, the number of years from the first year of Cyrus and the return of the captives who desired to come back to Judaea is to be computed at four hundred and eighty-three. This total is made up of the seven weeks and the sixty-two weeks, or sixty-nine weeks altogether. And during this whole period high priests ruled over the Jewish people, and I now believe that they are those referred to as christ-princes. And when the last of them, Alexander, had died, the Jewish nation was rent in this direction and that into various factions, and was harrassed by internal seditions in its leaderless condition; and that too to such an extent that Alexandra, who was also called Salina, and who was the wife of the same Alexander, seized power and kept the high priesthood for her son, Hyrcanus. But she passed on the royal power to her other son, Aristobulus, and he exercised it for ten years. But when the brothers fought with each other in civil war and the Jewish nation was drawn into various factions, then Gnaeus Pompey, the general of the Roman army, came upon the scene. Having captured Jerusalem, he penetrated even to the shrine in the temple which was called the Holy of holies. He sent Aristobulus back to Rome in chains, keeping him for his triumphal procession, and then he gave the high priesthood to his brother, Hyrcanus. Then for the first time the Jewish nation became tributary to the Romans. Succeeding him, Herod, the son of Antipater, received the royal authority over the Jews by senatorial decree, after Hyrcanus had been killed; and so he was the first foreigner to become governor of the Jews. Moreover when his parents had died, he handed over the high priesthood to his children, even though they were non-Jews, utterly contrary to the law of Moses. Nor did he entrust the office to them for long, (B) except upon their granting him favors and bribes, for he despised the commands of God’s law.”

The same Eusebius offered another explanation also, and if we wanted to translate it into Latin, we should greatly expand the size of this book. And so the sense of his interpretation is this, that the number of years from the sixth year of Darius, who |102 reigned after Cyrus and his son, Cambyses, —- and this was the date when the work on the temple was completed —- until the time of Herod and Caesar Augustus is reckoned to be seven weeks plus sixty-two weeks, which make a total of four hundred eighty-three years. (688) That was the date when the christ, that is to say, Hyrcanus, being the last high priest of the Maccabaean line, was murdered by Herod, and the succession of high priests came to an end, so far as the law of God was concerned. It was then also that a Roman army (p. 547) under the leadership of a Roman general devastated both the city and the sanctuary itself. Or else it was Herod himself who committed the devastation, after he had through the Romans appropriated to himself a governmental authority to which he had no right. And as for the angel’s statement, “For he shall establish a compact with many for one week (variant: “a compact for many weeks”), and in the midst of the week the sacrifice and offering shall cease,” it is to be understood in this way, that Christ was born while Herod was reigning in Judaea and Augustus in Rome, and He preached the Gospel for three years and six months, according to John the Evangelist. And he established the worship of the true God with many people, undoubtedly meaning the Apostles and believers generally. And then, after our Lord’s passion, the sacrifice and offering ceased in the middle of the week. For whatever took place in the Temple after that date was not a valid sacrifice to God but a mere worship of the devil, while they all cried out together, “His blood be upon us and upon our children” (Matt. 27:25); and again, “We have no king but Caesar.” Any reader who is interested may look up this passage in the Chronicle of this same Eusebius, for I translated it into Latin many years ago. But as for his statement that the number of years to be reckoned from the completion of the temple to the tenth year of the Emperor Augustus, that is, when Hyrcanus was slain and Herod obtained Judaea, amounts to a total of seven plus sixty-two weeks, or four hundred eighty-three years, we may check it in the following fashion. The building of the temple was finished in the seventy-sixth (here and in the other place read: “sixty-seventh” —- Migne) Olympiad, which was the sixth year of Darius. In the third year of the one hundred and eighty-sixth Olympiad, that is, the tenth year of Augustus, Herod seized the rule over the Jews. This makes the interval four hundred and |103 eighty-three years, reckoning up by the individual Olympiads and computing them at four years each. This same Eusebius reports another view as well, which I do not entirely reject (A), that most authorities extend the one [last] week of years to the sum of seventy years, reckoning each year as a ten-year period [reading the corrupt upputatio as supputatio]. They also claim that thirty-five years intervened between the passion of the Lord and the reign of Nero, and that it was at this latter date when the weapons of Rome were first (689) lifted up against the Jews, this being the half-way point of the week of seventy years. After that, indeed, from the time of Vespasian and Titus (and it was right after their accession to power that Jerusalem and the temple were burned) up to the reign of Trajan another thirty-five years elapsed. And this, they assert, was the week of which the angel said to Daniel: “And he shall establish a compact with many for one week.” For the Gospel was preached by the Apostles all over the world, since they survived even unto that late date. According to the tradition of the church historians, John the Evangelist lived up to the time of Trajan. Yet I am at a loss to know how we can understand the earlier seven weeks and the sixty-two weeks to involve seven years each, and just this last one to involve ten years for each unit of the seven, or seventy years in all.

So much for Eusebius. But Hippolytus has expressed the following opinion concerning these same weeks (B): he reckons the seven weeks as prior to the return of the people from Babylon, and the sixty-two weeks as subsequent to their return and extending to the birth of Christ. But the dates do not (p. 548) agree at all. If indeed the duration of the Persian Empire be reckoned at two hundred and thirty years, and the Macedonian Empire at three hundred, and the period thereafter up to the birth of the Lord be thirty years, then the total from the beginning of the reign of Cyrus, King of the Persians, until the advent of the Savior will be five hundred and sixty years. Moreover Hippolytus places the final week at the end of the world and divides it into the period of Elias and the period of Antichrist, so that during the [first] three and a half years of the last week the knowledge of God is established. And as for the statement, “He shall establish a compact with many for a week” (Dan. 9:27), during the other three years under the Antichrist the sacrifice and offering shall |104 cease. But when Christ shall come and shall slay the wicked one by the breath of His mouth, desolation shall hold sway till the end.

On the other hand Apollinarius of Laodicea in his investigation of the problem breaks away from the stream of the past and directs his longing desires towards the future, very unsafely venturing an opinion concerning matters so obscure. And if by any chance those of future generations should not see these predictions of his fulfilled at the time he set, then they will be forced to seek for some other solution and to convict the teacher himself of erroneous interpretation. And so, in order to avoid the appearance of slandering a man as having made a statement he never made, he makes the following assertion —- and I translate him word for word: “To the period of four hundred and ninety years the wicked deeds are to be confined (690) as well as all the crimes which shall ensue from those deeds. After these shall come the times of blessing, and the world is to be reconciled unto God at the advent of Christ, His Son. For from the coming forth of the Word, when Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, to the forty-ninth year, that is, the end of the seven weeks, [God] waited for Israel to repent. Thereafter, indeed, from the eighth year of Claudius Caesar [i.e., 48 A.D.] onward, the Romans took up arms against the Jews. For it was in His thirtieth year, according to the Evangelist Luke, that the Lord incarnate began His preaching of the Gospel (Luke 1) [sic!]. According to the Evangelist John (John 2 and 11), Christ completed two years over a period of three passovers. The years of Tiberius’ reign from that point onward are to be reckoned at six; then there were the four years of the reign of Gaius Caesar, surnamed Caligula, and eight more years in the reign of Claudius. This makes a total of forty-nine years, or the equivalent of seven weeks of years. But when four hundred thirty-four years shall have elapsed after that date, that is to say, the sixty-two weeks, then [i.e. in 482 A.D.] Jerusalem and the Temple shall be rebuilt during three and a half years within the final week, beginning with the advent of Elias, who according to the dictum of our Lord and Savior (Luke 1) [sic!] is going to come and turn back the hearts of the fathers towards their children. And then the Antichrist shall come, and according to the Apostle [reading apostolum for apostolorum] he is going to sit in the |105 temple of God (II Thess. 2) and be slain by the breath of our Lord and Savior after he has waged war against the saints. And thus it shall come to pass that the middle of the week shall mark the confirmation of God’s covenant with the saints, and the middle of the week in turn shall mark the issuing of the decree under the authority of Antichrist that no more sacrifices be offered. For the Antichrist shall set up the abomination of desolation, that is, an idol or statue of his own god, within the Temple. Then shall ensue the final devastation and the condemnation of the Jewish people, who after their rejection of Christ’s truth shall embrace the lie of the Antichrist. Moreover this same Apollinarius asserts that he conceived this idea about the proper dating from the fact that Africanus, (p. 549) the author of the Tempora [Chronology], whose explanation I have inserted above, affirms that the final week will occur at the end of the world. Yet, says Apollinarius, it is impossible that periods so linked together be wrenched apart, but rather the time-segments must all be joined together in conformity with Daniel’s prophecy.

The learned scholar Clement, presbyter of the church at Alexandria, regards the number of years as a matter of slight consequence, (691) asserting that the seventy weeks of years were completed by the span of time from the reign of Cyrus, King of the Persians, to the reign of the Roman emperors, Vespasian and Titus; that is to say, the interval of four hundred and ninety years, with the addition in that same figure of the two thousand three hundred days of which we made earlier mention. He attempts to reckon in these seventy weeks the ages of the Persians, Macedonians, and Caesars, even though according to the most careful computation, the number of years from the first year of Cyrus, King of the Persians and Medes, when Darius also bore rule, up to the reign of Vespasian and the destruction of the Temple amounts to six hundred and thirty.

When Origen came to deal with [reading praefuisset instead of profuisset] this chapter, he urged us to seek out what information we do not possess; and because he had no leeway for allegorical interpretation, in which one may argue without constraint, but rather was restricted to matters of historical fact, he made this brief observation in the tenth volume of the Stromata: “We must quite carefully ascertain the amount of time between |106 the first year of Darius, the son of Ahasuerus, and the advent of Christ, and discover how many years were involved, and what events are said to have occurred during them. Then we must see whether we can fit these data in with the time of the Lord’s coming.”

We may learn what Tertullian had to say on the subject by consulting the book which he wrote against the Jews (Contra Judaeos), and his remarks may be set forth in brief: “How, then, are we to show that Christ came within the sixty-two (A) weeks? This calculation begins with the first year of Darius, since that was the time when the vision itself was revealed to Daniel. For he was told: ‘Understand and conclude from (B) the prophesying (692) of the command for me to give thee this reply. …’ Hence we are to commence our computation with the first year of Darius, when Daniel beheld this vision. Let us see, then, how the years are fulfilled up to the advent of Christ. Darius reigned nineteen (p. 550) years; Artaxerxes forty years; the Ochus who was surnamed Cyrus twenty-four years; (C) Argus, one year. Then Darius II, who was called Melas, twenty-one (D) years. Alexander the Macedonian reigned twelve years. And then after Alexander (who had ruled over both the Medes and the Persians, after he had conquered them, and had established his rule in Alexandria, calling it after his own name), Soter reigned (E) there in Alexandria for thirty-five years, and was succeeded by Philadelphus, who reigned for thirty-eight years (F). After him Euergetes reigned for twenty-five years, and then Philopator for seventeen years, followed by Epiphanes for twenty-four years. Furthermore the second Euergetes ruled for twenty (G) and nine years, and Soter for thirty-eight years. Ptolemy [sic!] for thirty-seven (H) years, and Cleopatra for twenty years and five months (I). Furthermore Cleopatra shared the rule with Augustus for thirteen years. After Cleopatra Augustus reigned forty-three years more. For all of the years of the reign of Augustus were fifty-six in number. And let us see (variant: we see) that in the forty-first year of the reign of Augustus, who ruled after the death of Cleopatra (J), (693) Christ was born. And this same Augustus lived on for fifteen years after the time when Christ was born. And so the resultant periods of years up to the day of Christ’s birth and the forty-first year of Augustus, after the death of Cleopatra [actually only twenty-nine |107 years after Cleopatra’s death —- the language here is confusing], come to the total figure of four hundred and thirty-seven years and five months. This means that sixty-two and a half weeks were used up, or the equivalent of four hundred and thirty-seven years and six months, by the day when Christ was born. Then eternal righteousness was revealed, and the Saint of saints was anointed, namely Christ, and the vision and prophecy were sealed, and those sins were remitted which are allowed through faith in Christ’s name to all who believe in Him.” But what is the meaning of the statement that the “vision and prophecy are confirmed by a seal”? It means that all the prophets made proclamation concerning [Christ] Himself, saying that He was going to come and that He would have to suffer. Hence we read shortly thereafter in this Tertullian passage, “The years were fifty-six in number; furthermore, Cleopatra continued to reign jointly under Augustus….” (p. 551) It was because the prophecy was fulfilled by His advent that the vision was confirmed by a seal; and it was called a prophecy because Christ Himself is the seal of all the prophets, fulfilling as He did all that the prophets had previously declared concerning Him. Of course after His advent and His passion (variant; the passion of Christ), there is no longer any vision or prophecy (variant: or prophet) which declares that Christ will come [?]. And then a little later Tertullian says, “Let us see what is the meaning of (A) the seven and a half weeks, which in turn are divided up into a subsection of earlier weeks; by what transaction were they fulfilled? Well, after Augustus, (B) who lived on after Christ’s birth, fifteen years elapsed. He was succeeded by Tiberius Caesar, and he held sway for twenty-two years, seven months and twenty-eight (C) days. In the fifteenth year of his reign (D) Christ suffered, being about (694) thirty-three when He suffered. Then there was Gaius Caesar, also named Caligula, who reigned for three years, eight months and thirteen days. [Note that Claudius’ reign of 13 years is here omitted.] Nero reigned for nine years, nine months and thirteen days. Galba ruled for seven months and twenty-eight (E) days; Otho for three months and five days; and Vitellius for eight months and twenty-eight (F) days. Vespasian vanquished the Jews in the first year of his reign, bringing the number of years to a total of fifty-two, plus six months. For he ruled for eleven years, and so by the date of his |108 storming Jerusalem, the Jews had completed the seventy weeks foretold by Daniel.”

As for the view which the Hebrews hold concerning this passage, I shall set it forth summarily and within a brief compass, leaving the credibility of their assertions to those who asserted them. And so let me put it in the form of a paraphrase (paraphrastikds) in order to bring out the sense more clearly. “O Daniel, know that from this day on which I now speak to thee (and that was the first year of the Darius who slew Belshazzar and transferred the Chaldean Empire to the Medes and Persians) unto the seventieth week of years (that is, four hundred and ninety years) the following events shall befall thy people in stages [literally: part by part]. First of all, God shall be appeased by thee in view of the earnest intercession thou hast just offered Him, and sin shall be canceled out and the transgression shall come to an end. For although the city at present lies deserted and the Temple lies destroyed to its very foundations [reading fundamenta for the non-existent frudamenta], so that the nation is plunged into mourning, yet within a fairly short time it shall be restored. And not only shall it come to pass within these seventy weeks that the city shall be rebuilt and the Temple restored, but also the Christ, who is the eternal righteousness, shall be born. (p. 552) And so shall the vision and the prophecy be sealed, with the result that there shall be no more any prophet to be found in Israel, and the Saint of saints shall be anointed. We read concerning Him in the Psalter: ‘Because God, even Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness (695) above thy fellows’ (Ps. 44:8 =45:7). And in another passage He says of Himself: ‘Be ye holy, for I also am holy’ (Lev. 19:2). Know therefore that from this day on which I speak to thee and make thee the promise by the word of the Lord that the nation shall return and Jerusalem shall be restored, there shall be sixty-two weeks numbered unto the time of Christ the Prince and of the perpetual desolation of the Temple; and that there shall also be seven weeks in which the two events shall take place which I have already mentioned, namely that the nation shall return and the street shall be rebuilt by Nehemiah and Ezra. And so at the end of the weeks the decree of God shall be accomplished in distressing times, when the Temple shall again be destroyed, and the city taken captive. For |109 after the sixty-two weeks the Christ shall be slain, and the nation who shall reject Him shall go out of existence” —- or, as the Jews themselves put it, the kingdom of Christ which they imagined they would retain (G) shall not even be. And why do I speak of the slaying of Christ, and of the nation’s utter forfeiture of God’s help, since the Roman people were going to demolish the city and sanctuary under Vespasian, the leader who was to come? Upon his death the seven weeks or forty-nine years were complete, and after the city of Aelia was established upon the ruins of Jerusalem, Aelius Hadrian vanquished (H) the revolting Jews in their conflict with the general, Timus Rufus. It was at that time that the sacrifice and offering (ceased and) will continue to cease even unto the completion of the age, and the desolation is going to endure until the very end. We are not, say the Jews, greatly impressed by the fact that the seven weeks are mentioned first, and afterwards the sixty-two, and again a single week divided into two parts. For it is simply the idiomatic usage of the Hebrew language, as well as of antique Latin, that in quoting a figure, the small number is given first and then the larger. For example, we do not, according to good usage say in our language, “Abraham lived a hundred and seventy-five years”; on the contrary the Hebrews say, “Abraham lived five and seventy and one hundred years” (I). And so the fulfilment is not to follow the literal order of the words, but it shall be accomplished in terms of the whole sum, taken together. I am also well aware that some of the Jews assert that as for the statement about the single week, (696) “He shall establish a covenant with many (p. 553) for one week,” the division is between the reigns of Vespasian and Hadrian. According to the history of Josephus, Vespasian and Titus concluded peace with the Jews for three years and six month. And the [other] three years and six months are accounted for in Hadrian’s reign, when Jerusalem was completely destroyed and the Jewish nation was massacred in large groups at a time, with the result that they were even expelled from the borders of Judaea. This is what the Hebrews have to say on the subject, paying little attention to the fact that from the first year of Darius, King of the Persians, until the final overthrow of Jerusalem, which befell them under Hadrian, the period involved is a hundred and seventy-four Olympiads or six hundred ninety-six years, which total up to |110 ninety-nine Hebrew weeks plus three years —- that being the time when Barcochebas, the leader of the Jews, was crushed and Jerusalem was demolished to the very ground.  |111 (source)

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Romans Chapter 7

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 10, 2019

Scripture links are to the Douay Rheims translation

In the first six verses if this chapter, the Apostle addresses the Jewish converts, and shows them that they are not “under the law” (Rom 6:14). The law is dead to them; and hence their union with it is dissolved; and they have contracted other nuptials with Christ, for whom they are to bring forth the fruits of grace, as, under the law, they brought forth fruit unto death (Rom 7:1–6). He next shows how sin became multiplied under the law, without any fault on the part of the law. The law gave a knowledge of sin, and this was made the occasion of further transgression, owing to our corrupt nature, and to the concupiscence which dwells within us Rom 7:(7–9). In order to illustrate the manner in which the law contributed to the increase of sin, he represents in his own person the different states of the Jewish people before and after the law (Rom 7:9); and shows, after the issuing of the law, how the knowledge it imparted, and the prohibition it contained, irritated and roused the hitherto comparatively dormant evil of concupiscence (Rom 7:10–14). He next (verse 14) shows how, even in the law of grace, this evil of concupiscence impels us to sin; and, in his own person, he describes the struggle of Just men infighting against this evil. So that, at verse 14, he passes from describing the law of Moses to the law of grace (Rom 7:14–25).

Text in purple indicates Fr. MacEvilly’s paraphrase of the scripture he is commenting on

Rom 7:1. I address myself to you in particular, my Jewish brethren, who are acquainted with the law of Moses; are you not aware that the law exercises dominion over the man subject to it, so long as the law itself is in force and exists?

The Apostle wishes to show that they are not under the law (6:14); and he addresses the Jews acquainted with the precepts of the Mosaic law. “The law hath dominion,” i.e., binds by its precepts and exercises its threats and menaces, “as long as it liveth;” “liveth,” in the Greek, ζῇ, may regard either “man” or “the law;” it more probably, as in our English version, should be construed with the law, “it liveth.”

Rom 7:2. This dominion of the law over man may be illustrated by the dominion which the law of marriage gives the husband over his wife; for the married woman is bound to her husband by the law of marriage during his lifetime; but, when the husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage. (So it is with the law: man is subject to it whilst it lives or is in vigour; but, he is released from it when once abrogated).

He illustrates this by the example of the law of marriage. He appears to regard the law of marriage as it was instituted by our Divine Redeemer, according to which institution, the marriage tie is indissoluble, except by the death of either of the parties; or, if he be understood to refer to the law of marriage among the Jews, then the words are to be taken with the limitations placed by God himself (v.g.) libellum repudii, &c. as in the New Law, the ingressus religionis, “the solemn profession of religion,” by either party before the consummation of the marriage, dissolves the tie of marriage. This is a point of faith defined by the Council of Trent, SS. xxiv., Can. 6. “The woman that hath a husband;” the Greek, ἡ ὕπανδρος γυνὴ, means, “the woman that is engaged to obedience and fidelity to a husband;” “is bound to the law,” i.e., to the law of obedience and fidelity, or bound by the law to her husband.

Rom 7:3. Therefore, she will be accounted an adulteress if she cohabit with another man, during her husband’s lifetime; but if her husband be dead, she is released from the law of matrimony, so as not to be accounted an adulteress, or liable to the penalties of adultery, by cohabiting with another man.

“She shall be called,” i.e., she shall be reputed and regarded as “an adulteress. So that she is not an adulteress,” &c.; although she may sin, if she cohabit unlawfully with another party, who is unmarried, after her husband’s death; still, she will not commit the crime, or incur the penalties of “adultery.”

Rom 7:4. In like manner, my brethren, the law is dead to you by the body of Christ offered up in sacrifice on the cross to abolish it; and you are dead to it, by being engrafted on his body in baptism: so that you have contracted new engagements with another, who has risen from the dead, and thus should bring forth the fruit of virtue and good works to God.

In this verse, he applies the foregoing example to the point in question, “therefore,” i.e., in like manner, “you are become dead to the law;” he avoids saying, “the law is dead to you,” in order not to offend and to spare the feelings of the Jews, among whom the law was held in such veneration; although this form would better suit the foregoing example, in which the husband is the party supposed to die, and the law is regarded by the Apostle as “the husband,” in reference to the Jews. The meaning, however, comes to the same, as the relation is dissolved, no matter which party dies—“by the body of Christ,” sacrificed for the abolition of the law, on the cross; or it may mean, by being engrafted on the body of Christ in baptism; both meanings are united in the Paraphrase, “that you may belong to another who is risen from the dead,” i.e., that after the death of your former spouse, you may again contract new nuptials with a more exalted spouse, Jesus Christ, “and that we may bring forth fruit to God,” to whom you are espoused. He employs the first person, “we,” from a feeling of humility.

Rom 7:5. And it is but just that after our exalted marriage engagements with such a spouse, we should bring forth fruits worthy of God; for, when we lived in the condition of the old and carnal man, under the Mosaic law, then the desires and corrupt inclinations to sin, which were irritated by occasion of the law, were consummated in our members, so as to bring forth the fruits of sin, the unhappy end and reward of which is death.

And why not now bring forth fruit to God, as we formerly, in our sinful state, brought forth fruit to death, “in the flesh,” i.e., under the Old Law, when we lived according to the flesh, “the passions of sins,” the corrupt inclinations of our nature to commit sin, “which were by the law,” i.e., which were irritated by the prohibition of the law, which only excited a desire of the thing prohibited; for we are so constituted by our corrupt nature as to desire more eagerly what is prohibited. Nitimur in vetitum, &c. “Did work in our members;” the Greek word for “work,” ἐνεργεῖτο, will bear a passive meaning, signifying “were worked,” or consummated, as in Paraphrase.

Rom 7:6. But now we are freed, by the grace of Christ from the yoke of the law, which was the occasion to us of death, in which we were detained captive; so that we may serve God, as spouses of his Son, in the new spirit of charity and love, and not in following the inclinations of the old man of sin, which the letter of the ancient law was the occasion of increasing, because it gave not the necessary grace for the observance of its own precepts.

We are now freed and loosed from the tie of the law which occasioned death, so that we should serve God “in the newness” or sanctity of the new man, produced by the spirit of grace “diffused in our hearts,” and love God as adopted children and spouses of his eternal son, Jesus Christ, “and not in the oldness of the letter,” and not serve in the sinful inclinations of the old man, which the “letter” of the Mosaic law had been the occasion of increasing, in consequence of not furnishing the grace necessary to resist our passions. In the common Greek, the reading is different from that of our Vulgate. Instead of the words, “loosed from the law of death,” κατηργηθημεν απο τοῦ νομοῦ θανατοῦ, the common Greek is, απο τοῦ νομου, αποθανοντες, “loosed from the law, being dead to it.” Both readings, however, make good sense.

Rom 7:7. What then! are we to infer from the foregoing that the law itself is the cause of sin? Far be it from us to assent to so impious a deduction. The law only serves to give us a more perfect knowledge of sin; for, there are many things which I did not know to be sin, until I was told so by the law; among the rest, I did not know that internal concupiscence was a sin, until I heard the prohibition of the law, Thou shalt not covet.

The Apostle had said in the foregoing (verse 5), “that the passions of sin were by the law.” He also calls it “the law of death.” In order to explain these points he asks, by way of objection—is not the law, then, the cause and source of sin? He says, by no means; for, though sin abounded under the law, this was not directly caused by the law. It is to be accounted for in a different way. The law only gave a knowledge of sin for the direct end and object of restraining it. And in the next verse, the Apostle shows how this knowledge, supplied by the law, was made the occasion of increasing sin. “I did not know sin but by the law,” i.e., I did not know it so clearly, and there were other sins which I did not know to be sins at all, until after the prohibition. He refers to the law of Moses prohibiting internal concupiscence. Here, “concupiscence,” means the consent to the irregular and deordinate inclination of our corrupt nature towards the objects prohibited by the law of God. The malice of these mere thoughts of consent was neither attended to nor clearly seen by men, until after the precept prohibiting them was issued. Some persons interpret the word, “but I did not know sin, but by the law,” to mean, nay even, far from being the cause of sin, the contrary is the case; since, the law pointed out sin, &c. It is better, however, to understand the words to be merely an excuse for the law, and the Apostle afterwards shows how under it sin abounded, but as a matter quite extrinsic to the law.

Rom 7:8. But the evil of concupiscence, latent within me, taking occasion of this knowledge derived from the law, excited and wrought in me all manner of evil inclination, by reason of this prohibition; and thus concupiscence, which before the prohibition of the law was dormant, assumed life and vigour.

He now shows how the law increased “sin;” it was only the occasion of exciting the dormant, slumbering passions of our corrupt nature. “Sin” is personified here as well as in the preceding chapter. The prohibition excited and irritated these passions; for, owing to the natural desire of liberty and opposition to restraint, so strongly implanted in our nature, the very prohibition only increases our desire of obtaining and enjoying the thing prohibited. The Greek word for “occasion” αφορμή, conveys the idea of receiving an impetus, or, being stimulated. “All manner of concupiscence,” i.e., all sorts of unlawful desires, so that, “concupiscence” is not merely confined to the unlawful desire of the things specified in the ninth and tenth commandments of the Decalogue; but it extends to the desire of all things prohibited. “For without the law sin was dead,” i.e., until the distinct prohibition of indulging the desires of concupiscence was issued, it comparatively slumbered—the prohibition aroused and excited it—nitimur in vetitum semper, cupimusque negata.

Rom 7:9. In order the more clearly to explain to you the influence which the knowledge derived from the law had in increasing sin, I shall illustrate it by representing, in my own person, the Jewish people in two different states—viz., before and after receiving the law: At a certain time, I, as a Jew, lived without the Mosaic law (during that time I was not so subject to the action of concupiscence as afterwards; it appeared, during that time, to slumber). But after the law was given, this slumbering evil, excited by the prohibition, came into active existence.

In order to render more clear what he has been saying regarding the manner in which the law contributed to the increase of sin under it, the Apostle supposes two different states of the Jewish people, before and after the law was given, and represents the Jewish people in his own person. “I lived some time without the law:” (verse 9); when as a Jew, I sojourned in Egypt. The sense requires that we should add, as in Paraphrase; during that time, I was not so subject to the action of concupiscence as afterwards. But in the next state of the Jewish people, after the giving of the law, “when the commandments came,” “sin”—i.e., the heretofore comparatively dormant evil of concupiscence—“revived,” or came into more active operation. A’Lapide says that in this verse the Apostle is not representing the different states of the Jewish people, but his own state, before he came to the use of reason, “when he lived without the law,” and after he came to the use of reason, and received a full knowledge, then “sin revived.” The former interpretation seems preferable. The interpretation which Estius gives the word, “I lived,” referring it to spritual life, I lived a life of grace in my own estimation, is very probable; and by uniting it with the meaning given in the Paraphrase, then there will be no need for supplying anything in the interpretation. It will run thus: “I seemed to myself to enjoy a life of grace, at a certain time—viz., when I lived without the law, but when the commandment was given, concupiscence revived.”

Rom 7:10. But I became clearly spiritually dead, having been now manifestly guilty of sin, which leads to death. And it was found in my regard, that the commandment, which was intended for my spiritual life, became, through my corruption, the occasion to me of spiritual death.

And then I was manifestly dead in sin, which causes the spiritual death of the soul; and through my own corruption it happened, that what had been given me for the purpose of life, became the occasion of spiritual death. The words, “and I died,” which evidently refer to spiritual death, make the interpretation of the words, “I lived once without the law,” given by Estius, very probable, since they are clearly put in opposition to each other. By saying “I died,” after the law was given, the Apostle does not mean to say that men were not spirtually dead before it, but that they were now more manifestly dead, as being now more clearly prevaricators.

Rom 7:11. For concupiscence, taking occasion from the commandment, lured and tempted me to sin, and through this sin, committed by occasion of the precept, caused my spiritual death, and involved me still more in guilt.

He explains how the commandment intended for life became the cause of death, because “sin,” “taking occasion” from, αφορμη, or being stimulated by, the prohibition, seduced him, by pointing out the unreasonableness of the command, the advantages and pleasures of its violation, &c., and “by it,” i.e., owing to the knowledge which it gave, and the consequent resistance which this knowledge provoked, it “killed” him, and added still more to his former guilt, not through any fault of the law, but owing to the corruption of human nature. It is to be observed that by “sin,” often personified in this and the foregoing chapters, the Apostle understands concupiscence, which he calls “sin,” because it is the result of sin, and entices us to sin.

Rom 7:12. Therefore, the entire law, far from being the cause of sin, is holy; and so is every one of its precepts holy, and just, and good.

This, then, is the conclusion which the Apostle draws from the preceding, and by it replies to the objection (verse 7). “The law,” far from being the cause of sin, “is holy;” and so is “the commandment,” i.e., each of its precepts, “holy,” prescribing how God may be served with sanctity, “just,” prescribing that each man receive what is due to him, “good,” prescribing what will render each one good, if observed; or as St. Thomas explains it: “holy” in its ceremonial, “just” in its judicial, and “good” in its moral precepts. By “the law” is meant the sum of the precepts, by “the commandment,” each individual precept.

Rom 7:13. What then! has that which is good been made for me the cause of death? The law is by no means the cause of death; but concupiscence, the source of sin, so that its sinfulness might be made to appear more manifestly, has been the cause of death to me, even by means, or rather by occasion, of what is in itself good; hence, the excessive sinfulness of concupiscence is more clearly manifested by reason of its making the commandment, which is in itself good and holy, the occasion of sin and death.

He now proposes an objection, grounded on the two preceding verses, “sin killed me by the commandment, and this commandment is good,” (verse 11). Hence, if the law be not in itself a sin, at least, it became the cause of sin to me, and caused my death. The Apostle rejects the observation as unmeaning. It was not the law that caused my death; it was “sin,” or, concupiscence, that caused it, taking occasion from what is good, in order that its aggravated enormity might appear, &c. The Greek interpreters make an addition to the text to complete the sense, thus: “but sin (was made death unto me) that it might appear sin, having worked death in me by that which is good.” The Greek reading, κατεργαζομενη, will admit the change in the words, having worked. However, there appears to be no necessity for any such addition, as the Vulgate makes perfect and complete sense; and the participle by a Hebraism may be taken for a verb; “wrought,” or hath worked. Here, “sin” is personified as committing great crimes, making “the commandment,” given for quite an opposite purpose, the occasion of transgression.

Rom 7:14. The multiplied increase in sin under the law, does not proceed from the law, as we know the law itself to be spiritual. It proceeds from the carnal propensities of man, and the corruption of human nature; and these propensities we have even under the law of grace: for, I myself now feel these stings of the flesh, soliciting me to sin; I feel like one handed over to the tyranny of concupiscence.

In this verse, the Apostle, according to the more probable opinion, passes from the law of Moses, and in his own person, represents mankind under the law of grace and even justified. He would appear to speak of himself in his present state, “I am carnal.” The same appears from the subsequent part of the chapter, wherein he refers to the arduous struggle he was sustaining against concupiscence; now, it is only of the just man that this could be said, since the sinner, far from struggling with, yields himself up to his passions. He even speaks of himself as “delighted with the law of God, and serving the law of God” (verses 22, 25). His object in thus describing the state of man in the law of grace, and representing it in his own person, is to show that in the Old Testament, the law was not the cause of the multiplied transgressions under it; since even under the New Law, in which grace is so liberally dispensed, we experience such difficulty in the struggle with the “law of the members.” Now, nobody would impute this to the New Law, but to the corruption of human nature; and he shows the difference between our present state and that of the Jews, under the Old Law: they obeyed concupiscence; we feel it, but far from obeying, we resist its corrupt motions. “The law is spiritual”—its end and object are spiritual—viz., man’s sanctification—and so are its precepts. “Sold under sin,” that is, given over by the sin of Adam, of which concupiscence is the consequence, to the dominion of corruption, the motions of which, even with reluctance, we must feel, but not obey, as “interiorly we serve the law of God,” (verse 25).

Rom 7:15. For, that I am delivered over and sold like a slave under the dominion of concupiscence, is clear from the fact, that I am constrained to do, or rather to submit to, things of which I do not approve in my mind and will; for, not the good which I wish for, viz., not to experience the motions of concupiscence, can I do or accomplish, but the evil, which I hate, viz., the experiencing these corrupt motions, I am forced to submit to.

The Apostle, in the subsequent part of the chapter, describes the struggle that exists in the just man, between the sensual appetite, corrupted and deranged by original sin, and the superior faculties of the soul, when aided and assisted by divine grace. “That which I work,” in my animal part, “I understand not,” i.e., approve not, because it happens without the consent of my will, nor does my reason approve of it. “I do not that good which I will,” (“good” is not in the Greek), i.e., to be exempt from concupiscence—and to perform good actions without the resistance of concupiscence; “the evil of which I hate, that I do” (“evil” is not in the Greek), because although its takes place in my animal part, I am still said to “do it” according to the axiom, actiones sunt suppositorum.

Rom 7:16. But if it be against my will that I experience these evil tendencies of concupiscence, by this unwillingness I bear testimony to the excellence of the law, commanding me, not to covet.

This withholding of the consent of the will from the actions, or rather passions, of the inferior appetite, is a testimony, on the part of my intellect and will, of the excellence of the prohibitory law.

Rom 7:17. But now, owing to my unwillingness to experience them, these motions are not, properly speaking, my acts, but the deeds of sin which reside in me; hence, no longer attributable to me.

He explains how it is that he did the evil which he did not wish to do. He himself was not the principle of these actions, or rather passions, and motions of concupiscence, but it was rather the evil of concupiscence, which had been implanted, and which dwelt in his nature; and hence, these motions being involuntary, are no longer imputable to him, as free, human actions.

Rom 7:18. For I have known from experience that there dwells not in me, that is to say, in my flesh, corrupted and rendered rebellious by sin, any inclination to good. For, to wish for good and for exemption from evil, I find very easy, but to accomplish that good I find beyond my power.

He explains the words, “sin that dwelleth in me;” for, from experience he finds that it is not good that dwells in his members, but evil; for, to wish to do good, and to be exempt from the evils of concupiscence, he finds easy enough, but to accomplish this, and be actually exempt from them, he finds impossible.

Rom 7:19. For, the good which I wish for, I cannot do; but the evil which I do not wish for, or consent to, that I reluctantly do, or rather submit to.
Rom 7:20. But if I reluctantly do or submit to what I wish not, then, this is not attributable to me; nor, is it, properly speaking, my act, but the act of sin, which dwells within me.

In these two verses there is a repetition, for greater emphasis sake, of the verses 15–17.

Rom 7:21. When, therefore, I wish to do good, in accordance with the divine law, I find an opposing resistance in my corrupt flesh, acting on me like a law; and this arises from the evil of concupiscence implanted in my very nature.

The construction of this verse has been a source of perplexity to Commentators generally. The easiest and the most natural construction appears to be that adopted in the Paraphrase, I find a law opposing or contradicting me when I have a wish to do good. “Evil is present with me,” i.e., this law, or opposing resistance, arises from the fact that evil or concupiscence is present, or is implanted in my nature.

Rom 7:22. For, I am delighted with the law of God according to my interior man; i.e., in my mind, in my intellect and will.

“For, I am delighted with the law of God, according to the inward man,” that is, my mind, my intellect, enlightened and aided by grace and faith, approves of, and my will is delighted with the law of God. This evidently shows that the Apostle is representing the state of a man justified. The “inward man” means, man considered as enlightened by grace and faith.

Rom 7:23. But I experience another law in my corrupt flesh opposed to the law of God, in which my mind is delighted, and subjecting me to servitude under itself, by feeling its motions, but not by consenting to them.

“But I see another law in my members,” i.e., in my rebellious flesh. Through feelings of modest delicacy, he omits mentioning the members more particularly. “Fighting against the law of my mind,” i.e., against the law of God, with which my mind is delighted (verse 22), and “captivating me in the law of sin, which is in my members,” is put by a Hebrew idiom, for “captivating me to itself,” because “the law of the members” is the same as “the law of sin,” “captivating;” by making me submit to its inordinate motions, but not forcing me to consent thereto. “Captivantem,” says St. Augustine, “motione, non consensione.”—(2 Epistola contra Pelagian., c. 10).

Rom 7:24. Unhappy man that I am, who will deliver me from this body, by its stings and corrupt motions inclining me to sin, entailing my spiritual and eternal death?

In this verse are conveyed the exclamation and groans of a just man battling with his corrupt passions, and aspiring, after the glorious liberty of the children of God, when this mortal shall put on immortality, and this corruptible shall be indued with incorruptibility. “From the body of this death;” the Greek, εκ τοῦ σωματος τοῦ θανατοῦ τούτου, may also be translated, “from this body of death,”—this mortal body, subject to the same motions of concupiscence, inclining us to the spiritual death of the soul, which leads to eternal death.

Rom 7:25. The gratuitous mercy of God one day conferring on me an immortal and incorruptible body in the resurrection, through the merits of Jesus Christ our Lord, will deliver me. I, therefore, the self-same person, may be regarded in a two-fold respect. In my mind and will, I serve the law of God, by not consenting to the motions of concupiscence; but in my sensual part, I serve the law of sin, by feeling, although reluctantly, its motions.

“The grace of God,” i.e., the gratuitous mercy of God, &c., will deliver me (vide Paraphrase). The common Greek reading for “the grace of God” is, ευχαριστῳ τῳ θεῳ διὰ Ἰησοῦ, &c., “I give thanks to God through Jesus Christ,” &c. The Codex Vaticanus has χαρις τῶ θεῶ δια Ἰησου, &c., thanks to God through Jesus Christ, &c. The meaning of which may be rendered thus: I give thanks to God for liberating me, or rather for giving me hopes of future liberation through our Lord Jesus Christ. The Vulgate reading is found in some ancient MSS. and in many of the Latin Fathers, and defended by many eminent critics. “Therefore, I myself,” &c. In these words, the Apostle briefly sums up what he had been saying in the latter part of this chapter from verse 14. The sum of all comes to this, that although one and the same person, I feel within me two principles of action: through the one—viz., the animal, sensual principle, I serve the law of sin, by actually having motions of concupiscence, although with reluctance, against God’s law; and through the other—viz., the spiritual principle, I serve the law of God, by not wishing for these motions, and by not consenting to them. This clearly shows, that the Apostle is speaking of himself as representing mankind justified under the law of grace, and battling with concupiscence.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Romans Chapter 6

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 10, 2019

Scripture links are to the Douay Rheims translation

In this chapter, the Apostle answers an objection to which his doctrine in the preceding chapter (Rom 5:20), might give rise (Rom 6:1). From the very rite of baptism, he shows that we should no longer commit sin; on the contrary, we should lead a new life of grace; for the rite of immersion practised in his time in baptism, was a type of our death to sin, and the egress from the waters of baptism was a type of our spiritual resurrection, both of which were effected, as well as signified, by the sacrament of baptism; and both had the death and resurrection of Christ for models (Rom 6:2–9). He next shows, from the very nature of Christ’s death, which took place but once, and of his resurrection, which was the entrance to an immortal life, that we, too, after his example, should persevere in a life of grace (Rom 6:9–11). He exhorts to a life of sanctity (Rom 6:11–20). He points out the present and future fruits of a life of sin and of a life of grace (Rom 6:21-23).

Text in purple indicates Fr. MacEvilly’s paraphrase of the scripture he is commenting on

Rom 6:1. What inference, then, are we to draw from the foregoing doctrine, viz., that “where sin abounded, grace did more abound.” Is it that we should continue in sin in order that grace may abound the more?

The Apostle proposes an objection which might be derived from his words in the preceding chapter, verse 20, that “where sin abounded, grace abounded more,” why not then continue in sin to give occasion to the abundant effusion of grace? Instead of “shall we continue,” the chief MSS. have, επιμενωμεν, “should we continue.”

Rom 6:2. Far be it from us to entertain for a moment so foolish and impious a thought. For how could we, who are dead to sin, who, from our Christian profession, should have no more commerce with sin than the living have with the dead, live any longer in that unhappy state? How is it possible to live and die to the same thing?

He at once rejects the thought as impious and absurd—since it would be absurd for men who, by their Christian profession, “are dead to sin.” i.e., who renounced all intercourse with sin, as the dead do in regard to the living, to live any longer in a state which they have so thoroughly renounced. He shows the absurdity of the consequence, since it is impossible to live and die to the same thing.

Rom 6:3. For that we are dead to sin, you may clearly see, by calling to mind what you already know, viz., that when we are baptized in the name and by the authority of Jesus Christ, we are baptized into the likeness and representation of his death.

He now proves that they are dead to sin, since by being “baptized in Christ Jesus,” in the Greek, εἰς Χριστὸν Ἰησοῦν, into Christ Jesus, i.e., by professing ourselves followers of Christ in the rite of baptism. In the Codex Vaticanus, the word “Jesus” is wanting, it simply is, “baptized unto Christ.” “Are baptized in his death”; in the Greek, εἰς τὸν θάνατον, into his death, i.e., into the likeness and representation of his death. So that his death on the cross would be represented by our death to sin, of which the baptism by immersion—the form of baptism in use in the time of the Apostle—was a significant type; and this death to sin on our part is effected by baptism, since, according to the doctrine of St. Thomas, the sacraments operate what they signify.

Rom 6:4. For, in order vividly to represent his death, we have been buried with him in the baptismal rite of immersion. So that as Christ has been resuscitated from the grave by the glorious operation of his Father’s power, we also, emerging from the baptismal waters, would lead a new life, as he did after his resurrection, and continue perseveringly in it.

He shows how our spiritual death to sin is signified by baptism. For, our immersion in baptism is a type of our burial, and, consequently, of our death to sin, of which his death on the cross was the model. “For we are buried together with him by baptism,” his burial, and, consequently, his death, being the model of our burial and death to sin, signified by our immersion in the waters of baptism. In all the Greek copies we have, οὖν, therefore, instead of “for.” “Into death,” to represent his death, which must precede burial. “That as Christ is risen from the dead by the glory of the Father,” i.e., by the glorious operation of the Father’s power, to enter on a new and immortal life, we too, after emerging from the waters of baptism, which is a type of our spiritual resurrection, would, like Christ, risen from the grave—our resuscitated model—enter on a new and holy life. As the death of Christ is the model of our death to sin, so is his resurrection from the tomb the model of our spiritual resurrection, and both signified by the rite of baptism, then conferred by immersion.

Rom 6:5. For, if, like young shoots, we have been engrafted on him by baptism, so as to represent, by our death to sin, his death on the cross, we shall certainly, for a like reason, be engrafted also unto the likeness of his resurrection, which will be effected by our leading a new life of grace, after the model of his glorious and immortal life.

He shows why we should walk in the newness of life, or become assimilated to Christ in his resurrection; for, our assimilation to him in our spiritual death, was not to rest there. Baptism not only represented and effected our spiritual death to sin—for this was but one spiritual effect signified and caused by baptism—but it also signified and effected our resurrection to a new life, in which we are to live after the model of Christ resuscitated from the grave. Our death to sin was the precursor of our new life of grace. Hence, if we die with Christ, with much greater reason shall we rise with him. “Planted together with him,” συμφυτοι γεγοναμεν; there is allusion in these words to the grafting of young shoots on the stock of another tree: Christ is the stock of the true and faithful vine on which we must be engrafted, to die with him to sin, and to live with him to grace, as the young graft participates in all the vicissitudes of the stock on which it is inserted. The nutriment we derive from our insertion on him, will not be merely confined to our dying to sin; it is intended to produce in us the fruits of a new and spiritual life.

Rom 6:6. We should die to sin and live a new life of grace, if we consider that in baptism, our old man, i.e., the corruption of nature, which we inherited from Adam, is crucified with Christ, so that the whole mass, or body of sin consisting of different members, may be destroyed, and we may no longer serve as slaves under the tyranny of sin.

From the end of baptism he shows that we should be dead to sin, and walk in the newness of life (verse 4); for, while baptism represents the crucifixion of Christ, it also signifies and effects the crucifixion of our vices. “Our old man,” i.e., the sinfulness and corruption inherited from Adam, or rather man himself, as affected by this sinfulness. The Apostle distinguishes two men, the old and the new. The “old man was crucified” with Christ; for, in his person “who was made for us a malediction,” the entire fallen race of Adam was nailed to the cross. “That the body of sin,” i.e., the entire mass or collection of sins—the members of which collection are uncleanness, avarice, &c. (Colossians 3). They are called a body, because as different members joined together constitute a body, so all the particular sins committed by the “old man” constitute a “body” also; in using the word body, the Apostle carries with him the idea of crucifixion, and alludes to the body of man after he fell in Adam, before he was renewed in Christ. This corrupt body was made by man the instrument of indulging his concupiscences. “May be destroyed,” by mortifying and restraining its members, “and may serve sin no longer.” “Sin” is represented as a tyrant exercising dominion over us.

Rom 6:7. For, as the dead slave is freed from servitude, so are we, who are dead to sin by baptism, freed from its tyranny; and hence, we should no longer serve it.

He continues to represent sin as a tyrant exercising sway—“is justified from sin?” “justified” is taken in a legal sense to signify acquitted, fully absolved, so as not to be again questioned on that account.

Rom 6:8. But if we be really dead to sin with Christ, we have a firm hope and confidence, that one day we shall enjoy with Christ a glorious and immortal life.

“We believe,” i.e., we confidently hope, “we shall live together with Christ.” These words are understood by Estius to refer to our living a life of grace after the model of His glorious and immortal life. The interpretation in the Paraphrase, which makes it refer to our living with him one day a life of glory in heaven, is, however, to be preferred; for, the Apostle would appear to take occasion, from treating of the life of grace, to refer to the reward of future glory, as a means of stimulating men to the practice of virtue. The opinion of Estius, however, derives great probability from the meaning given to the words, alive unto God, verse 11, where the foregoing example is applied.

Rom 6:9. As we know that Christ, resuscitated from the tomb, dies no more, death has no further dominion over him he (enjoys a glorious and immortal life, free from all the ills of mortality).

These words show that Christ, now risen, shall live for ever; and hence, as we are to live with him, we are to enjoy an immortal life. The connexion is more easily seen in the interpretation of Estius: “We shall live also together with Christ,” (verse 8). But what life is that?—an unceasing, continuous life of grace; for such is its model—the life of Christ resuscitated from the tomb; or, perhaps, it might be more probably said, that this verse has no immediate connexion with the foregoing; but that in it is merely introduced a new reason for persevering in grace—founded on the mode of Christ’s death and resurrection. From the very nature, the oneness, of Christ’s resurrection, he shows our obligation to persevere in good, and not relapse again into the state of sin.

Rom 6:10. For, so far as his death is concerned, it took place but once for the expiation of sin, but as to his life, it is altogether employed for the glory of God.

“He died to sin, he died once,” i.e., he died one death to expiate and atone for sin. In the common Greek, the punctuation is so placed that the words “to sin” are joined to “once,” thus, “he died to sin once.” The punctuation in the Codex Vaticanus “ὅ γὰρ απεθανεν, τῆ αμαρτία, απεθανεν εφαπαξ,” leaves the matter doubtful. “But he liveth unto God,” i.e., solely for God’s glory; and hence, our life of grace should be devoted to the same; or, the words, “unto God,” may mean, he lived a life worthy of God, immortal and unchangeable.

Rom 6:11. So do you, therefore, after his example, regard yourselves as dead to sin by baptism, and gifted with an unchanging, unfading life of grace, to be wholly devoted to the promotion of God’s glory, through the grace and merits of Jesus Christ our Lord.

He applies the foregoing, and founds on it the exhortation to sanctity of life. Hence, we should regard ourselves after baptism as dead once and for ever to sin, and living, like Christ, solely for God, performing all the actions of our life solely for the end of advancing his glory.

Rom 6:12. Do not, therefore, permit sin to exercise dominion or tyranny over your mortal bodies, by obeying and consenting to its corrupt desires.

He continues the metaphor, wherein “sin” is represented as a tyrant. By “sin” is meant, concupiscence, which the Apostle calls “sin,” because it is an effect of sin, and inclines us to it, quia ex peccato est et ad peccatum inclinat.—(Concil. Trid. SS. v., Can. 5). “In your mortal body;” he reminds them of their mortality and of the short duration of their shameful gratifications, in order to stimulate them to trample on them, and seek these rewards which are eternal. “So as to obey the lusts thereof.” It is by obeying the lusts of concupiscence, that we permit it to exercise tyranny over us. In the common Greek the words run thus: εἰς τὸ ὑπακούειν (αυτῃ ἐν) ταῖς επιθυμιαῖς αυτοῦ, “so as to obey (it in) its lusts.” The Vulgate is conformable to the chief MSS. and ancient versions, in which, αυτῃ εν, are altogether omitted.

Rom 6:13. And do not yield your members to the tyrant sin, as instruments for carrying out the ends of iniquity; but rather devote and give up your entire being to God, as having been raised from the death of sin to lead a new life of grace, and yield your members to God as instruments for carrying out the ends of justice.

No commentary is offered beyond the paraphrase.

Rom 6:14. Nor should you apprehend any great difficulties in this struggle, from the fear that concupiscence would once more regain dominion over you; it will no longer domineer over you; for, you are no longer under the Mosaic Law, where sin reigned with such uncontrollable dominion, but you are under the New Law, where grace abounds and enables you to keep sin under subjection.

The Apostle points out the facility with which they can obtain the victory. There is no fear that sin would exercise its dominion over them; they are no longer under the Mosaic law, which pointed out the sin to be avoided, but did not give grace to overcome or avoid it; and hence, sin reigned with more uncontrollable dominion under it; but they are under the Gospel law, in which they have ample graces to resist and battle against sin. “Under the law” has reference to the threats and menaces which the law holds out against those who are unable to fulfil its precepts, for the fulfilment of which the law itself gives no assistance. They, therefore, are said “not to be under the law,” who, though bound by the precepts of the law, still, in consequence of being enabled, owing to the numerous graces liberally dealt out to them “under grace,” to fulfil all its precepts, can set its threats and menaces at defiance. In the Greek it is, “under Law.” The article is wanting.

Rom 6:15. As, then, we are “not under the law,” does it not follow that we are free to neglect its precepts and thus sin against it? And as we are “under grace,” should we not sin that grace may abound the more (verse 1)? The inference is, in the first place, too impious and silly to deserve refutation.

This wrong influence is founded on the erroneous interpretation of the words, “under the law.” His first answer to it is, “God forbid,” i.e., far be it from us to assent to so unmeaning and impious an idea. Instead of, “shall we sin,” the reading of the chief MSS. is, ἁμαρτησωμεν, should we sin.

Rom 6:16. In the next place, the contrary should be deduced; viz., that you should no longer sin. For, are you not aware, that to whomsoever you give yourselves as servants to obey, you are his servants; you acknowledge him as your master, whether it be sin that entails eternal death, or gospel obedience—the fruit of which is justice here and eternal life hereafter?

He answers it, in the second place, by showing that if they were to adopt the wrong and unmeaning inference referred to, they would be incurring the very inconvenience for the avoiding of which he proposed to them the abundant grace of the Gospel—viz., they would become the slaves of the tyrant, “sin;” because, men are the slaves of whomsoever they obey. “Of obedience unto justice.” By “obedience” he means the Gospel law, which prescribes obedience, and it is opposed to “sin.” because every sin involves disobedience.

Rom 6:17. But thanks be to God, that having ceased to be servants of sin, you have become servants of Christ, by sincerely obeying the true form of gospel teaching, which has been delivered to you, or, to which you voluntarily submitted.

“That you were the servants of sin,” is the same as, that you have long since ceased to be what you were—viz., “the servants of sin.” “That form of doctrine,” i.e., that doctrine marked out by the Gospel. “Into which you have been delivered,” i.e., you have voluntarily and spontaneously submitted and yielded yourselves.

Rom 6:18. But having been freed from the galling servitude of sin, you have passed to the glorious service of justice, in regard to God, to serve whom, is to reign.

They have ceased to be what they heretofore were, “the servants of sin;” and hence, they should no longer sin, which is the contrary inference of that deduced by the impious (verse 15). “Made the servants of justice;” they should serve justice, and have no part in a service incompatible with it.

Rom 6:19. I propose to you an easy precept, by no means beyond your reach, and perfectly accommodated to human weakness, and it is, that you would now, after becoming servants of justice, use the same exertions in advancing the cause of justice and sanctification, that you have, heretofore, employed in your former degraded state, towards forwarding the purposes of iniquity and uncleanness.

Having shown that they were servants of justice, and therefore bound to promote the ends of sanctity, he points out the extent to which he requires of them to exert themselves in this service. “I speak a human thing,” i.e., a precept not above human strength, aided by ordinary grace, “because of the infirmity of your flesh,” more in accommodation to your weakness than in accordance with what God, your new master, deserves at your hands. The easy precept is, to do as much for justice as they did before for uncleanness and sin, although the Apostle might require of them to use greater zeal in the service of the former.

Rom 6:20. For, while you were the degraded slaves of sin, and so wholly engrossed with its degrading servitude, you had nothing at all to do with justice—no thoughts or concern whatever about it. (Hence, now, in serving justice, you should be wholly engrossed with it, having no further thoughts about sin or injustice).

They will comply with this easy precept, by altogether discarding any connexion with sin; for, their service under sin was equally exclusive of justice.

Rom 6:21. And in order to exert greater zeal in the service of justice than you have shown in the cause of iniquity, consider the rewards of both. The present fruit of your past services in the cause of sin, is shame at the remembrance of them, and their final end shall be everlasting death.

He stimulates them in the discharge of the duties which they owe in justice to God, by pointing out the present and future rewards, and fruits of their service to both.

Rom 6:22. But the present fruit of your labours in the cause of God, in whose service you are engaged, after having been freed from the degrading servitude of sin, is the sanctification of your souls; and the final recompense shall be, eternal life.

The present fruit of justice is not shame, but sanctification, wherein we should glory; and the final end to which it conducts, is not death, but everlasting life.

Rom 6:23. For, the wages given to the sinner, like the military pay given to the soldier, is eternal death; but the donative of God, given to the man who fights under the banner of justice, is eternal life, which is merited for us by Christ Jesus our Lord.

“The wages of sin,” (the Greek word for “wages,” ὀψωνια, means, the military pay given to soldiers); as if he said, the military pay, to which those that fight under the banners of sin are entitled, is death. “But the grace of God.” The Greek word for “grace,” χαρισμα, means, the donative or liberal allowance which the generals were sometimes accustomed to give the soldiers beyond their ordinary pay. Here, then, the words mean: the liberal donative given by God to the followers of justice is eternal life.

Objection.—If eternal life can be merited as a reward of good works, as faith teaches, how could the Apostle call it a “grace,” since a reward is strictly due, and a “grace” is essentially gratuitous?

Resp.—Although eternal life be a merces or reward, the Apostle still calls it a “grace,” because it is really such in a certain sense—viz., inasmuch as the very works by which it is earned must proceed from grace. Hence, St. Augustine has said, “that in crowning our good works, God only crowns his own grace;” 2ndly, the Apostle calls it a “grace” here, because it is not the wages or stipend of good works, in the same way that death is the wages of sin, i.e., deserving it of its own intrinsic nature. Good works, viewed in themselves, are not deserving of eternal life, only inasmuch as God has graciously promised to attach to them eternal life; and it is on this promise of God, and not on the nature of abstract distributive justice, that the right to eternal life, resulting from good works, is founded. St. Paul, then, calls eternal life a “grace,” because grace is the more exalted principle for gaining it; and, besides, as eternal life far exceeds the merits of good works, it may be called a grace in this respect also. The chief object which the Apostle had in view in this Epistle was to refute the errors of the Jewish and Gentile converts at Rome, who relied too much on the merit of their natural good works. Hence, he directs his whole reasoning to prove the gratuitousness of eternal life, and of the means to obtain it, and he abstracts from the other view, in which it may be regarded—viz., as a subject of merit. For, to consider it under this latter respect, would only involve his reasoning in obscurity, and interfere, in a great measure, with his principal object in this Epistle. The same is observable in his reasoning (chap. 4) regarding Abraham’s justification. He there abstracts from the good works of the Patriarch, and attributes all to faith.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Romans Chapter 5

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 10, 2019

Scripture links are to the Douay Rheims translation

The Apostle, having proved in the preceding chapters, that our justification comes from faith and not from the works performed by the sole aid of cither the natural law or the law of Moses, now points out the excellence if this justification from its effects and the fruits which it produces. The first effect is, peace and tranquillity of conscience (Rom 5:1). The second is the adoption of us, as sons of God (Rom 5:2). The third is joy in our afflictions, which subserve as means to bring us to the enjoyment of our eternal inheritance (Rom 5:3-5). We have two most consoling and certain grounds for this hope, viz., the diffusion of the Holy Ghost in our hearts, and the death if Christ, than which God could not furnish a greater proof of his boundless love (Rom 5:6–10). The fourth effect of our justification is our glorying in God, as our Father, and in Jesus Christ, as our Mediator (Rom 5:11). In order to show the absolute necessity of this reconciliation on the part of Christ, the Apostle traces matters to the very root of all evil, viz., original sin, of which subject he treats in the remainder of the chapter (Rom 5:12-21).

text in purple indicates Fr. MacEvilly’s paraphrase of the scripture he is commenting on

Rom 5:1. Having, therefore, been justified through faith (in Christ resuscitated from the grave to complete our justification, Rom 4:25), let us be at peace with God, by sinning no more; or, by laying aside the terrors of conscience to which we are subject while in the state of sin, having been reconciled through our Lord Jesus Christ.

“By faith,” and not by the cause advanced by the Jews and Gentiles respectively, viz., the works of the moral and Mosaic laws. “Let us have peace.” In the common Greek copies it is, εχομεν, we have peace, i.e., we have God propitious and reconciled to us. The Vulgate reading, εχωμεν, is that of the Alexandrian and Vatican MSS., and followed by many of the Holy Fathers, SS. Chrysostom, Jerome, Augustine, &c. The meaning of both readings differs but little. Beelen prefers the indicative reading, “we have,” which is the reading of the other verses; “we stand,” verse 3; “we glory,” verse 3 etc.

Rom 5:2. Through whose merits we have had access, by means of faith, to this grace of reconciliation, wherein we are firmly established, and wherein we glory, in the hope of enjoying one day the bliss in store for the sons of God.

“By whom also,” i.e., through whose merits, “we have access,” (in the Greek, την προσαγωγην εσχηκαμεν, we had access,) i.e., we had been admitted to that happy state of grace in which we firmly persevere—sanctifying grace, as a habit, firmly adheres to us—and of which we boast, since it furnishes us with the most assured hope of one day enjoying the glorious inheritance prepared for the sons of God, of which grace is the seed and the sure earnest. The Greek word for “access,” literally means approach, and frequently means, permission to approach great men. Here it is used metaphorically to denote introduction to a state of grace. “Sons” is not in the Greek, which runs thus, “in the hope of the glory of God.” “Through faith.” Christ has given us access through faith, as through a door, to sanctifying grace.

Rom 5:3. And not only do we glory in this grace which is the seed of future glory; but, we even rejoice and glory in tribulation, as conducing to bring us to this happy end. Knowing well from the principles of our faith, that tribulation is the matter and occasional cause of patience.

And to show how great are our expectations of this future bliss, we glory in the means of obtaining it, be they ever so opposed to flesh and blood, such as tribulations are. “Knowing that tribulation worketh patience,” tribulation being the matter by which patience is exercised.

Rom 5:4. Now, the patient endurance of sufferings tries us and shows what we are. And this trial, after passing through the order of tribulations, enlivens and animates our hope of future bliss.

“And patience (worketh) trial.” Because, it is the patient endurance of affliction that alone tries us, and shows what we are, “as gold and silver are tried in the fire, so are acceptable men in the furnace of humiliation.”—(Eccles. 1). St. James would appear to contradict the Apostle here, for he says (chap. 1) “the trying of faith worketh patience.” There is no real contradiction, however; for, by the “trying of faith,” St. James means the tribulation itself; and this worketh patience, as it is said by St. Paul, in the preceding verse; whereas, here, by “trial” the Apostle means the result of patiently enduring tribulation, the proof we give of the extent of our love for God, and of the sterling virtue which we possess; “and trial (worketh) hope,” because it wonderfully animates and enlivens our hope of heavenly bliss to pass unhurt through the furnace of tribulation.

Rom 5:5. But this hope of future bliss shall never cause the shame of disappointment, since, as a pledge of the fulfilment of this hope, the charity and liberality of God is poured forth into our hearts by the Holy Ghost who has been given to us. (After giving us this pledge of our future inheritance, what can God deny to us?)

“And hope confoundeth not.” The Greek for “confoundeth,” καταισχύνει, means shameth, by which is expressed the shame of disappointment resulting from grounding our hopes on vain, delusive promises; but our hopes in God are most certain and infallible, as is seen from two indubitable proofs which he has given us of the fulfilment of his promises. The first proof is the diffusion of the gift of charity, by which we Gove him through the Holy Ghost, who is given to us, and permanently resides and inheres in our souls by his gifts. The words, “in our hearts” favour this meaning of “charity of God.” “The charity of God” may also refer to the love of God for us manifested by his pouring forth plenteously into our souls the gifts of his Holy Spirit, which permanently reside and inhere in us; and these gifts of sanctifying grace, and the virtues which are inseparable from it, being the seed of future glory, are the surest earnest God could give us of one clay attaining that glory. This latter meaning of “the charity of God,” is rendered probable by verse 8. It may refer to both God’s love for us, and our love for Him. Some Commentators understand the words, “by the Holy Ghost who is given to us,” to refer to a personal union of the Holy Ghost, in a manner peculiar or proper to him, and not common to the Father and Son (see Beelen). From this verse is derived an argument, that sanctifying grace is intrinsic and permanent, as it is “poured forth in our hearts by the Holy Ghost who is given to us,” to reside in us.

Rom 5:6. In the next place, why should Christ die for us at the prescribed time, when we were yet impious and languishing uder the infirmity of sin, unless it were to display his charity towards us and confirm our hope?

The second proof of God’s love for us, and a further confirmation of our hope is, the death of Christ for us, “for why did Christ … die for the ungodly?” unless it was by this splendid proof of his love for us to animate and confirm our hope, and give us an assurance, that, one day he would crown his gifts in us. “Why,” is not in the common Greek, which gives the sentence in an affirmative form, ἔτι γὰρ. The ancient MSS. have various readings. The Codex Vaticanus, εἴ γε. Irenæus and other Fathers support the Vulgate; “weak,” i.e., labouring under the infirmity of infidelity and sin, which is more clearly expressed in the word “ungodly.” The first proof of his great charity which God has given us, is the diffusion of the gifts of his Holy Spirit in our hearts. The second is the death of Christ for us. “According to the time,” i.e., at the precise period, pointed out by the prophets, and fixed on by his heavenly Father.

Rom 5:7. Now, scarcely will you find among men an instance of one man dying for another: even though that other be a just man. I say, scarcely, because, perhaps, for the just man, who may be at the same time a benefactor, one may submit to die.

The Apostle, in order to render the love of charity displayed by God for us in the death of his Son the more conspicuous, contrasts this great act of love on the part of God, with similar manifestations on the part of mankind to one another. “Scarcely will you find one” to carry his love for another to such a degree, as to die for him, even though that one be “a just man.” It may, however, possibly happen that this rare instance of love may be shown in behalf of a just man, who may be, at the same time, beneficent to us. “A good man,” implies, not only that one is just, rendering to every one what is due, but also beneficent to us; and therefore, having some grounds for demanding a sacrifice from us.

Rom 5:8-9. But in this does God display in a conspicuous manner his charity and love for us, that Christ has died in the plenitude of lime for us, while we were yet his enemies and in the state of sin. Having suffered so much for us while in a state of sin, much more shall we be saved and preserved by him from the eternal punishment, with which we will, in his wrath, visit the impious, now that we have been justified at the price of his precious blood.

But the charity of God surpasses anything ever heard of, or anything even supposed to be possible among men, by His dying for us, when we were neither “just” nor “good,” but when we were “sinners” and enemies The Greek word for “commends,” συνιστησιν, means, to set forth, to display. The words “according to the time,” κατα χαιρον, are not in any Greek copies, and were probably introduced from verse 6. The word “God” is omitted in the Codex Vaticanus, according to which “Christ” is the nominative to “commendeth.” What a lively picture is drawn here by the Apostle of the boundless love of God for man—the Creator dying for us, his wretched creatures, when we were his enemies. How few correspond with this boundless love. How few make a suitable return. Tam amantem quis non redamet? in quantum possumus, amemus, redamemus vulneratum nostrum.—(St. Bernard, de Passione). What wonder that the Apostle should invoke the heaviest malediction on the head of him who loves not our Lord Jesus Christ.—(1 Cor. 16:22.) “Let us therefore love God, because God first hath loved us.”—(1 John 4:19). How frequently should we not meditate on the different circumstances of God’s love for us, as here set forth by the Apostle.

Rom 5:10. For, if when we were his enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more now that we are reconciled to him, shall he complete this work of our justification by saving us after having entered on his exalted state of glorious and immortal life.

In this verse, he repeats with greater emphasis, founded on the contrast between Christ’s ignominious death and glorified life, the idea conveyed in the preceding one. If Christ, in his weak, possible and humiliated state, had, at the expense of his precious blood, performed the more difficult work of reconciling us with God; is it not much more natural to expect, that he will now, in his glorious state of immortal and impassible life, perform in our behalf the complement of the preceding, without which it would be unavailing, viz., bring us to consummate salvation, and thereby perfect the work of our reconciliation?

Rom 5:11. But not only do we glory in the hope of future bliss, and in tribulations as conducing thereto; but, we also glory in God, whose adopted sons we have become, not through any merits of our own, but through those of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have been admitted to the grace of reconciliation with God.

“And not only so.” Some Commentators, among the rest, Estius, connect these words with the preceding, thus: “and not only have we been reconciled, but we also glory,” &c. The participial form of reconciliati and gloriantes favours this. The connexion in the Paraphrase appears far more probable, and is also well sustained by external authority. The Greek for “we glory” is a participle, καυχωμενοι, glorying, but it is equivalent to the indicative.

Rom 5:12. (Through Christ alone have we been reconciled to God, and we needed him to reconcile us). For, as by one man (Adam) sin entered into this world, and by sin death, thus death has passed into all men, since all sinned in Adam, as the principal and head of the human race. (So also through one man Christ—the principal and head of all who are spiritually regenerated—has justice entered into the world, and through justice, eternal life).

The Apostle, in order to show the necessity of reconciliation through Christ, traces matters back to the root of all evil, and propounds the mysterious doctrine of original sin. What it is that constitutes this sin, and what the particular mode is of contracting it, which we have inherited from Adam, and which has been transmitted to all who have been, by the natural course of generation, descended from him (the glorious Mother of God, alone, excepted, who, according to the doctrine of faith, “by a singular privilege and grace of Almighty God, has been preserved free from all stain of original sin in the first instant of Her conception, in view of the merits of Christ Jesus, the Saviour of the human race”), no way concerns us to inquire. This much we know and believe as an article of Catholic faith, that this sin has been transmitted to all men, not by imitation, but by carnal generation. “Hoc Adæ peccatum … propagatione non imitatione transfusum omnibus, inest unicuique proprium.”—(Concil. Trid. SS. 5. de Peccato Orig.) And this doctrine has been proved from this passage by several Councils against the Pelagians.

“Wherefore,” δια τουτο, may mean, for, with the connexion in Paraphrase, or it may be thus connected: “Since, then, Christ is the meritorious cause of our salvation, it is meet that we should, therefore, institute the following comparison. “As by one man,” i.e., Adam, who was by God constituted the head and representative of the whole mass of mankind, “sin entered into this world,” i.e., infected the whole human race, which thereby contracted the necessity of dying. By “sin,” is meant the guilt of original sin, and not its effects, death and bodily suffering, as defined by the Council of Trent—(SS. 5, Can. 2). It is opposed to justification, and moreover, if it referred to the effects of sin, it would be identified with “death.” “And so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned.” “In whom,” regards the “one man,” δἰ ἑνὸς ἀνθρώπου, or Adam, as is clear from the Greek, ἐφʼ ᾧ. This is the interpretation of St. Augustine and St. Chrysostom. In this construction, the words intervening between “one man,” and “in whom.” are included in a parenthesis, “wherefore, as by one man (…) in whom all have sinned.” Others understand the words, ἐφʼ ῳ, causatively to mean inasmuch as, or because, and this is preferred by many (see Beelen). Some Commentators say the sense is suspended as far as verse 18—“therefore as by the offence,” &c.—others finish the sense as in Paraphrase. And this is the more probable; for in verse 18, it is a conclusion that is expressed, “therefore,” &c. Others, with Beelen, say the second member of the comparison which should correspond with the words, “as by one man,” &c., and should complete the sentence, is expressed, if not in words, at least in reality, wherein is conveyed the contrast between the first and second Adam, in verse 14, “who is a figure,” &c.

Rom 5:13-14. And that this sin existed in the world at all times, even before the written law was given to Moses, although before the law, it was not so much attended to by mankind, following the bent of their corrupt passions, and having no positive law to point out the enormity and fix the special punishment of their crimes, is evident from the fact, that death, its consequence, reigned from Adam to Moses even over those (v.g., infants and idiots) who were incapable, by actual transgression, of sinning after the manner of Adam, who, as the head of a sinful race, was, by contraries, a type of the second Adam, Christ, through whom, as the head of a ransomed race, justice and life were to be introduced into this world.

13. In this verse, the Apostle anticipates and solves an objection which might be made against the universality of the preceding doctrine, namely, as sin is the violation of some law, how could there be any violation of a law before it was given? The Apostle says, that even before the law was given to Moses, this sin of Adam, as well in itself as in its effects, viz., actual sins, existed in this world; but these sins were not “imputed,” or attended to by mankind following their corrupt passions; because there was no particular positive enactment clearly to point out their enormity—so that “sin” in this verse embraces not only original but actual sins, of which the corruption we have inherited from Adam is the source and principle. “But sin,” under which are included original sin, and the actual sins flowing from it, superadded by our own wills—“was not imputed.” Some say was not imputed unto punishment, or as a transgression. The interpretation adopted in the Paraphrase is preferable; for, it is very hard to reconcile the other interpretation with the heavy chastisements always visited upon sin, even before the time of Moses; for, even then, death reigned as well as afterwards.

14. But as a proof that this sin existed, even during the interval that elapsed between Adam and Moses, the Apostle adduces the fact that death, the consequence and punishment of sin, reigned over those who could not deserve any such punishment by actual positive guilt of their own. Such, for instance, were infants and idiots, who, unlike Adam, were incapable of actual sin.

“Who is a figure of him who was to come.” Adam was, by contraries, a type of the future or second Adam, Christ, who is the principle of spiritual life, as the first Adam was the principle of spiritual death. Some Commentators, and among them Beelen, are of opinion that the second member of the antithesis between Adam and Christ is insinuated here, although not clearly expressed, as has been done in Paraphrase of verse 12.

This passage had been adduced by St. Augustine and the early Fathers, to establish against the Pelagians the doctrine of original sin. The Apostle says, “all have sinned,” verse 12, and that this is not to be understood of actual sin, he shows in verse 14, since death, the consequence and punishment of sin, had been inflicted upon all, not even excepting those who were incapable of committing actual sin, viz., infants and idiots. Hence, it must be inflicted as a punishment of that sin, which by generation was transmitted to them from Adam, whom, in his infinite wisdom, God had constituted the head of all his descendants; so that his sin would be imputable to them, as would his fidelity have been accounted in their favour, had he persevered in justice.

Rom 5:15. We are not, however, to imagine, that the sin of the first Adam has been so detrimental in its effects, as the gift of the second Adam, by which these effects were removed, has been useful. For, if by the sin of the first Adam his many descendants were deprived of spiritual life and rendered subject to eternal death, far more numerous and precious were the gratuitous gifts of God, through the grace of one man Jesus Christ, conferred on the many (for, besides restoring spiritual life, he has bestowed many gifts of the Holy Ghost and immortality itself).

In the preceding verse, the Apostle had asserted, that Adam was a type or figure of him, “who is to come,” i.e., of Christ, who is often in SS. Scripture styled, the last Adam.—(1 Cor. 15:45). He was a figure by contraries, because, as the first Adam was the principle of death and sin, so the last was the principle of justice and of life, in all who were to be spiritually regenerated and born of him. This resemblance was not, in every respect, perfect. “Many died,” in Greek, οἱ πολλοὶ, “the many.” The first point of dissimilitude, even on contrary sides, was that the guilt of the one had only inflicted temporal and eternal death; whereas, “the grace of God and the gift,” i.e., the gratuitous gift of God furnished by the grace and merits of the man-God, Jesus Christ, “hath much more abounded,” not in point of extensive application, but in the comprehensive excellence and abundance of the benefits which it conferred; since it was not merely confined to the removal of the evil effects of the sin of Adam, but it also bestowed the gifts of the Holy Ghost and perseverance in grace, of which the sin of Adam did not deprive us; for, Adam had not these gifts in Paradise.

“Unto many,” or, as in the Greek, εἰς τους πολλους, “unto the many.” Of course, “the many” in this latter member of the sentence is not as extensive as in the former member, “by the offence of one many died;” for, the many in the former are called “all men,” verse 12; while in this latter part, there is question only of the many who are spiritually born or begotten of Christ, in the same way as treating of the descendants of Adam there is question of those carnally descended from him. It is not in the extent of their actual application that the Apostle compares “the gift” and “the sin,” but in their comprehensive or intrinsic effects where they are applied.

Rom 5:16. There is another point of difference besides; for, it was only for the one sin of Adam, that all have been subject to the sentence of condemnation; whereas, the gratuitous gift effected the justification of all, not only from that sin, but from all others, and so it rescued us from more evils than the sin of Adam had introduced.

There is another point of dissimilitude. For, the gift of the last Adam did more than remove the evil effects of which the transgression of the first was productive. For, by the transgression of Adam, all had been subject to the sentence of condemnation for only one sin; whereas, the gratuitous gift of Christ not only justified us from that one general sin, but from all our own actual sins, superadded by depraved and corrupt nature. “And not as it was by one sin,” the Greek is, καὶ ουχ ὡς δἰ ἑνος ἁμαρτησαντος, “and not as by one who sinned.” The Vulgate reading is, however, found in some of the principal Greek manuscripts, and in the Arabic version.

Rom 5:17. For, if through the sin of one man (Adam), and as the consequence of his sin, death reigned over the entire human race; with far greater reason should we believe, that those who receive the abundance of divine grace, of justice, and of all supernatural favours, shall reign for endless ages, through the merits of the one man, Jesus Christ, which are boundless and infinite.

The Apostle repeats, with greater emphasis in this verse, the points of similitude and dissimilitude between Christ and Adam, as opposite principles of life and death. He represents life and death introduced by both, as reigning over the human race. Adam introduced the reign of death and sin; Christ, the reign of justice and life. He does not say, as In the preceding member, that “life shall reign,” but “they shall reign in life,” to point out the dignity of the sons of God, to whom the form, “they shall reign in life,” is more honourable than “life shall reign over them,” as is said of death in the preceding; “much more”—i.e., it is much more natural, considering the infinite power and boundless merits of the one man, Jesus Christ, the principle of spiritual and eternal life, to expect that his children shall reign for ever; the word “reign” expresses the height of happiness, together with the exalted honour they shall enjoy. “Abundance of grace” may mean the abundant, transcendant grace; “and of the gift, and of justice,” (in the common Greek, καὶ της δωρεας της δικαιοσυνης, “and of the gift of justice.”). In the Vatican MS. the word “gift” is wanting.

Rom 5:18. Therefore, as by the sin of one man, Adam, the entire mass of mankind incurred the guilt through which they were subject to condemnation; so also, by the justice of one man, Christ, have all men born of him, obtained that justice which makes them sharers of eternal life.

In this verse, according to the interpretation adopted by many, the Apostle reverts to the preceding, for the purpose of completing the sense, and of filling up the comparison left incomplete at verse 12. The intervening verses are, according to this connexion, to be read as within a parenthesis, in which the sacred writer is hurried off from the main subject to note some points of similitude or dissimilitude that occurred to him in reference to the subject in question—a thing not at all unusual in the style of the Apostle. Against this connexion, however, it may be fairly objected, that in this verse the Apostle only draws a conclusion from the foregoing, in which the comparison is supposed to have been already instituted, and indeed, according to many (vide Beelen), the points of comparison are carried out in the words of verse 14, “who is a figure of him who was to come;” “Therefore,” i.e., so then, “as by the offence of one unto all men to condemnation,” the word judgment is understood (judgment passed), “unto all men to condemnation,” as in verse 16; “so also by the justice of one,” (grace or justice passed) “unto all men to justification of life;” “all men,” in this latter clause, regarding justification, are to be understood of all spiritually born of Christ, as in the preceding, reference is made to all carnally descended from the principle of death and condemnation—viz., Adam.

Rom 5:19. For, as by the disobedience of one man, Adam, the many descended from him are made sinners; so also, by the obedience of Christ, shall the many, spiritually born of him, be constituted just.

On account of the great importance of the doctrine, the Apostle repeats in this verse the same thing conveyed in the preceding, “as by the disobedience of the one”—viz., Adam eating the forbidden fruit, “the many,” i.e., all his descendants, who are many (he calls them “all men,” verse 18), “are made sinners;” “so also by the obedience of the one, the many (descended of him) shall be,” &c.; “the many,” in this latter member is not co-extensive with “the many” in the preceding, according to the interpretation now given; or, if we take “the many” who shall be “made just,” to refer to the entire human race, then the words “made just” will not imply that they are actually justified, but only that the grace of justification is intended for all, and it is their own fault if they fail to obtain it; and that all who are rendered just, are made so by the grace of Christ. From this and the preceding verse is derived a convincing argument of the Catholic doctrine of inherent justice, as Beelen well observes. For, according to the teaching of the Apostle, we are constituted just, and even obtain the gift of justice, through the obedience of Christ, as we are constituted sinners through the disobedience of Adam. Now, in the latter case, we were really sinners, “by nature, children of wrath,” (Eph. 2:3) by the guilt of sin inherent in each of us, transmitted by carnal generation from him. Therefore, by the obedience of Christ, all who are spiritually born of him are constituted really just by justice really inherent in them, and not by the imputation of the justice of Christ, as it was not by the imputation of the sin of Adam that all are sinners. For, the spiritual regeneration in Christ corresponds with the carnal descent from Adam, in which guilt is not imputed but really contracted.

Rom 5:20. In the interval that elapsed between the transgression of the first Adam, and the obedience of the second, the law was introduced; but, so far was it from remedying the evil, that, on account of human depravity, it became the occasion of greater sin. This increase in sin was, however, only the occasion of manifesting the superabundance of God’s grace.

Lest it might be imagined from what he said (verse 13), that the law could have the effect of abolishing this sin, the Apostle says, that although the law was introduced in the same space of time that intervened between the sin of the first Adam, and the furnishing of a remedy by the second; still, so far was it from remedying the evil, that it was the occasion of its increase, owing to the depravity of man’s nature. In this interpretation the word “that” means the consequence of what happened—a signification in which it is often employed. Some interpret it as expressing the final cause or end of the law. “The law entered in, in order that sin might abound,” and that thus, from a consciousness of their spiritual miseries and disorders, men might look forward with greater ardour to the coming of the remedy, which alone could remove them. If we take “that” to signify the final cause or end of giving the law, then the words are not to be understood as conveying that the immediate and direct end God had in view was the “abounding of sin;” but, the humiliation of man resulting from the increase of sin by occasion of the law. From which it would follow that, conscious of his weakness and sinfulness, he would implore the aid of a deliverer. “Entered in,” παρεισηλθεν, as if by stealth, and only for a time, until the plenitude of grace would be conferred by the Gospel. “And where sin abounded,” &c., not that this happened in every instance—but only where God thought fit to apply it. Some Commentators give “where” the meaning of “when sin abounded,” owing to the introduction of the law, then the superabundant grace of Christ was given to the world. The Greek particle, οὗ, will mean either where or when. The signification of when in this passage is preferable, because the Apostle is treating of different periods of time, and the different degrees of grace and sinfulness during these times.

Rom 5:21. So that, as until the time of the dispensation of this superabundant grace, sin reigned over all mankind, bringing death upon all; so, grace also would reign, bestowing upon all, that justice which leads to eternal life, through the merits of Jesus Christ our Lord.

So that as sin extended its dominion far and wide, bringing death upon all men, the reign of divine mercy and grace would also be extended, bestowing life-giving justice on all who are to be saved, through the infinite merits of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Romans Chapter 4

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 10, 2019

Scripture links are to the Douay Rheims translation

In this chapter, the Apostle adduces the example of Abraham, whose justification was the model of that of all the faithful, to prove the principal proposition and the leading subject of this Epistle, viz., that justification is neither derived from circumcision, nor from the works preceding faith, but from faith itself. He first proves that Abraham was not justified by circumcision or by the external works of the law of Moses (Rom 4:1-2); but that his justification was the gratuitous justification through faith. In proof of this, he quotes a text from the Book of Genesis, and builds his argument on this quotation (Rom 4:3-5). He also proves the gratuitousness of justification from the prophetic words of David (Rom 4:6-8), from the universal extension of which he also shows, that justification is conferred on the uncircumcised Gentiles; and, consequently, that it is independent of the works of the law (Rom 4:9). He likewise proves, from the date of Abraham’s justification, which occurred prior to his circumcision, that he was not indebted to circumcision, nor, consequently, to the works of the law, for his justification (Rom 4:9-10). He proves the same, also, from the object and nature of circumcision, which was a seal of his former justice, obtained in faith. Hence, his circumcision was posterior to his justification (Rom 4:11). He shows the reason why Abraham’s justification preceded his circumcision, and why he received circumcision after being justified (Rom 4:12). From the circumstances and qualities of the promise made to Abraham, the Apostle derives another argument in favour of justification by faith, independently of the observance of the law (Rom 4:13-15). Having shown, that justification comes neither from circumcision nor from the works of the law, the Apostle concludes, that it must come from faith, in which case, will be observed the gratuitousness of the promise made to Abraham, and its universal extension to all Abraham’s spiritual children (Rom 4:16). The Apostle, finally, extols the heroic firmness of the Patriarch’s faith, which, he tells us, was to be the model of ours, and similar in its object and happy results (Rom 4:17–25).

Text in purple indicates Fr. MacEvilly’s paraphrase of the scripture he is commenting on

Rom 4:1. What justification then shall we say, Abraham our father according to the flesh received? Was it the justification through faith, or through the works performed by his own natural strength, without grace or faith?

“That Abraham hath found, who is our father, according to the flesh.” Some Commentators, following the common Greek reading, τον πατερα ἡμων εὑρηκεναι κατα σαρκα, connect the words, “according to the flesh,” with the verb “found,” and understand the verse to mean—what did our father Abraham profit by carnal circumcision? These understand the words to mean the same as the question (chap. 3.) “What is the profit of circumcision?” To which, they say, the Apostle gives an answer in this chapter. Others, who also prefer the same construction, and connect the words “according to the flesh,” with the verb “found,” understand the word, “flesh,” of the works performed by his natural strength, so as to mean the same as “works” (verse 2). The particle “for,” would make it very probable, that the Apostle was referring to the same thing in both verses. The reading adopted in the Paraphrase is that of the Vulgate, which, as regards the words, “according to the flesh,” is conformable to the Codex Vaticanus, τι οὖν εροῦμεν Αβρααμ τον προπατερα ἠμῶν κατα σαρκα. In this reading of the Codex Vaticanus, the verb, εὑρήκεναι, found, is wanting. No doubt, the Vulgate reading, “Quid ergo dicemus invenisse Abraham patrem nostrum secundum carnem?” will admit of either construction. According to it, secundum carnem, may be joined to either, invenisse, or patrem nostrum. It is in favour of the former construction, that it does not seem to accord much with the Apostle’s scope in this Epistle, to attach any great importance to carnal descent from Abraham—(see Rom 9:10).

Rom 4:2. Surely, not the justification through the works in question, because if Abraham were justified by such works, he would have cause for glorying in himself (such works being supposed to be performed by his own natural strength), but not in God, whose gratuitous benefits would not be acknowledged in such a system of justification.

“Justified by works.” He speaks of works done without grace or faith; since, it is of these alone he could say, that they deprived a man of all cause for glorying in God, which is the meaning of the words, “before God,” according to Mauduit. Moreover, it was only of such works that there was question between the converted Jews and Gentiles, as establishing for them respectively a claim to the Gospel. The words of this verse are commonly explained by interpreters thus: “He would have external subject for glorying before men, but he would have no real subject for glorying in the sight of God,” and they connect the following verse, 3, thus: “But we have the testimony of Scripture assuring us that Abraham was really and interiorly justified before God, for it is said that ‘he believed, and his belief was reputed by God unto justice.’ ”—(Genesis 15:6). Therefore, it was not by external works, but by faith, he was justified. According to the interpretation adopted in the Paraphrase, which is that of Père Mauduit, making “before God” mean “in God,” the connexion in verse 3 is quite different (vide Paraphrase). This connexion adopted in the Paraphrase accords better with the Apostle’s reasoning on the Scriptural text in Rom 4:4-5 below “Whereof to glory,” καυχημα subject for boasting.

Rom 4:3. But that Abraham had cause for glorying in God, owing to the gratuitousness of his justification, which was wholly independent of the works performed by his mere natural strength, is clear from the history of his justification given in the book of Genesis 15:6, “Abraham believed God, and it,” i.e., his faith (not his works), “was reputed to him unto justice.”

But that Abraham had reason to glory in God, on account of the gratuitousness of his justification, and not in himself, for any merit of works, is clear from the words of Genesis 15:6, in which his justification is described as perfectly gratuitous—“Abraham believed … and it was reputed to him unto justice.”

Rom 4:4. On which words I build this argument: to the man who performs a work, the wages due to the performance of that work is given, not as a matter of mere gratuitous favour, but as a debt due in strict justice. (As, therefore, justification was given to Abraham, as a matter of grace and favour, which is implied in the word, reputed, it must not proceed from works establishing a just claim to it).

On the words of Genesis, it was reputed, &c., the Apostle builds an argument in favour of the gratuitous justification of Abraham by faith. If the works of Abraham, performed by his natural strength, were the principle of his justification, it could not be said that it was a mere voluntary act of grace on the part of God to bestow it, as the word, “reputed” implies; it would be given as a debt of strict justice; for, the man who performs a work entitled to reward, shall receive that reward as a debt and not as a favour. Hence, as the justification of Abraham was a mere matter of gratuitous acceptance on the part of God, it was not bestowed in consideration of such works as establish a claim to it.

Rom 4:5. It is only in reference to the man who performs no works establishing a strict claim to justification, beyond the mere work of believing in him, who justifies the impious, that it could be said, “his faith is reputed to justice,” according to the decree of God, vouchsafing liberally and gratuitously to confer justice, as a grace, on such a person (and hence, it is only as having been gratuitously bestowed in consideration of his faith, that we can regard the justification of Abraham)

It is only on the supposition that he performed no works establishing a claim to justification, except the mere act of faith, or “believing in him who justifies the ungodly,” to which his justification is ascribed, that we can say that “his faith is reputed unto justice,” according to the liberal purpose of God, decreeing to give justification gratuitously, through grace and faith. The words, “according to the purpose of the grace of God,” are omitted in the Greek, and, from being a marginal explanation of how “faith is reputed,” very probably crept into the Sacred text.

Objection.—Does not this passage furnish an unanswerable argument in favour of the doctrine of justification by faith only, and against the Catholic doctrine of merit? 1st. The Apostle denies that the justification of Abraham could come from works, because works would establish a claim to merit and strict right. Therefore, justification by works, as held by Catholics, is opposed to its gratuitousness, on which the Apostle builds his argument. 2ndly. The Apostle not only excludes the works performed by Abraham before his conversion, but all works, even those performed in faith; for, at the time that the words of Genesis, chap. 15, here quoted, were used, Abraham was justified, as appears from Genesis, chap. 12, and from St, Paul to the Hebrews, chap. 11. Hence, the Apostle speaks of Abraham’s second justification, and denies, on the grounds of its perfect gratuitousness implied in the words, “he believed, … and it was reputed,” &c., that works had any share in Abraham’s second justification, which destroys the Catholic doctrine of merit.

Resp.—In reply to the 1st.—The works excluded by the Apostle from any share in the justification of Abraham are the works performed without grace or faith, and we exclude the same.—That these were the works excluded by the Apostle is clear from his scope in this Epistle, which is, to prove that the works performed by the sole aid of the natural law, or the law of Moses, gave neither Jew nor Gentile a claim to the Gospel. The same appears from verse 2. He excludes works which would give Abraham cause to glory in himself and not in God (this reason holds equally good should we understand “before God” to mean in the sight of God). Now, it is only the works performed by his sole natural strength, that would redound thus to his own glory. Whereas, no one can be impious enough to assert that the works done in grace and faith would not give us cause to glory in God, or, in the sight of God, since the grace of God would be the chief principle in their performance. Hence, the works excluded are those performed without grace or faith. But the gratuitousness of justification here insisted on by the Apostle does not exclude works done under the influence of grace and faith; for, according to Catholic doctrine, good works performed in grace and faith before justification are mere necessary conditions, establishing no claim to justification which God might not refuse; and hence, they leave it still quite a gratuitous act of grace on the part of God. This is no arbitrary interpretation. Besides the reasons already adduced, we have the authorty of St. James (chap. 2), who maintains that no one is justified by faith without good works, and he adduces the example of Rahab, (James 2:25), who he says, was justified by works, and this, probably, in her first justification; for, at the time she received the messengers, she was, most probably, an infidel and in sin; for he calls her, a harlot. St. James, then, speaks of good works done in faith, and St. Paul here speaks of faith accompanied by good works as dispositions of justification. The two Apostles opposed different errors; and hence, St. Paul puts forward one condition necessary for, or one of the ingredients of, justification, viz., faith; and St. James, another; namely, good works, done in grace and faith.

Resp. to the 2nd.—Although Abraham was justified at the time the words of Genesis here referred to were spoken, and his faith commended, still the inference deduced from this is quite unfounded. For, the Apostle is only proving that in the first justification of Abraham, works done without grace or faith, such as the converted Jews and Gentiles put forward, had no share, and this he proves effectually by an argument a fortiori, by referring to what the Scripture says of Abraham’s second justification; for, if Abraham, already just, did not receive an increase of justice, that is to say, second justification, through works without faith, therefore, a fortiori, he did not become just from being a sinner, or, in other words, did not receive first justification through the same works.

Objection.—But were not the works of Abraham, at the time these words were spoken of him, meritorious even of a reward? How then could the Apostle insist on the gratuitousness of his justification, since it was even merited as a debt, which is here excluded?—(verse 4).

Resp.—The Apostle only excludes such a strict debt and reward as would be independent of grace, such a debt as the works performed by the Jews and Gentiles would, in their minds, give them a claim to. Now, although second justification be given as a debt due to merit, it is a grace also. The Apostle views it under this latter respect; and by doing so sufficiently refutes the errors of the Romans; for they regarded justification as the price of works, as a strict debt without any reference to a gratuitous concession, such as Catholic faith teaches to exist in the reward of merit. The Apostle, then, only excludes such merit as would leave room for us to glory in ourselves, and not in God (verse 2); such a merit as the Jews and Gentiles put forward as claims for the Gospel—a merit in which grace has no part. Merit like this, the Catholic Church has ever repudiated; and although the works of Abraham were, at the time referred to, meritorious, they were still not meritorious in the sense understood by the Jews and Gentiles, that is to say, independently of grace and faith, and such merit as this and this only, as every candid reasoner on this passage must admit, is excluded in the argument of the Apostle.

Rom 4:6. This gratuitousness of justification, independenth of works establishing a claim to it, perfectly accords with what David says, when speaking on this subject.
Rom 4:7. Psalm 31. (modern translations, Ps 32) Blessed are they whose iniquities are gratuitously remitted, and whose sins are so fully wiped away as not to appear at all.

He adduces the authority of David also in proof of the gratuitousness of justification without works, of course, in the sense of works already assigned. Psalm 31 [Ps 32]. “Blessed are they,” &c. This furnishes no argument in favour of the erroneous doctrine of imputative justice, by which, in other words, is meant, that our sins are covered in consequence of God not regarding them for Christ’s sake, although still really unremitted. For, it is worse than foolish to say, that anything is concealed from God. Sins are said to be “covered” from him, because, wholly removed by the grace of justification, which, whilst it covers, heals and removes altogether the disease and leprosy of sin. The non-imputation of sin only proves that sin does not exist, because God essentially hates and abominates sin, wherever it does exist. To Him, the impious man and his impiety are alike an abomination. Hence, by not imputing sin, he removes and remits it. The words “not impute,” refer only to punishment with which sin will not be visited in consequence of having been remitted.

They may also have reference, as Bellarmine well remarks (Com. in Psalm 31 [32]) to those singularly just men, such as Abel, Henoch, Noe, Abraham, Isaac, &c., of whose sins the SS. Scriptures are silent; and also to Jeremias, John the Baptist, sanctified from the womb; not excepting Her, blessed above all the rest of creation, the solemn proclamation of whose glorious preservation from the stain of original sin has filled the earth with joy and universal jubilee. In this interpretation, there is no ground whatever for any objection; and even if we understand the words of those who sinned, the passage only proves that “sin is not imputed,” because having been gratuitously remitted, it no longer exists.

Nor, does it follow from this passage, that justification consists in the bare remission of sin, without the infusion of sanctifying grace; for, the same Psalmist represents justification as consisting in cleansing and rendering us “whiter than snow.” Hence, together with remitting sin, and removing from the soul that stain analogous to corporal leprosy which sin causes, it renders us pure and lovely in the sight of God, and by the increase of sanctifying grace which permanently inheres, the soul acquires still greater beauty and whiteness. Wash me yet more, &c. And I shall be made whiter than snow.—(Psalm 50 [Ps 51]).

Rom 4:8. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute sin, either as to guilt or punishment, in consequence of its gratuitous remission.

No comments are offered beyond the paraphrase.

Rom 4:9. From the universal extension of these words of David, it is clear, that this blessedness is not confined merely to the Jews, but that it extends to the Gentiles also. The same is clear from the case of Abraham, whose faith, we have said, was reputed unto justice.

The question is equivalent to a strong form of affirmation, deducing from the universality of the words of David, that this blessedness extends to the Gentiles also; and it is implied, and left to be inferred that, consequently, justification is bestowed independently of the works of the Mosaic law. The words, “doth it remain only,” are not expressed in the Greek; they are, however, understood as being necessary to complete the sense. “Circumcision” and “uncircumcision” mean Jew and Gentile; the abstract for the concrete. “For we say,” &c. Here is introduced another argument derived from the condition in which Abraham was, when the words “it was reputed unto justice,” were applied to him.

Rom 4:10. Let us see what state Abraham was in, at the time that this occurred to him. Was he circumcised or uncircumcised? Undoubtedly, it occurred to him not when he was circumcised, but while he was uncircumcised.

In what state was he when “his faith was reputed?” &c. He was yet uncircumcised. An interval of about thirteen or fourteen years elapsed between the date of his justification and his circumcision, as appears from the history of Genesis. The preceding is the reasoning of A’Lapide on this passage. Other Commentators say, that verses 9 and 10 contain but one argument, derived from the Apostle’s application of the case of Abraham, to his general purpose, which is, to show, that this beatitude extends to the Gentiles also. These Commentators do not admit that in the quotation from David, there is a distinct or independent argument in proof of the same. The interpretation of A’Lapide, as given in the Paraphrase, appears the more probable. According to it, two distinct proofs are referred to in verse 9; the one, founded on the words of David universally extended, the other, on the date of Abraham’s justification, prior to his circumcision.

Rom 4:11. We have an additional argument of Abraham’s having been justified before his circumcision, and consequently that his justification was independent of the legal observances, in the fact, that Abraham received circumcision as a seal and testimony, on the part of God, of the justice which had been bestowed on him, while uncircumcised, in consideration of his faith in God’s promises; and this justice had been conferred on him before his circumcision, in order that he would be the father of the uncircumcised Gentile believers, whose faith also, like his, may be reputed unto justice.

Another argument, to prove that Abraham was not justified in circumcision, is founded by the Apostle on the fact, that “he received the sign of circumcision”—i.e., circumcision itself (which was given as a “sign” of God’s covenant with Abraham, and of his faith in God’s promises), “as a seal of the justice” bestowed on him in consideration of his faith, while uncircumcised; consequently, his justification must have been anterior to his circumcision. It was a “seal of his justice”—i.e., a testimony whereby God declared and confirmed his justice. “That he might be the father of all them that believe,” &c. The justice was bestowed on Abraham in his uncircumcised state, in order that he might be the spiritual father of all the believing Gentiles, whose justification by faith would have his for a model, “which he had being uncircumcised,” is rather a liberal rendering of the words, τῆς εν τῃ ἀκροβυστία, quæ est in præputio, “which is in uncircumcision.” The same applies to the words, “them that believe being uncircumcised,” which should be literally rendered, “them that believe by uncircumcision.”

Rom 4:12. And after being justified, he received circumcision, that he might be the father of the circumcised Jews, not of them, who are merely circumcised externally, without imitating his faith; but, of them who also imitate the faith by which Abraham, though uncircumcised, was justified.

And he received circumcision after his justification, in order that he might be the spirtual father of the circumcised Jew. Not of the Jew who is merely circumcised externally, &c.—(Vide Paraphrase). In truth, by receiving justification while uncircumcised, and by receiving circumcision afterwards, he became the spiritual father of all believers, both Gentiles and Jews, circumcision having been a sign and a protestation of faith, on the part of Abraham, in the future Messiah; hence, for the Jews, who were destitute of this faith in Christ, circumcision is a vain, empty sign, without the reality signified; and it was only to the faithful Jews, that the signification of circumcision had reference.

Rom 4:13. Justification was no more attached to the observance of the Mosaic law than it was to circumcision; for, it was not on the condition of observing the law (which had not then existed) but on account of the justice which his faith procured for him before receiving the law, that God made to Abraham the promise of being the heir of the world.

Another argument in favour of justification by faith without works is derived from the circumstances of the promise made to Abraham.—(Vide Paraphrase). It is, therefore, through faith, and not through the law, that this promise is to be fulfilled in his posterity, his justification being the model of theirs.

Rom 4:14. For, if the inheritance were confined merely to those who observe the law, then, the faith of Abraham, believing in the multiplication of his seed, “as the stars of heaven,” &c. (Genesis 22:17), would be made void (because few or none observed the law); for the same reason, the promise would be of no effect, because the conditions being wanting on the part of man, the promise on the part of God would not be binding.

“Who are of the law,” may also mean, who are under the law, “be heirs.” That is to say, if the Jews alone be heirs, then, “faith is made void;” because, the law was confined merely to Judea, and did not extend to the entire earth. The interpretation in the Paraphrase, referring the words, “who are of the law,” to those who observe the law, appears, however, the more probable.

Rom 4:15. It is clear, if the promise were attached to the observance of the law, the promise would be voided for want of the performance of the conditions on the part of man; for, the law gave no help for its own fulfilment, and hence, it was the occasion of anger by its frequent violations; for, where there is no law manifesting the malice of sin, there can be no voluntary transgression of the law.

“The law worketh anger.” It became the occasion of anger by its frequent violations. It was not, however, given for that end, just as happened in the case of our Redeemer, who “was set,” as well, “for the fall,” as “for the resurrection of many in Israel.”—(St. Luke 2:34). The law, then, on account of its universal transgression, worked anger, which would not happen if the law were not given at all; for, in that case, there would be no prevarication, or voluntary transgression of it. A’Lapide connects this verse immediately with verse 12, “For where there is no law,” &c. This negative sentence, as Beelen well remarks, contains the opposite affirmative, that where there is a law, there prevarication is not wanting.

Rom 4:16. Therefore, this promise comes through faith; by which means, its gratuitousness will be consulted for, as well as its universal extension not only to the Jews, but to all the believers who imitate Abraham’s faith, who is the father of us all who believe, Gentiles as well as Jews.

As, then, the observance of the law, or according to others, the giving of it, was not sufficiently extensive and universal to answer the designs of God, in calling all mankind, Jew and Gentile; and, moreover, as the attaching to the observance of the law the grace of justification, in which the promise to Abraham chiefly consisted, would appear to interfere with the gratuitousness of this grace; it must, therefore, come from faith. The Apostle appears to make this disjunctive; “justice comes either from the law or from faith, but not from the law does it come, therefore, from faith;” in which case, will be preserved the gratuitousness of the promise, “that according to grace,” &c. And also, its universal extension, not only to the Jew, who observed the law, or received it, but to all the imitators of the faith of Abraham, who is the spiritual father of all the believers; “not to that only which is of the law,” &c.

Rom 4:17. (According as it is written of him in Genesis 17:5, where, in assigning the cause of his change of name from Abram to Abraham, God says, I have made thee a father of many nations), not by carnal generation, which is perceptible to men, but by spiritual paternity, which is seen only by God, and which recommends men to him, whom Abraham believed, relying on his promises, who exerts his omnipotence in raising the dead to life, and in calling into existence the things that are not, and uses them for his purposes, like things already in being.

He proves that Abraham was the father of us all from the quotation (Genesis 17:5), where God, assigning a reason for changing the Patriarch’s name from “Abram,’ i.e., high father, to “Abraham,” i.e., father of a multitude, says, “because I have made thee,” &c. This quotation is to be read within a parenthesis, and the words. “before God,” are to be immediately connected with the words of the last verse. “The father of us all (…) before God, whom he believed,” &c. Some understand the words, “before God,” to mean like God, who holds the relation of paternity towards us by creation, which Abraham does by faith. “Who quickeneth the dead,” &c., most probably, refers to the faith in God’s omnipotence, particularly manifested in the raising the dead to life, and creating all things out of nothing; and it, most likely, refers to the examples of each operation of Omnipotence, that came under Abraham’s faith. First, the raising of Isaac from the dead, of which the Apostle says to the Hebrews 11:19, “accounting, that God is able to raise up, even from the dead.” And, secondly, his creating a new unto the power of generation, and vivifying the dead womb of Sara. These two examples had a particular reference to the things believed by Abraham.

Rom 4:18. Relying on this power of God, so strong was the faith of Abraham, that he firmly hoped in that, which he should regard as naturally impossible, viz. that he should become, at so advanced an age, the lather of many nations, according to what was promised him (Genesis 15:5): Look up to heaven and number the stars if thou canst, so shall thy seed be.

The Apostle now gives an animated account of Abraham’s faith: he shows its heroism, and the happy consequences of imitating it. “Who, against hope,” i.e., against the natural obstacles apparently, and humanly speaking insuperable, “believed” in God’s promises, with a firm and unshaken confidence of their fulfilment. “That he might.” &c. This referred to his carnal descendants, but it was particularly verified in the spiritual children of Abraham; and this is principally referred to in the promise then given.

Rom 4:19. His faith was not weakened, nor had the consideration of natural impossibilities (his body being now dead as to generative powers, owing to his advanced age of nearly one hundred years, and the womb of Sara similarly dead) any effect upon his mind.

The consideration of natural impossibilities had no effect in weakening his faith. “The dead womb of Sara.” “Dead.” as to the power of conceiving children, being now ninety years old. In the Greek it is, τὴν νέκρωσιν τῆς μήτρας Σαῤῥας, “the deadness of the womb of Sara,” the sense of which is expressed in our version.

Queritur.—How could the body of Abraham be said to be dead, whereas, he had six children, forty years after this, by Cetura?

Resp.—This was the result of the miraculous power here given him, and which continued with him after. The same happened to Anna, the mother of Samuel, who had other children after Samuel, though his birth was miraculous.—(1 Kings, &c.)

Queritur.—Did not Abraham live seventy-five years after the one hundred? How, then, was his body dead at the age of one hundred?

Resp.—He was an old man at the age of one hundred; for, the decline as well as the vigour of life continued for a long time in the patriarchal age. Isaac was an old man at one hundred and twenty, so old, that he lost his sight from age, and still he lived to be an hundred and eighty.—(Genesis 35).

Rom 4:20. And at the promise of God he did not stagger through any feeling of unbelief, but he was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God (to whose attributes of omnipotence and veracity he paid homage by this belief).

“In the promise;” (in Greek, εἰς δὲ την ἐπαγγελίαν εἰς, frequently means, at “at the promise.”) “By distrust; (in Greek τῇ ἀπιστία, “unbelief.”) He gave “glory to God:” for, by this faith he acknowledged his infinite veracity and omnipotence, as in following verse.

Queritur.—But, did not Abraham stagger, for he said in his heart, on hearing the promise (Genesis 17), “Shall a son, thinkest thou, be born to him that is a hundred years old?”

Resp.—The common answer of the Holy Fathers is, that in these words, Abraham only expressed his unworthiness to be favoured with so great a blessing, as having a son at that age.

Rom 4:21. Being most fully and thoroughly persuaded that whatever God promised, he has power to execute and fulfil.

“Most fully knowing.” In Greek, και πληροφορηθεις, “and having obtained a plenitude,” i.e., of persuasion or conviction, as the subject matter implies; hence, our version expresses the meaning of the passage. “He is able to perform.” He expressly mentions Abraham’s faith in God’s omnipotence, because it was the more difficult point to be believed. The faith in his veracity is implied.

Rom 4:22. And this heroic faith was imputed to him unto justice.

“And, therefore, it was reputed,” &c. Hence, Abraham’s was a justifying faith. Now, the object of Abraham’s faith was not his own justification, but the power of God (verses 20, 21); and hence, the object of justifying faith is not our own individual justification, as is erroneously taught by the sectaries. As often as Abraham believed, after his justification, so often was his faith imputed unto justice, and so often did he obtain an increase of sanctifying grace.

Rom 4:23. Now, these words of Scripture, assuring us that Abraham was justified on account of his faith, were not written merely in praise of him.
Rom 4:24. But they were principally intended for our instruction and encouragement, to point out to us the model of our faith and also of our gratuitous justification by believing in him who raised up our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead.

The Apostle now shows the application of the foregoing example of Abraham. His justification is the model of ours; hence, all his spiritual children i.e., all the believers, whether Jews or Gentiles, (verses 11, 12), are to be justified gratuitously by faith; of course, in the sense marked out in the foregoing. “Unto justice,” (verse 23), are omitted in the Greek. “If we believe in him that raised up,” &c. The resurrection of Christ is referred to by the Apostle, as the principal object of our faith. Under it, are included the other mysteries. It is also the great proof of faith; and our faith in it will be reputed to us unto justice, as his faith was reputed to Abraham.

Rom 4:25. Who was delivered unto death to make atonement and offer satisfaction for our sins, and was resuscitated from the dead to complete our justification (which comes through faith, and without the resurrection of Christ, our faith is vain).—1 Cor. 15:14.

The Apostle having referred to Christ’s resurrection, now shows its results to us. Although Christ merited nothing in his resurrection—he merited all by his death—still, if he had not risen, our faith would be vain; and, hence, we would not be justified. The word “for,” may also express the exemplary cause. As Christ’s death was a type of our death to sin, so he arose to be the model of our resurrection to grace, and of our walking in the newness of life. The exposition in the Paraphrase is the more natural meaning of “for,” in both cases—of his death and resurrection.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Colossians Chapter 4

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 9, 2019

Scripture links are to the Douay Rheims translation

After pointing out in the first verse of this chapter, to masters, the treatment which they were to give their slaves (Col 4:1), the Apostle, in the next place, points out some duties common to all Christians; and first, he exhorts them to the duty of prayer in general, the conditions of which he marks out (Col 4:2), and of prayer for himself in particular, in order that he might be enabled to preach the word of God with success (Col 4:3-4). He enjoins upon them to observe circumspection and wise discretion in their intercourse with the Pagans (Col 4:5-6).

He refers them for information regarding the state of his affairs to Tychicus, the bearer of this Epistle, and to Onesimus, whom he sent to bear him company (Col 4:7-9). He conveys the salutations of several parties who were with him at Rome (Col 4:10-14). He conveys his own salutation also to the Church of Laodicea, and enjoins on them to have the Epistle, which he sent to the Laodiceans, read in their Church at Colossæ: and to have this read in the Church of the Laodiceans (Col 4:15-16). He admonishes Archippus to attend to the ministry entrusted to him, and concludes by subscribing his own salutation with his own hand, and by wishing them to be mindful of his chains (Col 4:17-18).

Text in purple indicates Fr. MacEvilly’s paraphrase of the scripture he is commenting on

Col 4:1. Masters, treat your slaves with justice and humanity; knowing that you also have a master in heaven.

“Masters,” &c. Several Commentators say, this verse should be joined to the preceding chapter, with which it is immediately connected in sense, and these make verse 2 the commencement of this chapter. “That which is just,” by supplying them with clothes, food, and other necessaries. “And equal,” by treating them with feelings of kindness and humanity, neither overburdening them with labour, but assigning to each one the duties he can perform; nor exacting the performance of the tasks assigned them with too much rigour, which is expressed—(Ephesians 6:9)—by these words, “forbearing threatenings.” Others, by “equal,” understand showing equal regard for all, so as to give occasion of jealousy to none.

“Knowing that you also have a master in heaven,” a master, too, with whom there is no exception of persons, and who will treat them, as they treat their slaves, whom they should regard as fellows in servitude, and as having the same master in heaven.

Col 4:2. Persevere in prayer, and be vigilant in exercising it with thanksgiving.

In this verse, the Apostle points out a duty common to all Christians, the duty of prayer, the conditions of which he enumerates:—first, it should be persevering and urgent—“be instant,” &c.; secondly, it should be performed with vigilance, attention, and devotion, “watching in it;” thirdly, offered in a spirit of humility and grateful remembrance of past favours, “with thanksgiving.” Gratitude for the past, and confidence of obtaining future favours, are the surest means of rendering our prayers efficacious.

Col 4:3. Pray also for us, that God, removing every obstacle, may enable us to announce boldly and intrepidly the mystery of man’s redemption through Christ (for the preaching of which mystery I am now in chains).

“Would open to us a door of speech,” by which some understand: Would remove all obstructions and impediments to our opening our mouth, and afford us an opportunity “to speak the mystery of Christ,” &c. “By a door of speech,” some understand simply, the mouth; that he would open my mouth to speak and announce openly the mystery of human redemption. (“For which,” &c.), some understand to mean: for which mystery. Others more probably, for announcing which mystery, &c., I am now in chains.

Col 4:4. And that I may announce it in due and proper circumstances, so as to produce the full effect.

Two things are required for a true preacher of the word, to announce wholesome truths, and to do so in proper circumstances, as regards the time, the manner of announcing them, &c., both of which he should beg of God’s Holy Spirit, who alone can open the hearts of the audience, and the mouth of the preacher, with effect.

Col 4:5. Behave with prudence and circumspection in your intercourse with the infidels, who are outside the Church, making good use of the opportunity which the present time affords you.

“Redeeming the time,” by which some understand, making good use of the present opportunity, which you have, of giving the infidels good example to the glory and edification of the church. Others understand them to mean: purchasing an exemption from persecution, by making good use of the present opportunity, which you have, of acting prudently in regard to the unbelievers. The Greek word for “time” καιρὸν will likewise mean, opportunity. The words may also mean: by redoubled exertions, redeeming and making up for the past time, which was squandered so foolishly, and even employed in offending God (see Ephesians 5:16), where the same words are used.

Col 4:6. Let your language be agreeable, calculated to conciliate the good will of those who hear you, but let it be, at the same time, seasoned with wisdom and sound discretion, so that you may be able to accost and answer each person as may be fit and proper.

He tells them that their language should be pleasing and agreeable, not too austere, as it might be otherwise repulsive, and might deter the infidels from embracing the faith. This, however, should not degenerate into levity or dissoluteness, but it should be seasoned with wisdom, of which “salt” is the emblem, so that in their discourse would be accommodated to the dispositions, circumstances, and inclinations of their hearers—a different mode of speaking is to be employed towards different persons.

Col 4:7. Tychicus, my dearest brother, who serves the Lord with me, and is his faithful minister, will inform you of the state of my affairs.
Col 4:8. I have sent him for the purpose of knowing all about you (and of bringing me an account), and also for the purpose of consoling you.

No commentary is offered on these verses beyond the paraphrase

Col 4:9. I have sent him, with Onesimus, a most beloved and faithful brother, who is also a Colossian; they will make known to you all things regarding myself and the faithful, and the progress of the gospel here.

Commentators here admire the prudence of St. Paul: he sends Tychicus to console and teach them; but Onesimus who, from being a fugitive slave, became a Christian, receives no other commission except that of giving them all the necessary information regarding St. Paul. They also admire the humility of the Apostle, this great vessel of election, snatched up to the third heavens, calling slaves by the name of “most beloved and faithful brethren.”

Col 4:10. Aristarchus, who is in prison with me, salutes you; so does Mark, the cousin-german of Barnabas, concerning whom you have received commendatory letters; receive him with kindness, should he come to you.

Aristarchus was a Macedonian of Thessalonica. He suffered much in Asia with the Apostle, and he set out with him, when taken captive, to Rome (Acts 19:21–27). “And Mark, the cousin-german of Barnabas.” This is the John Mark, referred to (Acts 12) on whose account St. Paul and Barnabas separated (Acts 15:39). “Touching whom,” i.e., John Mark, “you received commandments,” or commandatory letters. Barnabas was too well known all over the church to require such: probably it was from Barnabas he received those letters, and St. Paul now adds his own recommendation, to show that he held him in esteem.

Col 4:11. So does Jesus, who is called Justus. These three are Jews, and they alone are wont to assist me in preaching the kingdom of God, and they have been a great source of comfort to me.

No commentary is offered on this verse beyond the paraphrase.

Col 4:12. Epaphras, a Colossian, a servant of Jesus Christ salutes you; he, also, assiduously and anxiously offers up his prayers for you, that you may fully and perfectly fulfil in everything the will of God.

“A servant of Christ Jesus.” The word, “Jesus,” is omitted in the Greek. “Solicitous,” in Greek, αγωνιζομενος, suffering agony.

Col 4:13. For, I bear testimony regarding him, that he has much zeal for you, and for those who are of Laodicea and Hierapolis.

“Much labour.” In Greek, much zeal. “Hieropolis,” a city of Phrygia.

Col 4:14. Luke, the most dear physician, salutes you, and so does Demas.

No commentary is offered on this verse beyond the commentary.

Col 4:15. Salute the brethren who are at Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the Church, which is in his house.

“And Nymphas.” This word is of the masculine gender, as appears from the Greek.

Col 4:16. And when this Epistle shall have been read amongst you, see that it be also read in the Church of the Laodiceans, and see that the Epistle to be sent to you from the Laodiceans be read in your church in turn.

“And when this Epistle shall have been read with you, cause that it be read also in the Church of the Laodiceans, and that you read that which is of the Laodiceans,” or (as in the Greek, τὴν ἐκ Λαοδικείας), which is of Laodicea.

It is a subject of much controversy, whether the Apostle, in the latter words of this verse, refers to an Epistle addressed to him by the Laodiceans, which he wishes to be read at Colossæ, or, to an Epistle written by him to the Laodiceans, but now lost. St. Chrysostom and others are of the former opinion: St. Gregory the Great, St. Thomas of Aquin, St. Anselm, and others, are of the latter. Before we embrace or reject either opinion, it is to be observed, that there is no doubt whatever entertained of the spuriousness of the Epistle published by Sixtus Senensis, under the title of “the Epistle to the Laodiceans,” as it is agreed on all hands, that it is not the Epistle here referred to, supposing the opinion of St. Thomas to be the correct one. This Epistle is given by A’Lapide, in his commentary on this verse. It bears evident internal marks of spuriousness. It is shorter than the Epistle to Philemon, and is nothing more than a collection of expressions used by the Apostle in his several Epistles, particularly in his Epistles to the Ephesians and Philippians, strung together by some impostor. Nor, is there question of an “Epistle to the Laodiceans” in circulation in the days of St. Jerome, which he, as well as Theodoret, assures us, was exploded by all, “ab omnibus exploditur” (Hieron. in Catalog.), and of which the seventh General Council says, Epistolam ad Laodicenses Apostolo adscriptam, patres nostri, tanquam alienam, reprobaverunt. Whether this latter Epistle be the same with the one now in circulation, published by Sixtus Senensis, is a matter of doubt; it is quite certain, however, that the latter is, like the former, spurious and supposititious.

The question, therefore, is: Did the Apostle write an Epistle to the Laodiceans, which must consequently have been lost? The opinion of St. Thomas, who maintains that he did, and that reference is made to the same in this verse, seems the more probable. This is inferred in the first place, from the absence of all probability, that the Laodiceans, who had never seen St. Paul, would have written to him; and even supposing them to have done so, what reason can there be why St. Paul would call on the Colossians to have that letter read in their own church in the same way as this letter of his own to the Colossians was to be read in the Church of Laodicea? The reason given by Estius, viz., that the Epistle of the Laodiceans to St. Paul had contained an illustrious testimony of their faith and charity, which, being made known at Colossæ by the reading of this letter, would stimulate the Colossians to the practice of the same virtues, cannot be considered as having any weight; because, Colossæ and Laodicea being scarcely three leagues asunder, the Colossians needed not to be informed from Italy, whence St. Paul wrote this Epistle, from his prison at Rome, of what was going on in their vicinity among the brethren in the faith.

Again, is it to be supposed, that St. Paul, who expressed so much anxiety for the Laodiceans, in common with the other churches which were never favoured with his personal presence, would omit sending them an Epistle in reply to the one which they are supposed in the other opinion to have sent him, particularly when he had written to so many churches, from which he received no previous communication at all?

Moreover, unless St. Paul had written to the Laodiceans in some form or other, telling them to send their Epistle to be read at Colossæ, as is here enjoined on the Colossians regarding them, they, surely, would not have sent it of their own accord, or, if they had already sent it, of their own accord, what necessity was there for the Apostle to admonish the Colossians to read an Epistle which had been already sent for that purpose. Hence, in any supposition, the Apostle must have written an Epistle to the Laodiceans. The Greek text, then, upon which the advocates of the opposite opinion chiefly rely, that from Laodicea, must mean, “the Epistle (to be sent you) from Laodicea.” The evident motive of the Apostle’s injunction was this: Laodicea and Colossæ were neighbouring cities, troubled by the same false teachers. It is likely, that in his Epistle to the Laodiceans, the Apostle treated of matters of which he made no mention in that addressed to the Colossians, or, at least, that he had treated of the same matter differently in both. Hence, by having the two Epistles read in both churches, the faithful of each would have a more complete exposition of faith and morals, and stronger motives for perseverance in the faith, and in the performance of good works. And the fact of the Apostle telling the Colossians to have the Epistle of the Laodiceans read in their church, in the same way as this was to be read in the church of the Laodiceans, would evidently imply that the reading of both would be attended with results equally beneficial, which could hardly be said, if there were question in one case, of an Epistle, written by the Laodiceans to him. These are the reasons for the opinion of St. Thomas, as given by Mauduit. It must, however, be admitted, that the opinion of St. Chrysostom is the more common with both ancient and modern Expositors of SS. Scripture.

Col 4:17. And say to Archippus, attend to the ministry, which thou hast received from the Lord, that thou mayest diligently fulfil it.
Col 4:18. I subscribe my own salutation with my own hand. Be mindful of my chains, so as to pray for me, and receive strength and courage after my example. Grace be with you. Amen.

No commentary is offered on these verses beyond the paraphrase.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Colossians Chapter 3

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 9, 2019

Scripture links are to the Douay Rheims translation

The Apostle had made a twofold assertion in the preceding chapter (Col 2:12-13), viz., that the Colossians were buried with Christ in baptism, and had also risen with him. This twofold assertion he makes the ground of a twofold conclusion. Having already pointed out the conclusion to be drawn from their death in baptism from the preceding chapter (Col 2:20), he points out in this, the moral conclusion to be drawn from their spiritual resurrection, viz., that they should devote their entire thoughts to the things of heaven, and despise the things of earth (Col 3:1-2). They should despise earthly things, because dead to them, and love heavenly things, because raised to a heavenly life (Col 3:3). He points out the glory which is to be the reward of this life of sanctity (Col 3:4). In order to secure this heavenly glory, they should, therefore, mortify all the members of the old man of sin, all the vicious inclinations of the flesh, the heart, or the tongue, in one word, they should strip themselves of the old man with his deeds (Col 3:5–9).

They should, after putting off the old man, put on the new with all his virtues, which relates to God, their neighbour, and themselves. With reference to God, they should conform to his image, by being renewed in the knowledge and love of him, in which spiritual renovation there is no distinction whatever of persons, or, conditions in life recognised by the Lord (Col 3:10-11). With reference to their neighbour, they should exhibit the new man in the most tender feelings of mercy—in bearing with his infirmities, in pardoning offences, and above all, in cultivating charity and peace (Col 3:12–15). With reference to the duties they owed themselves, they should, by sedulous attention to the word of God, fill their minds with true wisdom; they should express their inward joy and preserve spiritual unction, by piously singing canticles and spiritual songs, rendering thanks to God, and referring all their actions to his glory through Christ (Col 3:15-17).

He concludes by pointing out to several parties—viz., wives, children, and slaves, the duties of obedience which devolve upon them; while on husbands, parents, and masters, he enjoins also their correlative and reciprocal obligations (Col 3:18-25).

Text in purple indicates Fr. MacEvilly’s paraphrase of the scripture he is commenting on

Col 3:1. Since, therefore, by baptism you have risen with Christ to a spiritual resurrection, seek and love the things that are above, that appertain to heaven, where Christ, after rising from the dead, is sitting at the right hand of God.
Col 3:2. Have your minds and your thoughts fixed upon the things of heaven and not upon the things on earth.

“If you be risen,” means: whereas, you are risen with Christ. In this verse, the Apostle draws his moral conclusion from their spiritual resurrection out of the grave of sin, of which their emersion from the waters of baptism was a type. It is this: that they should bestow their entire care and affections, and all their thoughts, on the things of heaven.

“Where Christ is sitting on the right hand,” &c. These words simply mean, that whereas Christ, as God, is equal to the Father; as man, he holds the most honourable place in heaven, being next to God in honour and glory, which is expressed by the Scripture, in accommodation to human conceptions, in the words—“Sitteth at the right hand of God.”

Col 3:3. You should have no concern about earthly things on the contrary, you should undervalue them, because you renounced all connection with them in baptism. But you should regard heavenly things, because by baptism you have received a heavenly life—a life now indeed unperceived by men, and hidden with Christ in God; but, it shall be seen at a future day.

In the foregoing verses, the Apostle made two assertions—viz., that the heavenly things were to be cared for, and the earthly, undervalued. He now assigns a reason for both. The immersion practised in baptism was a type of their burial, and consequently death to sin and the passions, which it effected at the same time, after the model of Christ’s death and burial. They, therefore, should have no more connexion with “the things upon the earth,” i.e., either the “elements of this world,” or the vices of the earth, which he enumerates (Col 3:5), or perhaps both, than the living have with the dead.—Secondly, the emersion from the waters of baptism was a type of their spiritual life and resurrection, which it also effected, after the model of Christ’s resurrection from the grave; hence, they should mind the things of heaven. But this spiritual life received by them in baptism is “hidden” from the eyes of worldlings “with Christ in God;” it shall, however, be manifested when Christ shall come to judge the world. How calculated are not these words of the Apostle to stimulate us to labour and suffer for eternal life, and have our thoughts fixed on heaven! We are called to eternal life; to the things that are above: our final resting-place, our country is heaven, we are enrolled, as citizens of heaven, where our fellow-citizens are waiting for us. Why, then, keep our thoughts fixed on this earth, this place of passage!—why, mere travellers, centre our affections on this inn, in which we are for a short time to reside, during the time that we are tending towards the lasting habitation, reserved for us in the vast and magnificent palaces of the King of Glory? “O Israel! how great is the house of God, and how vast the place of his possessions.”—(Baruch 3:24). How frequently in our passage through life, during our sojourn in this land of banishment, should we not look forward to our lasting home, our true country in eternity, to which every moment brings us nearer, and how earnestly should we not labour to secure it!

Col 3:4. When Christ, in whom and of whom we hold this spiritual life, shall appear and shall manifest his glory, then, you shall appear glorious with him, and then this life, which is now hidden, shall be conspicuous to all.

Christ is both the efficient—the meritorious—the exemplary—and the final cause of our life of grace here, and of glory hereafter, and when he shall come to judge the world, then we shall appear glorious like him. “Your life.” In Greek, our life. The Vulgate is, however, supported by many manuscripts and Fathers, among the rest, by Saint Chrysostom.

Col 3:5. Mortify, therefore, the members, the depraved and wicked inclinations of your earthly and sinful man, which are, fornications, uncleanness, obscene passion, all wicked desires, and especially avarice, which is the worship of idols.

In order to appear one day thus glorious, “mortify your members which are upon earth.” In his Epistle to the Romans, the Apostle calls all sins taken collectively, the “body of sin” (Rom 6:6), and verse 11 of the preceding chapter of this Epistle (Col 2:11), “the body (of the sins) of the flesh,” as also “the old man,” because as man, or the body of man, consists of different members; so, is the body of sin made up of different kinds of sin, as of so many members. He calls them “upon the earth,” because they fix our desires on earth, and withdraw us more from God. To the same he refers in Col 3:2:—“Not the things that are on the earth.” “Uncleanness,” all kinds of unclean acts; “lust,” every kind of abominable passion; … “avarice.” There is the same diversity of opinion regarding the meaning of this word here as in the Epistle to the Ephesians 5:6.

Col 3:6. On account of which crimes the heavy anger and vengeance of God is in store for, and will at a future day be inflicted on, those who have no faith and disobeys the commands of God, prohibiting such crimes.

See Ephesians 5:6.

Col 3:7. Which crimes you also committed formerly, when you lived in the habitual indulgence of your wicked passions.

“Walked,” and “lived,” differ in this, that the former refers to acts; the latter, to the habitual commission of such sins.

Col 3:8. But now lay aside not only these more grievous crimes, but also these others of lesser enormity, which you have also committed—viz., all angry excitement, all desires of revenge, all evil dispositions to injure your neighbour, all reproachful and insulting language towards him, all obscene and immodest expressions.

“But now lay you also away;” lay aside the following sins of lesser enormity, as well as the preceding more grievous ones; or “also,” may mean, lay aside these other sins in which you also lived. Both meanings are united in the Paraphrase … “Blasphemy,” here means, insulting and opprobrious language towards our neighbour. “Blasphemy,” strictly speaking, which is committed against God, is a most grievous crime, and would have been classed with the preceding.

Col 3:9. Lay aside all lies in your language, and all fraud in your dealings with one another. Entirely put off the old man with his wicked deeds.

Lay aside all lying in your words, all frauds and circumvention in your dealings with each other. “Stripping yourselves of the old man with his deeds.” In the Greek, ἀπεκδυσάμενοι, having stripped yourselves, &c., which may mean, cast away the foregoing vices which are members of the old man of sin whom you have put away at your baptism; or, as in Paraphrase, it may be the commencement of a new sentence, thus:—In a word, I exhort you to put off the old man with his acts.

Col 3:10. And put on the new man with his virtues, I say, that new man, who by the knowledge of revealed mysteries and of spiritual things, is renewed according to the image of God his Creator.

“And putting on the new.” There is the same diversity is the Greek in this as well as in the preceding verse—“And having put on the new.” “Who is renewed into knowledge,” i.e., which new man receives a new existence, after the image of God, his Creator; for, as man was naturally created after the likeness and image of God, which consisted in his intellect and will; so, in his second birth, or creation by grace, he is formed after the image and likeness of God, which image of grace consists in sanctity and justice.—(Eph 4:24). For the meaning of “old man” and “new man,” and “putting on” the one, and “putting off” the other.—(See Eph 4:22–25)

Col 3:11. In which affair of spiritual renovation, there is no distinction of Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, of barbarian or—of worse than barbarian—of Scythian, of slave, or freeman, but Christ confers all Christian blessings, grace, sanctification, &c., on every description of men without distinction.

“Where,” i.e., in which affair of spiritual renovation, or, in which new man, there is no regard paid to the circumstances of birth, nation, dignity, &c.; because Christ is all in all; he is justice, sanctity, and everything good in all who are thus renewed. The only thing regarded in it is, how far you have communicated with Christ. In this new man, the circumstances of country and condition are confounded; in him Christ alone is to be attended to. “Nor Scythian;” the most barbarous of the barbarians. The antithesis between “Scythian” and “barbarian,” is not between barbarism and civilization, but between a lesser and greater degree of barbarism—the Scythians being reputed, in the days of St. Paul, the greatest barbarians. Others maintain the reverse, and contend that the Scythians were the most polished and civilized among ancient peoples. In this latter opinion, the force of the atithesis is quite clear.

Col 3:12. Wherefore, as men elected by God, sanctified by Christ, and loved by him from eternity—put on the most lively feelings of compassion for your brethren, gentleness and sweetness of disposition, humility, modesty, patience.

As Christ alone is to be considered in this new man, the Apostle shows the duties they owe each other, and the acts of the new man whom he wishes them to put on. “The bowels,” i.e., the most tender feelings “of mercy.” In Greek, of mercies. The Vulgate is, however, generally adopted by critics.

Col 3:13. Bearing with each other’s weakness and imperfections, pardoning and remitting to each other the injuries which you may have mutually to sustain, after the example of God, who has pardoned us our manifold sins and transgressions against him.

No commentary is offered on this verse beyond the paraphrase.

Col 3:14. But above all things, have charity or love for one another, which is the most perfect bond of union.

“Which is the bond of perfection,” i.e., the most perfect bond of union. All other bonds of human society are imperfect and easily broken by the slightest provocation; charity is eternal and indissoluble.

Col 3:15. And may the peace of God, to which you were called, when you became one body, victoriously exult in your hearts, and be ye grateful for the past benefits of God.

“Of Christ.” In Greek, of God. “Rejoice.” The Greek word for which, βραβευέτω, means either to gain the prize of victory, or to award it; in the former acceptation, it refers to the persons engaged in the contest; in the latter, to the judges, who are to decide the struggle and award the prize. Here, then, according to this twofold acceptation, the words may mean:—May the peace which Christ brought from heaven, and to which the unity of the Church, of which we are members, obliges us, obtain the victory over all the adverse passions in your hearts. This is the more probable meaning. They may also mean: In all your differences may the decision be, not according to the dictates of passion, but of the peace of God. “Be ye thankful,” besides the meaning in the Paraphrase, may also mean, according to some Expositors—Be ye kind, courteous, and civil to one another; as this contributes much to peace. The Greek word, εὐχάριστοι, will admit this latter meaning, which also accords with the context.

Col 3:16. Let the doctrine of Christ permanently reside in you, so as that you may be filled with the abundance of all spiritual wisdom, teaching and instructing each other in psalms, hymns, and spiritual canticles, singing the praises of God with joyous and grateful hearts.

He says that the doctrine and gospel of Christ should be engraved on our hearts, so as to dwell there and fill us with the abundance of true wisdom, which we may dispense to others. Hence, the word of God is to be read, not with hurry or precipitancy, but with reflection and meditation on its sacred truths, so as that it may “dwell” in us, and not rarely, but frequently, “abundantly.” Would to God, the meditation on the SS. Scriptures was substituted in place of those light and frivolous works of fancy, which poison and corrupt the mind! “Teaching … in Psalms,” &c. See thr Epistle to the Ephesians 5:19-20. “Singing in grace,” may either mean with thanksgiving, or in an agreeable, pleasing manner, so as to excite feelings of devotion “in your hearts.” In Greek, in your heart.

Col 3:17. Direct all your words and actions to the glory of God, invoking the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and rendering thanks to God the Father through him.

To God.” In Greek, to the Lord. This verse contains a negative precept prohibiting us from offering our actions to God through angels, according to the corrupt notions of the heretics, who prefer them to Christ, as has been already explained, or from giving thanks through them, and indirectly commanding us to do so through Christ. He is the meritorious cause of the benefits which we enjoy, and through Him thanks should be given; it also contains a positive precept of referring our actions, occasionally, by a direct intention to God. The practice of referring them as frequently as possible is very commendable. For the rest—see 1 Cor 10:31.

Col 3:18. Women, be subject to your husbands, according to the will of God, and as far as the law of Christ permits.

“To your husbands.” In the Greek, to your (own) husbands, as if to withdraw their attention from any other men.

Col 3:19. Husbands, love your wives, and be neither morose towards them, nor provoking them to bitterness.

No commentary is offered for this verse beyond the paraphrase.

Col 3:20. Children, obey your parents in all things; for such is the good will and pleasure of God.

“In all things,” not prohibited by the law of God. “For this is well pleasing to the Lord,” that is, this is pleasing to God as being his own precept.—(See Epistle to the Ephesians, chapter 6)

Col 3:21. And parents, do not, by undue and untimely severity, provoke to anger or exasperate the minds of your children, lest, falling into despondency, they cease to perform anything good.

No commentary is offered for this verse beyond the paraphrase.

Col 3:22. Servants, obey your earthly masters in all things lawful, not merely serving to please them when they are present and their eyes are fixed upon you, as those do who merely wish to please men, but with good faith, with a sincere and upright mind, like men fearing God, whose eye is always upon us, and who sees the innermost thoughts of the heart.

He here addresses slaves, or those engaged in a state of slavery.—See Ephes. 6 where he uses the same forms of expression employed by him in this passage.

Col 3:23. Whatever you do, perform it with cheerfulness, as if it were the Lord and not men you were serving.

No commentary is offered in this verse beyond the paraphrase.

Col 3:24. Knowing from the unerring principles of your faith, that you shall receive a surpassing great reward, the inheritance of eternal life; therefore, in serving your masters, offer the services to Christ the Lord, who will bestow on you the recompense of eternal life.

“The reward of inheritance.” On this earth, slaves receive but a very trifling recompense from their earthly masters—the inheritance is reserved for the children. The Apostle, in order to render the slaves more prompt and willing in the performance of their duties, promises them, on the part of their heavenly father, an abundant reward, even the eternal, undying inheritance of children. “Serve ye the Lord Christ;” for which we have in the Greek, for, ye serve the Lord Christ, as if assigning a reason why they should receive this eternal recompense. They would receive it, because in serving their temporal masters in a pious and Christian manner, they were serving Christ himself. The Vulgate reading in the imperative is well supported by manuscripts and versions.

Col 3:25. But whosoever does an injury, whether it be the slave who is unfaithful to his master, or the master who is harsh and cruel towards his slave, will receive the punishment of his unjust conduct. For, God regards not the face or person of any man.

“For he that doth wrong.” In Greek, but he that doth wrong. Some understand this of the faithless slave; others, of the harsh masters; it may be better, however, understand it of both. “And there is no respect of persons with God.” God will not regard the person of the master any more than that of the slave; he will reward or punish both, according to their deserts. The words, “with God,” are not in the Greek: they are, however, found in several ancient manuscripts and versions.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Colossians Chapter 2

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 9, 2019

Scripture links are to the Douay Rheims translation

The Apostle commences this chapter by expressing his anxious solicitude for the Colossians, as also the object of this solicitude, which was to afford them the consolation that would result from their close union in the bonds of charity, and their perfect knowledge of the leading truths of Christian faith (Col 2:1-2).

He next cautions them against the deceitful wiles of the false teachers, both Gentiles and Judaizers. Against the former, he shows that Christ is the great fountain of all knowledge (Col 2:3.) He encourages the Colossians to guard against their false reasoning, and by closely adhering to Christ, to persevere in the faith and Christian life, which they had embraced (Col 2:4–8). He points out the means which the Gnostics would employ to seduce them from the faith, viz., false and erroneous philosophy, opposed to the true principles of Christian faith. These false principles of Pagan philosophy, they should reject, and have recourse to Christ, in whom, as God, was eminently contained all knowledge, who is also the ruler of all the hosts of angels, and, therefore, to be adored before them (Col 2:8–10). Against the Jewish zealots, who proclaimed the necessity of circumcision, and the legal ceremonies, he reminds the Colossians that the circumcision which they received in baptism as far surpassed that of the Jews, as the reality exceeds the sign (Col 2:11-12).

He ascends to the source of their spiritual blessings, viz., redemption through Christ, and graphically describes the mode in which redemption was accomplished, and the triumph which Christ achieved over the whole hosts of demons, driving them before his triumphal car, as so many trophies of victory (Col 2:13-15). From the foregoing he infers, that the Colossians should pay attention neither to the Judaizers, who endeavoured to turn them aside from these real blessings to vain, empty shadows (Col 2:16-17), nor to the Simonians or Gnostics, who encouraged the false worship of angels (Col 2:18)—and adhered not to Christ, the head of the Church, from whom she derived all graces (Col 2:19). He concludes the chapter, by mildly rebuking the Colossians for attending to the false teaching of either the Gnostics or Judaizers (Col 2:20-23).

Text in purple indicates Fr. MacEvilly’s paraphrase of the scripture he is commenting on

Col 2:1. For, I wish to make known to you my anxiety and solicitude for you and the people of Laodicea, and for all others, who, as well as you, have never seen me.

“For” is a connecting link between this and the last verse of the preceding chapter, as if he said: I have made mention of my labours and exertions, because I wish you to know the struggle I sustain for you.

“What manner of care.” In Greek, ἀγῶνα, what a struggle or contest. From this verse, it is commonly inferred that St. Paul, although he visited some part of Phrygia, had never been at Colossæ. Theodoret, however, comes to an opposite conclusion; but, his inference is very improbable.

Col 2:2. The object of my labours, and anxious solicitude both for you and them is, that your hearts may be filled with spiritual consolation, having been firmly united by the bond of charity, and furnished with the most perfect and valuable knowledge, and firm persuasion regarding those truths, that appertain to the mysteries of the Trinity and the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The end and object of his anxiety was, to procure for them true spiritual consolation, which is acquired by being united in charity (for “instructed in charity,” the Greek is, συνβιβασθεντων, united, compacted, as joints are in a body); and also, by being introduced to, or furnished with, “all riches of fulness of understanding,” i.e., the fullest and most perfect knowledge and persuasion. The words, furnished with, introduced to, or some such expression, must be understood, to make full and perfect sense; it is implied in the foregoing Greek participle. “Unto the knowledge of the mystery of God the Father,” who is the principle of the Godhead, one in nature, and three in persons; “and of Jesus Christ;” in other words, regarding the two grand, fundamental mysteries of the Trinity and Incarnation—the two great points in which the Gnostics wished to corrupt the faith of the Colossians. charity and perfect knowledge are means to obtain consolation. “Of God the Father,” &c. In Greek, of God and of the Father, and of Christ.

Col 2:3. In whom—the man God—are concealed, in such a way as never to be communicated to creatures, all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

“In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” “In whom,” as God and man. As God, his knowledge is infinite; and as man, he has the most perfect finite knowledge. “Are hid;” hid (ἀπόκρυφοι), is an adjective. “All the treasures” express the great abundance of this knowledge, &c. Nothing can escape him. In him they are “hid.” No creature can fully know them. The finite share which we are capable of comprehending, is known to us from revelation. From Christ, then, is to be obtained all that knowledge of which the Gnostics boasted, as their name implies, and for which they wished that recourse should be had to other sources than Christ.

Col 2:4. Now, I make mention of this great wisdom and knowledge of Christ, as a caution to you not to be deceived by the false and persuasive reasonings of others, who affect wisdom and knowledge.

The Apostle now enters on the object of the Epistle, viz., to guard them against the imposing reasoning of the Gnostics. “Deceive,” in Greek, παραλονιζηται, means, to deceive by false reasoning, or sophistry. “Loftiness of words,” in Greek, πιθανολογια, plausible or smooth language.

Col 2:5. For, though personally absent, still, I am present with you in heart and soul, rejoicing, when I see your orderly conduct, and the firmness and constancy of your faith in Christ Jesus.

He is present in “spirit,” by his anxiety and Apostolic care in watching over their faith, and spiritual interests. “Absent in body,” &c. Similar is the form of words (1 Cor 5:3).

Col 2:6. As, then, you have been instructed in Christ Jesus; so persevere in his doctrine and in the observance of his precepts;

Jesus Christ the Lord.” In Greek, Christ Jesus the Lord. He tells them to persevere in the faith of Christ, taught them by Epaphras, at their conversion.

Col 2:7. Having been engrafted on him as the stock and root, and reared on him as the foundation, and confirmed in the faith which you have learned; nay, advancing in grace and faith, with thanksgiving for so many distinguished favours.

Under a twofold similitude of a tree, and of an edifree, the Apostle represents their close connexion with Christ. He is the foundation: they, the superstructure, He is the root, and the stock; they, the tree or branches. This verse is connected with the preceding, thus: persevere in his doctrine, &c., having been ingrafted on him, &c., so as to increase and advance in faith and grace with thanksgiving.

“Abounding in him.” In Greek, abounding in it. The Vulgate reading is found in some of the chief manuscripts.

Col 2:8. (Since, then, by ceasing to be in connexion with Christ, you would be as so many trees without roots, edifices without foundations); Take care, lest any person deceive you, and rob you of your faith, by the display of false philosophy, which is no better than empty fallacy, calculated to impose upon us; the teachings of which are not derived from the authority of God, but founded on the corrupt and false opinions of men, and grounded on elementary principles either false in themselves, or falsely applied, and altogether at variance with the doctrine of Christ, and, therefore, to be rejected.

The philosophy condemned here by the Apostle is not the science of philosophy, the knowledge of human things derived, by legitimate reasoning, from certain fixed principles; he only condemns the false and erroneous systems of Pagan philosophy, wherein were contained the most monstrous errors in matters appertaining to God and religion. It was a philosophy which, in reference to religion, was nothing but “vain deceit,” which inculcated systems of belief, founded only on the corrupt inventions of men, transmitted from generation to generation; founded on elementary axioms, either false or falsely applied, and outstripping the proper limits to which they could be applied. See, for example, the abuse which they made of the logical axiom, quæ sunt eadem uni tertio, sunt eadem inter se, in reference to the mystery of the Trinity. See, also, the moral axiom current with the philosophers, expedit populos decipi in negotio religionis. The “elements of the world,” may, according to some, refer to the carnal outward precepts of the ceremonial law of the Jews, in which sense, the word “elements” is employed, chapter in the Epistle to the Galatians 4:3; in this interpretation, he is here alluding, partly, to the errors of the Judaizantes.

“But not according to Christ.” In this, he condemns the system of religion introduced by the Gnostics and Judaizantes; because, they were opposed to the purity of the gospel.

“Beware lest any man cheat you.” The Greek for “cheat,” συλαγωγων, means, to despoil, or lead away captive.

Col 2:9. Let no one seduce you from Christ: for, in him, the entire plenitude of the Godhead dwells, really and substantially, or personally, in a manner somewhat resembling the dwelling of the soul in the body.

The Apostle assigns the reason, why they should follow Christ, as teacher, in preference to those opposed to him, viz., because he is God: and hence, in him are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. He adds this rather than repeat the third verse, because it is the truth announced in this verse, viz., that Christ is God, which verifies verse 3. Hence, no other is to be heard before him. “Corporally,” i.e., personally. The divine Person has really assumed the human nature of Christ, so that the divine Person is alone the Person of this perfect humanity.

Col 2:10. And you are abundantly filled by him with all gifts and knowledge necessary for salvation without recurring to the law of Moses or the philosophy of the Gnostics. And he is the head, the ruler and master of all the angels, and hence, to be adored in preference to them.

“Who is the head of all principality and power.” He is the head of all the good angels, represented by the two orders referred to, inasmuch as he is their Lord, and rules them, to promote their happiness. This is added by the Apostle in opposition to the Gnostics, who inculcated the adoration of angels. This verse is more fully expressed (Ephesians, 1).

Col 2:11. In whom, also, you have received circumcision, not like the Jewish circumcision, made by hands consisting merely in taking away the foreskin from the body of the flesh, but a spiritual circumcision, consisting in the destruction of sin, and of sinful passions, of which the circumcision among the Jews was but a mere type or figure.

He cautions them against the Jewish zealots, who endeavoured to superadd the rite of circumcision to the Christian religion, and says, we have a circumcision which as far surpasses that in use among the Jews, as the reality, or thing signified, exceeds the sign and the figure. In the Greek, the particle, “but,” is omitted, and the word “sins,” added to the preceding clause, thus: in despoiling of the body (of the sins) of the flesh, in the circumcision of Christ; a reading, according to which, the entire verse is understood without any antithesis of the circumcision of Christ, thus: by whom you were circumcised with a circumcision not made by hands, which consists in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, in other words, in entirely laying aside the old man of sin, which is the circumcision of Christ, and not of Moses. This is a very probable interpretation.

Col 2:12. You received this spiritual Christian circumcision, when in receiving baptism you were buried, and consequently dead to your sins, with Christ, in which baptism also, while emerging from its waters, you rose to a new spiritual life of grace, of which spiritual resurrection, faith in the omnipotence of him who raised Christ from the dead is required as a necessary condition.

He shows how this circumcision is effected by baptism. The immersion in baptism—the form, in which it was conferred in the time of the Apostle—is a type of our burial, and consequently of our death to sin, which death to sin it also operates as well as signifies; and the emersion from the waters of baptism is also a type of our spiritual resurrection to a life of grace, which resurrection it also effects, requiring as a condition, faith in the omnipotence of him who raised Christ from the dead.

Col 2:13. And you, when dead in your sins, both actual and original, together with the passions flowing from original sin, were raised by him to spiritual life, by an effort of the same power by which he raised Christ from the dead, pardoning all your sins, through his merits.

When they were dead in their actual and original sins as well as in all the evils flowing from original sin, he raised them spiritually, with Christ, and made them desert their former vicious ways, and live to God, “and the uncircumcision of your flesh,” the sign, for the thing signified, the foreskin, for original sin, and the evils following from it.

Col 2:14. Having first blotted out and abolished the sentence of eternal death, which had been recorded against us all, by the decree of God after the sin of Adam, and the same sentence he took out of the way and annulled, by nailing it to his cross, i.e., destroying it, by the atonement and satisfaction which he made on the cross.

In this verse, some Expositors say, there is reference to the abolition of the obligation which every Jew had contracted to observe the law of Moses. Hence, by “handwriting” they understood the liability to observe “the decree,” or Mosaic law. Others, following the Greek reading, which is, τοῖς δόγμασιν, by decrees, understood it to have the same meaning that it has in the passage to the Ephesians 2:15, “the law of commandments in decrees,” which refers to the abolition of the ceremonies of the Mosaic law, and the substituting of “the decrees,” or precepts of the Christian faith, in their stead. This interpretation, however, does not well accord with the next verse; for, how can it follow from his abolishing the Mosaic ceremonial law, that he was “despoiling principalities,” &c.? (Col 2:15). Besides, the Mosaic law is never called a “decree;” and if we desert the Vulgate reading, to which the Ethiopic version is conformable, and read, “by decrees,” we must confine it to the Jews; whereas, it is clear that the Apostle refers to all, by saying, “you,” Col 2:13, “us,” this verse. Hence, the common interpretation is far the more probable, which makes “handwriting” refer to the liability to eternal death pronounced against us by the “decree” of God after the sin of Adam, of which, by an unsearchable judgment of God, we were all made sharers; and this liability or sentence is called “a handwriting,” either because we ourselves, by actual sin, subscribed to the justice of this sentence of punishment, or probably, to signify that it is as certain against us as is the debt against the debtor, whose bond or note of hand is in the possession of the creditors. “Fastening it to the cross;” this refers to the ancient custom of annulling bonds or covenants, by driving a nail through them. Hence, the words may be translated, driving a nail through it by his cross, i.e., by the satisfaction made on the cross. All this, therefore, refers to the atonement which Christ made for the sins of all mankind, by his death on the cross.

Col 2:15. And stripping the entire host of infernal spirits, who were to be the executioners in carrying out this decree, of the dominion and power they had over man, he exposed them publicly to the gaze and derision of men and angels, triumphing over them thus prostrate and vanquished, by his own power.

These words are very expressive of Christ’s triumph over his prostrate enemies; he first stripped them of the power which they had over mankind, during the time that this sentence of death was hanging over their heads. He afterwards publicly exposed them to derision, dragging them after his triumphal car, or rather driving them before it, as so many trophies of victory. This public exposure of the devils is now made before angels and men, who see it by faith; but it will be evidently seen, on the great day of judgment. The two orders, of “principalities” and “powers,” are put for all the orders of demons. There is but one word in the Greek corresponding with the words “confidently” and “open show,” εν παρρησια. The word, however, bears both the significations, given to it in our English version, after the Vulgate.

Col 2:16. Such, therefore, being the blessings purchased for you by Christ, have no fears about being condemned by any one for neglecting the Mosaic ceremonies, either in matters appertaining to meat or drink, whether clean or unclean, or in reference to festival days, whether annual, monthly, or weekly.

Having shown the excellence of our baptism beyond circumcision, and having pointed out the cause of its efficacy, viz., the redemption of Christ, the Apostle resumes the subject of the Mosaic rites, and cautions the Colossians against practising them. “In respect of,” i.e., in reference to, or in the matter of, a “festival day,” &c., i.e., festival days observed among the Jews, in compliance with the ceremonial law of Moses.

Col 2:17. For, all these were but mere shadows of future things, and the reality, of which they were the figures, or rather, the body, of which they were the shadows, is Christ. Having, then, the reality, what need have we to preserve the shadows?

No commentary beyond the paraphrase is offered for this verse.

Col 2:18. Be not defrauded of the prize, for which you are striving, by any one wishing to inculcate prostrate humiliations before the angels and the religious adoration of them, intermeddling in things which he hath not seen, or pretending to visions and knowledge beyond his reach; inflated and puffed up without any cause or grounds for it, by his own carnal conceptions and ideas, as if they were revealed by God.

“Let no man seduce you.” In the Greek it is, καταβραβευέτω, let no man defraud you of the prize, or reward, for which you are striving. “Willing;” this word is connected, by some, with the foregoing word, “seduce,” thus: let no man seduce you, however anxiously and studiously he may exert himself for that purpose. Others more probably connect it with the following words, “humility and the religion of angels,” i.e., affecting humility, or, wishing to make it appear, that he is consulting for the dignity of Christ, by denying that redemption came through him; and, hence, wishing that you should adore, and have recourse to angels. This is the interpretation given of the passage by those who maintain that the error which St. Paul is combating in this Epistle, is the error of those heretics who asserted that it was beneath Christ to undertake the office of mediator and redeemer; and hence, they assigned this office to angels. It would not appear, however, that this opinion is borne out by the scope and context of the Apostle. On the contrary, it would seem from the Apostle’s proving in this, as well as in some of his other Epistles, the superior excellence of Christ, that his arguments are entirely directed against the class of heretics, who lowered the dignity of Christ too much, by placing the angels above him. It is, therefore, more likely, that the Apostle here refers to the errors of the Platonists, who extolled the angels above Christ. They believed in the existence of a sort of minor gods or angels, who, according to them, created the world, inspired the prophets of old, purified and redeemed the souls of men; one of these angels gave the law on Sinai, and was the God of the Hebrews. This latter error was maintained by Cerinthus; he also held, that at the time of the passion, the Son of God left the son of Mary and Joseph, and returned to heaven. Hence, they asserted that Christ was unworthy of being the mediator between God and man; and that this office, therefore, devolved on the angels, who should be adored by a more perfect and excellent rite than was due to Christ. [Ireneus, Theodoret, and Epiphanius record these errors of Cerinthus in their dissertations on Heresies.] That this was the class of heretics to whom the Apostle here refers, seems very likely, if it be borne in mind that at Laodicea, which was contiguous to Colossæ, there was a sect who propounded such doctrines, which were condemned, in the 35th canon of the Council of Laodicea. The words, then, mean, as in Paraphrase; inculcating humble prostrations before angels, and adoring them. “Walking in things,” &c., prying into and intermeddling in things which they could not know, and pretending to visions beyond their reach.

Objection.—How reconcile this with the Catholic practice of worshipping and invoking angels?

Resp.—There is no necessity for reconciling it, if we look to what the Catholic practice is. The worship paid by Catholics to angels is an inferior worship, cultus duliæ, which tends to the glory of God, in the same way, as the civil respect shown a viceroy tends to the honour of the sovereign, whom he represents. But, we never pay them the supreme worship, or, as it is termed, cultus latriæ, due to God alone. Now, in this passage, the Apostle manifestly contemplates the worship being paid to them which robs God of his glory, as appears from the entire context, and particularly from the words of the following verse—“not holding the head.”

Col 2:19. Not adhering to the head of the Church, Christ, from which the entire body of the Church, or of the faithful, supplied with life and animation, and compactly joined and fitted together, by the various joints, sinews, and arteries, grows with a divine increase.

“Not holding the head.” From this it appears clear that they rejected the true worship of God. From whom, as head, the entire body of the faithful were furnished with life and animation (of course, in the mystical body, he refers to the graces of Christ).—See Epistle to the Ephesians 4:14.

Col 2:20. If, then, by becoming Christians, you have altogether renounced all connexion whatever with the errors of Pagan philosophy, or, with the heavy and intolerable yoke of the Mosaic ceremonial precepts, why should you any longer submit to have these precepts taught you, and dictated to you, as if you were still to live up to such elementary principles?

“The elements of this world,” with which they now hold no more connexion than the living hold with the dead, are understood by some of the errors of Paganism; by others, of the precepts of the ceremonial law of the Jews. “Why do you decree,” may also mean, why are you decreed, i.e., why do you submit to be taught these precepts, as if you were to live according to them, and not according to the doctrine of Christ? The Greek word for “decree,” δογματιζεσθε, will admit of either an active or passive signification. It may mean either to dogmatize, or to be dogmatized.

Col 2:21. Such are, for instance, do not touch, or taste, certain meats or drinks, and have nothing to do with marriage.

He probably refers to the errors, of which he treats in his Epistle to Timothy, “forbidding to marry, to abstain from meats,” (1 Tim 4:3). We know, that some of the Gnostics held that certain meats were in se bad; also that marriage was in se evil.

Col 2:22. All such precepts as these serve only, in use, to the destruction of those who adopt them, having been enacted according to the doctrines and ordinances of men.

This refers to the precepts, verse 21. The Apostle is here condemning those ordinances in reference to religion, that have no authority from God, or from the rulers of his Church—that are purely human, and, as in the present case, opposed to the commands of God. He regards either the ceremonial law of the Jews or the errors of the Platonists; but he by no means condemns the salutary laws of God’s Church, of whose authority he is so jealous, “qui vos audit, me audit.”

Col 2:23. Such ordinances have, indeed, the appearance of true wisdom, as manifested in arbitrary, self-imposed practices of devotion—practices that have not the sanction of superior authority—in a spurious, false humility, which is but the sign of pride; in macerations of the flesh both unmeaning and excessive, and in the subtraction of the just refection and proper sustenance of the body.

The Apostle by no means condemns the fasting prescribed by the Church, and which Christ our Lord has sanctioned, “but you when you fast,” &c.—(Matt. 6:17). Our fasts are regulated by prudence; and instead of being commanded, fasting is prohibited, whenever it would interfere with our duties in life. It is a “reasonable service,” as enjoined by the Church. This very passage is an argument in favour of the Catholic practice; for, these practices must be true wisdom, the appearance of which the others affected. If they were not regarded as good and praiseworthy, even in the days of the Apostle, why should the heretics affect them, in order to appear more holy? And why should the Apostle say, that they had the appearance of wisdom? Was it not because their prudent and proper exercise was true and solid wisdom, perfectly in accordance with the Gospel?

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