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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Romans Chapter 16

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 4, 2019

Scripture links are to the Douay Rheims translation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Romans Chapter 15

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 1, 2019

Scripture links are to the Douay Rheims translation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Glory,” καυχησιν, matter for glorying.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Romans Chapter 14

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 30, 2019

Scripture links are to the Douay Rheims translation

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

Text in pruple indiocates Fr. MacEvilly’s paraphrase of the scripture he is commenting on

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Romans Chapter 13

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 30, 2019

Scripture links are to the Douay Rheims translation

The Apostle employs the first seven verses of this chapter in inculcating the duty of obedience to temporal authority, or, it should be rather said, in enforcing the natural duty of obedience to legitimate authority, by the sanction of Christianity: his reason for so doing shall be explained in the Commentary. He grounds the duty of obedience—first, on the source of all authority, God (Rom 13:1-2); secondly, on the end and object of the institution of supreme and governing authority (Rom 13:3-4); thirdly, on the fact, that supreme rulers are appointed as ministers of God in securing the general welfare, by protecting the good and punishing the wicked. Hence, their claims to obedience on religious grounds; hence, their claims to tribute, on the same grounds (Rom 13:5-6). In verse 7, he draws a general conclusion regarding the payment of their respective dues to all men in authority. In Rom 13:8-10 he again reverts to the duty of charity due to all men, of which he treated more at large in chapter 12; and, finally, he exhorts all to enter on a life of greater fervour, to lay aside the works of darkness, and put on Jesus Christ (Rom 13:11-14).

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

Rom 13:1. Let every man, placed in subjection, be obedient to all who are set in high authority over him: for, God is the source of all supreme and public authority, and the order and distinct arrangements of existing authorities are made by him.

“Let every soul,” i.e., every human being, without exception, who is placed in subjection, and not himself the occupant of power; for, a man could hardly be called upon to be subject to himself, in the sense here contemplated. “Be subject to higher powers.” By “higher powers,” are meant persons vested with political power for governing and ruling others, whether kings, princes, magistrates, &c. (Rom 13:4–7). Of course, this obedience has its limits. The duty of submission on the part of the subject, has for limit the matter to which the jurisdiction of the superior extends. If there be question of men, who have usurped, or have unjustifiably possessed themselves of authority, there is no more obedience due to them than to robbers; the exhibition of resistance is a matter of prudence. If there be question of a superior lawfully possessed of power, but who outsteps the bounds of his authority, obedience is not necessarily to be tendered to him; should he command what is good or indifferent, he may be obeyed; should he command what is evil, he must be resisted. In this latter case, “we ought to obey God rather than men.”—(Acts 5:29). Obedience, therefore, has its limits. The zeal displayed by the Apostle in inculcating so strictly, both in this and in his Epistle to Titus, &c., the duty of obedience to temporal authority, was, in a certain degree, owing to the spirit of disaffection with which the Jewish converts, as we learn from Josephus (Antiq. xviii. 1, De Bello Jud. ii. 8), and Suetonius (Claud, xxv.), were imbued towards the Roman emperors. Owing to the high and exalted notions they entertained of themselves, as the chosen people of God—as the descendants of Abraham, to whom were made such magnificent promises, they considered it degrading to them to obey or pay tribute to foreigners and unbelievers. This was the cause of disastrous tumults and rebellions, the most remarkable of which was, that headed by Judas of Galilee (Acts 5:37). Our Redeemer and his Apostles were Galileans, and the change of religion of which they were the authors, might give grounds for classing them with the followers of this Judas. This charge would serve as the greatest obstacle to the spread of Christianity; hence, the care with which our Redeemer (Matt. 17:26) and his Apostles removed every ground for so false and calumnious an imputation.

“For there is no power but from God,” i.e., God is the original source of all power. Whatever may be the immediate source of power, whether derived immediately from the popular will, or from hereditary succession, or from conquest, &c., its original source is God, who, having created man for society, and having made the social his natural state of existence, gives to rulers the authority necessary for upholding social order. It appears a very probable opinion, that secular power comes immediately from God; that it has been immediately vested by Him in the collection or community, by whom it has been placed as a deposit, in the hands of those who actually exercise it, be the form of government established by them what it may—whether kingly, republican, &c. In truth, we have no formal or explicit revelation awarding supreme authority to this or to that individual; and the instances to the contrary mentioned in SS. Scriptures, regarding Saul, David, &c., are only exceptions, which serve to confirm the opposite rule. By others it is maintained, as a very probable opinion, that God makes the election of the people merely as a necessary condition for immediately conferring power, Himself, on the object of the people’s choice. “There is no power,” &c. The Apostle is, of course, referring to legitimate power. In the foregoing, or rather in this whole passage, there is question only of secular power. For, as regards spiritual authority, which resides in the church, it is of faith, which no one can question without the guilt of heresy, that it comes immediately from God.

“And those that are,” &c. (In Greek, and the powers that be, &c. The Chief MSS. omit the word “powers” and support the Vulgate.) That is to say, God is not only the source of supreme civil power in general, which exists with his sanction and by his ordinance; but the different gradations and species, and distributions of governing authority are arranged so by him. In what sense they are arranged by him can be easily inferred from the foregoing. It is remarked by St. Chrysostom, that the Apostle says, “there is no power but from God,” meaning all legitimate power. But he does not say, there is no ruler but God.

Rom 13:2. Whosoever, therefore, arrays himself in resisting legitimate authority, legitimately exercising its functions, resists the ordinance of God, and, by such resistance purchases and deserves for himself eternal damnation.

There is an inference from the foregoing, “resisteth” (in Greek αντιτασσομενος, is arrayed against), “the power resisteth the ordinance of God;” the Apostle speaks of power legitimately possessed and legitimately exercised, neither pushed beyond its proper limits, nor prescribing anything evil. Usurped or abused authority is not the authority referred to; nor are unjust enactments, strictly speaking, laws which demand obedience as a duty. “Purchase damnation.” (In Greek, λῃμψονται ἑαυτοις κριμα, shall receive to themselves damnation), i.e., temporal punishment here for resisting civil “power,” and eternal damnation hereafter, for resisting the “ordinance of God.”

As, then, power is “from God,” obedience is due to its possessor, as the vicar of God; voluntary, hearty, and interior obedience, out of respect for God, whom he represents.

As the distinction and order of power is from Him, we must not only obey supreme power, but subordinate occupants of power, duly exercising it.

Princes and superiors, legitimately created such, are, therefore, to be obeyed, although wicked and impious; for, they derive their power from God. Nero was the reigning prince, at this time. They are not, however, to be obeyed when commanding evil.

Rom 13:3. Another reason for tendering obedience to those set in high authoeity is, the end of the institution of such supreme authority, which is to favour and protect those who do good, and to restrain evil doers by the fear of punishment. But if you wish to have no dread of supreme power, do good; and instead of punishment, you shall receive a reward.

The second argument to prove the duty of obedience derived from the end, &c., (see Paraphrase), which is to deter the wicked from the commission of crime, to protect, favour, and reward the good. “To the good work,” (in the common Greek, good works). The chief MSS. have the singular, τῷ αγαθῷ ἔργω, i.e., to him that performs a good work. The Apostle shows first, that they are placed to protect and favour the good. “Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise from the same.”

Rom 13:4. For, the possessor of supreme power is appointed by God as his minister to promote the public good as well as that of individuals; but if you do evil, you have reason to fear; for, it is not in vain that he carries the sword, the emblem of his power of life and death; for he is the minister of God, to take vengeance and inflict punishment for the crimes of those who do evil.

And he gives us proof of this, “for he is God’s minister to thee for good,” i.e., to promote the good of the community and of individuals. This is the end of the institution of Supreme Authority—an end which, doubtless, many placed in authority fail to advance. “But, if thou do evil, fear.” He now proves that the occupant of power is placed to punish the wicked. “The sword,” is carried by him, as an emblem of his authority and power to punish. It is put for all instruments whereby punishment might be inflicted, such as chains, fires, gibbets, &c. The Apostle refers to the custom prevalent in his own time, of having a sword carried before the governors and others vested with authority.

As power is given “for good,” it is a question, whether, in the case where it is exercised for evil and not for edification, and its end, consequently, perverted, its occupant might not be divested of it, at the call of the people from whom it emanated. Many hold, that the people and chiefs of a state have a right to release themselves from a state of injustice, to which they might have been unjustifiably reduced; which can, in some cases, be done only by deposition; and they could lawfully carry on a just war against a tyrant, who would abuse power, to the injury of the community. But as no private individual has power of life or death over his fellow-men, individual resistance is, therefore, never allowed; since it is a practical assertion of the power of life and death.

Rom 13:5. Is is not, therefore, a matter of option, it is a duty of strict preceptive necessity to be obedient to them, legitimately exercising authority; and this, not merely from motives of fear, or, in order to escape punishment, but, also from motives of conscience, so as to avoid incurring the guilt of sin before God, whose ministers they are.

In this verse is introduced the third argument for proving the duty of obedience. “Wherefore be subject of necessity,” (in Greek, ἀναγκη ὐποτασσεσθαι, it is a necessity to be subject), “not only for wrath,” i.e., from fear of punishment, which the violation of the law entails, “but also for conscience sake,” i.e., from religious motives; for God makes civil obedience a matter of religious duty. By “conscience,” the Greek interpreters understand the consciousness of benefits resulting from their administration. The interpretation in the Paraphrase is by far the more probable.

Rom 13:6. It is from the same motive of conscience you pay them tribute, as you are bound to do, because they are the ministers of God, in protecting the good and punishing the wicked, laboriously and perseveringly devoting themselves to this duty.

“Therefore also you pay tribute.” “Therefore,” i.e., on account of the conscientious obligation you contract, of obeying them, you are in the habit of paying tribute. These words are a further explanation of the words in preceding verse, “for conscience-sake,” and they have reference to the following words, “for they are the ministers of God,” &c. In one word, it is because of the conscientious obligation, which the relations they hold, of being ministers of God, who wishes to uphold social order, and to provide the necessary means thereto, impose on you, that you pay them tribute. “Serving unto this purpose,” i.e., unto the purpose of advancing the cause in which they are ministers of God, viz., the purpose of advancing the public interest, by punishing the wicked and protecting and rewarding the good.

Rom 13:7. Render, therefore, unto all men what is due to them. To the man to whom tribute is due, pay tribute; to whom custom is due, custom; to whomsoever reverence and honour are due, render honour and reverence suited to their rank and condition.

“Tribute,” is a tax on land, and on persons, such as a capitation tax. “Custom,” a tax on exports and imports; by “fear” is meant reverential fear, due to such as are placed over us.

Rom 13:8. Finally, discharge all your debts of what kind soever, so as to owe nobody any debt, save the debt of charity and love, which is of such a nature as to be always paid and yet still due. By this exhibition of mutual charity, you shall fulfil the law.

All other debts once paid, cease to be any longer due, but the debt of charity is of such a nature that though always paid, it remains always due; for our neighbour is always to be loved by us—“He that loveth his neighbour hath fulfilled the law.” By the “law,” both in this and verse 10, some understand the entire law, as regards God and our neighbour; since the love of God is included in the love of our neighbour, as a cause in its effect; for, the supernatural love of our neighbour and the love of God, have the same motive, the same formal object, viz., God loved for his infinite good in se. By loving our neighbour, we wish him the enjoyment of sovereign happiness, which is to enjoy God; and by loving God, we wish him to be enjoyed, known and loved by all his creatures. Others say the word “law” only refers to the second table, which regards our neighbour, for it is of the precepts which regard our neighbour he speaks in the next verse.

Rom 13:9. For the precepts of the law, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour, Thou shalt not covet, and every other precept of the law whatsoever, regarding our neighbour, are briefly recapitulated and summed up in this short precept of charity, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

For, all the precepts of the law regarding our neighbour, viz., “Thou shalt not commit adultery;” “Thou shalt not kill,” &c. (“Thou shalt not bear false witness” is wanting in the Greek copies), “and if there be any other commandment,” i.e., every other commandment regarding our neighbour, are “comprised” i.e., recapitulated, or “summed up in this word,” i.e., in this general precept: “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” The word “as” does not imply love in an equal degree, but love of the same kind, as is expressed by our Redeemer: “whatsoever you would that man should do to you, do you also to them.”—(Matthew 7:12). The Apostle omits quoting the only positive precept contained in the second table of the Decalogue, “honour thy father and thy mother;” because, it was sufficiently expressed in verse 7, “to whom honour, honour.”

Rom 13:10. The love of our neighbour in the prescribed degree neither prompts nor even allows us to inflict injury on him (it, on the contrary, procures for him every possible good). Love, therefore, is the perfect fulfilment of the law.

“The love of our neighbour worketh no evil.” There is here, a Meiosis. The Apostle intends more than he expresses. He wishes to convey that it prompts not only not to work evil, but also to procure for him all possible amount of good. And hence, by loving our neighbour, we fulfil the entire law which regards him, both as to abstaining from inflicting any injury on him, and doing him a service. “The fulfilling of the law,” may regard the entire law, which has reference to God and our neighbour, as in verse 8.

Rom 13:11. And with this duty of loving our neighbour, we should the more faithfully comply, as we know the time is urgent; because the hour for us to awake from the drowsiness and sleep of sin has arrived. For now our salvation is nearer than when first we embraced the gospel.

“And that,” refers to our paying all our debts, and loving our neighbour. “Knowing the season,” i.e., knowing the urgency of the time, and the short period we have to work. “Season may also be interpreted to mean the favourable opportunity, which in Christianity is afforded us for doing so. The former meaning is rendered more probable by the following words, “for it is now the hour,” &c. The day of judgment is fast approaching; and hence, we should be prepared for it, “for now our salvation,” i.e., the day when we are to receive eternal glory as the recompense of our labours. “Than when we believed,” i.e., when we first embraced the faith. St. Chrysostom remarks, that the Apostle says this to remind them of their great fervour at the time of their embracing the faith, from which they were falling off, according as they receded from that period; and that now he wishes to rouse them to fervour and redoubled piety as their eternal salvation, which commences for the just at the hour of death, when they shall enter on the life of glory is much nearer. “Cast off the works of darkness,” i.e., bad works which are suited only to darkness; for he who does evil, “hates the light.”—(St. John 3:20). “And put on the armour of light,” i.e., the shining armour of good works; or, there may be reference to the spiritual panoply mentioned (Ephes. chap. 6) viz., the shield of faith, the breastplate of justice, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the spirit, which enable us to resist the enemy and to do good.

Rom 13:12. The term of our existence in this world of sin and darkness is fast passing away, and the bright day of eternal and unchangeable happiness is fast approaching. Let us, therefore, cast aside and abandon for ever our wicked works, which cannot bear the light, and are only suited for darkness; and let us put on the armour of light, by becoming clad with good works, which shall serve as a secure panoply to protect us against our enemies.

Some Commentators, and among the rest, A’Lapide, understand the word “night,” of the night of darkness and infidelity in which men were enveloped, before the coming of Christ; and “day,” of the period of the Gospel revelation, when the full light of faith and justice has brightly dawned upon us. According to him, the words, “when we believed,” (verse 11), regard the Jews, who also believed in God; “and the night is past,” the Gentiles. The interpretation given in Paraphrase is preferable; for, it is quite a common thing with the Apostle to stimulate men to fervour and fidelity in their Christian duties, by the consideration of future rewards.

Rom 13:13. Since, therefore, the day for disclosing our actions is soon to shine upon us, let us conduct ourselves with propriety, and appear in the decent garb suited to such as come forth at day time, not indulging in banquetings or drunkenness, not in lasciviousness or impurities, not in altercation or envious contentions.

“Let us walk honestly as in the day,” i.e., conduct ourselves decorously as persons do who appear in the full blaze of day; “as in the day,” would render the interpretation of A’Lapide very probable. The words, however, can be explained and accommodated to our interpretation (as in Paraphrase). “Not in rioting,” i.e., feastings, instituted for the purpose of gluttony and debauchery; and “drunkenness,” i.e., excessive drinking, even though it were not carried to the extent of causing a deprivation of reason; “in chambering,” designates all acts of impurity. “Contention and envy,” the result of ambition.

Rom 13:14. But so express and manifest in your morals, our Lord Jesus Christ, who by his grace dwells in your hearts, that you may appear to be clothed with his sobriety, chastity and charity—the opposite virtues of the vices referred to—and thus you will not carry the reasonable care, which each one should take of his body, to the guilty extent of indulging its vices and corrupt passions.

“Put on our Lord Jesus Christ,” so that his sobriety, chastity and charity—so opposed to the vices enumerated—would alone appear in you, as the clothes appear on the man vested with them. This metaphor of putting on Christ is employed by St. Paul in several places:—(Eph 4:24; Col. 3:10; 1 Thess 5:8; Gal. 3:17). “And make not provision,” &c. He does not prevent proper care of our bodies; “for no one hates his own flesh,” &c. (Eph 5), but only the indulgence of its vices and concupiscences.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Romans Chapter 12

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 30, 2019

Scripture links are to the Douay Rheims translation

After devoting the preceding eleven chapters to doctrinal matters, the Apostle now enters on the moral part of this Epistle. In this chapter, he shows how we should testify our gratitude to God for his inestimable mercies and blessings: first, by making an offering of our bodies as living, spotless victims—an offering, however, to be made in a spiritual way (verse 1); secondly, by renovating our souls in grace and fervour, and by endeavouring to know and accomplish the holy will of God (2); and, thirdly, by the prudent, zealous, and orderly exercise of the gifts conferred on us, so as to render them subservient to God’s glory and our own, and our neighbour’s greater utility (Rom 12:3–8). From Rom 12:9-12 the Apostle shows, of what kind ought to be our love for our neighbour; and then shows, what are the acts of virtue by which this charity may be stimulated and strengthened (Rom 12:2–16). Finally, he encourages to patience and forgiveness of injuries, and the return of good for evil (Rom 12:17-21).

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

Rom 12:1. (Since, therefore, God has been thus merciful towards you) I conjure you, brethren, by these unspeakable mercies shown you, to present your bodies a living, holy, and spotless sacrifice, as the offering of your spiritual and reasonable worship.

“Therefore,” since God has in his exceeding great mercy and goodness bestowed on you the blessings of grace and faith referred to in the preceding chapters. “By the mercy.” The Greek word, οικτιρμων, mercies, expresses the excessive, the visceral mercy of God. “That you present,” the Greek, παραστησαι, conveys the sacrificial idea of presenting the victim. “A living sacrifice.” The word “living” is employed by way of contrast to the sacrifices of dead animals offered among the Jews. By it, is meant to show, that it is not the killing of ourselves the Apostle requires; but the sacrifice of our bodies still living and animated by the vivifying works of a new spiritual life, viz., faith, hope, charity, &c. It is most likely that the words of this verse regard, in a special manner, the works of mortification and corporal austerities, whereby our bodies are become dead to the corrupt passions, and “living” to carry into effect the desires of the Spirit. “Holy, pleasing to God,” by being free from all impurities and defilement. How, asks St. Chrysostom, shall our bodies become a sacrifice? Let the eyes refrain from sinful looks, and it is a sacrifice; the tongue, from evil speaking, and it is a sacrifice; the hand from wicked actions, and it is a holocaust. We must also do good; let the hand extend charity and alms; the mouth bless our enemies; the ears listen to divine discourse, &c.

“Your reasonable service.” The Greek word for “reasonable,” λογικην, bears also the construction of, spiritual, the sense in which it is commonly understood. It is opposed to the sacrifices of the Old Law, consisting in dead bodies and external rites. Both meanings, reasonable and spiritual, are probably conveyed by it. The words, “reasonable service,” are, in construction, put in opposition to the preceding; the word, being, is understood thus: this being “your reasonable service.” The Greek word for “service,” λατρεια, means, worship.

Rom 12:2. And conform not yourselves to the corrupt maxims and vices of the present transitory and ever-shifting world; but, by the crucifixion arid mortification of your corrupt desires, become perfectly transformed and renewed in your mind and affections, that being thus interiorly renovated, you may be enabled to prove what is the will of God, and to distinguish what is good, what is more agreeable, and what is most agreeable and perfect in his eyes, and practically carry it out in your conduct.

“Conformed.” The corresponding Greek word, συσχηματιζεσθε, conveys the idea of something fleeting and transitory, while the word “reformed,” which in Greek means, metamorphosed, conveys the idea of a fixed and permanent form, so that in this, verse, the converted Romans are admonished by the Apostle to assume a new spiritual form, wherein they should persevere.

“That you may prove,” &c., i.e., judge and discern in your new spiritual form and state of soul, “what is the will of God,” viz., the will whereby he issues his commands to us, the voluntas signi, as it is called. “The good, the acceptable,” &c. These words refer to the precepts emanating from God’s will, and convey the different degrees of excellence contained in these several precepts.

Rom 12:3. I, then, in virtue of the apostolical ministry which has been gratuitously conferred on me, announce to all of you, what this will of God is, viz., that no one should think more of himself or of the gifts conferred on him than he ought, but that he should think on the subject, according to the dictates of prudence and sobriety, and that each one confine himself, to the exercise of such spiritual gifts, as God may have been pleased to mete out to him.

The Apostle now explains “the will of God,” that immediately concerned them, or rather applies the general principle to their case. This he does “by the grace that is given him,” which is understood by some to refer to the grace and gift of inspiration, which authorizes him to admonish them. It more probably refers to his office as Apostle, and this he calls “a grace,” because conferred on him gratuitously, without any merit on his part. He uses these words to show that he did not instruct them in any authoritative way, “dico enim,” without having a right to do so. “Not to be more wise than it behoveth.” i.e., not to set an undue value on their gifts and acquirements, nor to value themselves, or presume too much on account of them, “but to be wise unto sobriety,” φρονειν εις το σωφρονεῖν; but in judging of these acquirements and of themselves in consequence, and of the line of conduct to be pursued in reference to them, to follow the rules of prudence and sobriety, “and according as God,” &c., each one, without interfering with the exercise of his neighbour’s spiritual gifts, should confine himself to that which God may have been pleased to measure out to him. “The measure of faith,” refers to the spiritual gifts which, together with faith, were frequently bestowed, in the infancy of the Church, to some, in a greater, to others, in a lesser degree, to be exercised for the good of the faithful. In these latter words, the Apostle cautions the faithful against the disorderly exercise of these gifts, and also against presuming in a spirit of pride, beyond what God had been pleased to accord to each. It is probable, that the admonition conveyed in this verse was occasioned by the disputes, which arose at Rome between the Jewish and Gentile converts, in which both transgressed the proper bounds of moderation, and, perhaps, boasted inordinately of the gifts bestowed on them. Hence, the Apostle, in virtue of his apostolical ministry, commands all, Jew and Gentile, not to trangress the limits of moderation.

Rom 12:4. For, as in one and the same body, we have many distinct members, but all the members of our body have not the same, but a different function:

He illustrates the different functions of the members of Christ’s mystical body, by the different and distinct functions of the several members of the human body. The several members of the natural body exercise, each, their own proper functions, without interfering with one another, and that, for the good of the entire body.

Rom 12:5. So, we the faithful and the ministers of Christ, with different functions, constitute one mystical body of Christ (members of the same body), and fellow-members of each other,

So it is also in the mystical body of Christ, towards which we all stand in the relation of members, and of co-members of each other; and hence, we should perform, in an orderly manner, our functions, and no one should be puffed up on account of the gifts he may have received, since it is for the good of the entire body he has received them; “and every one,” ὁ δε καθʼ εις, is put for ὁ εἱς καθʼ ἑνα. The chief MSS. have ὁ δε καθʼ εἱς.

Rom 12:6. Having different gifts, according as God has thought proper through his gratuitous goodness and grace to distribute them to each of us; whether the gift of prophecy, consisting either in foretelling future events, or in explaining the sacred Scriptures—which should be always soberly exercised, according to the rule and analogy of divine faith:

Commentators are divided regarding the dependence and construction of the words “and having,” In the Paraphrase a preference is given to the construction of Estius, which connects this verse with the preceding words, “we are (verse 5) one body,” &c., “having different gifts,” &c. Others make “having” the same as, we have different gifts, &c., and then they say, after each gift should be expressed the great object of the Apostle, which is, to show that in the exercise of each talent and gift, no one should interfere with his neighbor, but that each one should observe order and modesty. The same addition is made even in the construction of Estius. “Either prophecy.” He now mentions the gift, “prophecy,” (see 1 Cor. 12) the gift of explaining the SS. Scriptures, “according to the rule (in Greek αναλογιαν, analogy) of faith,” i.e., it should be exercised conformably to the principles and doctrines of faith. Others understand by “rule of faith” the measure or quantity of knowledge divinely accorded to him. The Apostle enjoins him not to exceed this measure by following any lights of his own. Ita, Beelen, who rejects the other interpretation as incorrect. It is clear, the words, should be exercised, or some such, are required to complete the sense, the sentence being manifestly elliptical.

Rom 12:7. Or, whether it be any ministry or ecclesiastical degree in the Church, which should be exercised with zeal and proper regard for order; or, whether it be the gift of teaching the truths of faith, which should be exercised with moderation and zeal;

“Or ministry in ministering;” i.e., (“having) ministry,” ειτε διακονιαν, εν τῃ διακονια. The former refers to the office, the latter, to its exercise. In this verse and the following, the general admonition of the Apostle (verse 3) regarding sobriety, as well in our judgments concerning ourselves, as in the exercise of the several gifts, is implied. “Or he that teacheth,” &c., he that teacheth should exercise this duty zealously and soberly “in doctrine.”

Rom 12:8. Whosoever exercises the gift of stimulating others to deeds of virtue, should acquit himself of this function with zeal and in an orderly manner. Whosoever is charged with the distribution of alms, should do so in an impartial way, having no respect to persons. Whosoever is appointed to govern and direct others, should do so with solicitude, vigilance, and assiduity. Whosoever is charged with the care of the sick and wretched, should always acquit himself of this duty, with cheerfulness of countenance and alacrity of spirit.

“Exhorteth,” regards the precepts of morals. This duty also should be exercised with sobriety. “He that giveth,” &c.; this, and the two following, most probably refer to offices in the Church, exercised by persons appointed for that purpose, although, no doubt, the manner of performing them marked out by the Apostle is applicable to the same actions performed even in secret and in a private capacity. There should be always “simplicity,” i.e., impartiality, irrespective of persons, observed in giving alms. “He that ruleth,” should always do so “with carefulness,” knowing that he is responsible to a higher ruler and judge; and in “shewing mercy,” we should always do so “with cheerfulness,” for cheerfulness on the part of a man who gives relief removes embarrassment and shame from him who receives it; it banishes dejection and makes the gift more valuable; moreover, if there be question of recreating the sick and infirm, cheerfulness on the part of him who exercises this charity is the most efficacious means of imparting consolation to the sufferers.

Rom 12:9. Let your love for your neighbour be sincere and cordial, free from all hypocrisy or dissimulation; a love, however, of such a nature as that you may abhor his vices and fondly cherish his virtues.

In the foregoing, the Apostle shows what the will of God is in reference to the public offices in the Church, and the gifts bestowed for the good of the body of the faithful; and he describes the manner in which they should be employed, in such a way as that all the members of the Church are instructed how to act even in a private capacity. He now points out the will of God in the exercise of virtues common to all members of the Church. The first and chiefest of virtues is charity for our neighbour, which should be “without dissimulation.” In Greek, ἀνυποκριτος, without hypocrisy, i.e., sincere, not merely consisting “in word or tongue, but in work and truth,” (St. John.) “Hating that which is evil.” This love should be a pure love, not carried to the extent of loving our neighbour’s vices. Diligite homines, interficite errores (St. Augustine). The words of the Apostle in this verse may be taken in a general sense, without any reference to the love of our neighbour, to signify, that all Christians should love good and abhor evil.

Rom 12:10. Let your love for one another be not only sincere but also fraternal, loving one another mutually as brethren and children of the same heavenly Father, anticipating each other in the mutual exhibition of honour and respect.

This love should be fraternal, and the best means of preserving it is, to “prevent,” or, anticipate one another in showing respect and honour.

Rom 12:11. Not slothful, but diligent and prompt in the manifestation of regard for our neighbour, or, in the discharge of our own duties. Fervent in spirit, since we are serving the Lord of lords, whose eyes are always upon us.

“In carefulness not slothful.” This may regard the carefulness to be manifested with regard to our neighbour, or, with regard to our own duties; “in spirit fervent,” acting with great fervour of mind, or acting with the fervour of men under the exciting impulse of God’s holy Spirit. “Serving the Lord.” The common Greek reading has, καιρω. “Serving the time,” i.e., making good use of the present opportunity afforded us for doing good. The Greek reading adopted by our Vulgate is the better founded, both on intrinsic and extrinsic reasons. The Codex Vaticanus has, κυριω, the Lord.

Rom 12:12. Rejoice in the hope and anticipated enjoyment of future goods; having a view to those, bear patiently the tribulations which may befall you. Persevere in imploring the divine aid by prayer.

“Rejoicing in hope,” i.e., on account of the hope and anticipated enjoyment of heavenly goods; “patient in tribulation,” on account of the same hope, “instant in prayer,” because this would sustain them in their present afflictions and keep their hearts fixed on heaven.

Rom 12:13. Become sharers in the necessities of distressed Christians, so that they would become sharers in your wealth; studiously cultivate hospitality towards distressed and houseless strangers.

Their charity towards their distressed fellow-Christians should be such, that the indigence of the poor would be shared in by them, so that the poor should reciprocally share in their riches; the word “communicating,” κοινωνουντες, shows there is a return of benediction and spiritual reward for their beneficence to the poor. “Pursuing hospitality;” the word “pursuing,” instructs them not to wait for the poor, but to go in search of them, as did Lot, Abraham, &c., and bring them to their homes. The exercise of this virtue was, in the early ages of the Church, most meritorious, both on account of the want of accommodation at inns, and the danger to which the faithful would be exposed by lodging with infidels.

Rom 12:14. Far from hating those who persecute you, on the contrary, you should bless them and pray for them: bless them, wishing them all happiness, and not curse them, nor invoke maledictions on their heads.

He now proceeds to inculcate the exalted virtues of patience and forgiveness of injuries; “bless,” i.e., pray for their welfare.

Rom 12:15. Exult with such as are in joy, and sympathize and weep with those who are in tears.

Charity renders all things common, both prosperity and adversity.

Rom 12:16. Be of the same mind, of the same feelings and judgment. Beware, therefore, of entertaining too high an opinion of yourselves, but exercise kind condescension and hold kindly intercourse with the lowliest and humblest of persons; be not too conceited in your own eyes on account of the supposed superiority of your own talents, as if you needed not counsel from others.

“Of one mind,” i.e., cultivate perfect concord, by not only entertaining the same feelings in common, but by having in common also the same judgments and wishes. This is the best guardian of charity. “Not minding high things.” i.e., not entertaining too high an opinion of themselves, which is the greatest obstacle to charity. These words may refer to ambition, not anxiously looking to elevated stations, “but consenting to the humble,” i.e., condescending to the most lowly, which is the firmest link of concord. “Be not wise,” &c., i.e., entertain not too high an idea of your own judgments and opinions, as if you needed not counsel from others—a grave obstacle to concord.

Rom 12:17. Do not retaliate on any one by returning evil for evil. Take care to do good, not only in presence of God who sees the heart, but also in such a way as may edify all men.

“Not only in the sight of God.” These words are not found in the Greek; “providing good things in the sight of all men,” is the only reading we have in the Greek. It is most likely that the former words were introduced by some copyist into this passage from 2 Cor 8:21, where the words, “not only before God,” are found. The Apostle in both passages appears to have in view, Prov 3:4: “Provide good things in the sight of God and man.”

Rom 12:18. If it can be done consistently with justice and truth, so far as you are concerned, cultivate peace, not only with your brethren, but with all men whomsoever.

“If it be possible … as much as is in you.” He adds these two conditions; because, we are not to cultivate a peace which may be inconsistent with justice and truth; and, because it is impossible to have peace with some men. The cause of difference or disruption, however, should not proceed from us.

Rom 12:19. Avenge not yourselves, dearly beloved, but make way for the man of anger and leave him to the judgment of God; for, it is written, “revenge is mine and I shall repay it, saith the Lord.”

“Give place to wrath,” may mean give way to the wrath of the angry man, and retire from him, as did Jacob in reference to Esau; or give way to, and do not anticipate, the wrath of God, which interpretation is rendered probable by the following quotation (Deut 32:15), “revenge to me, and I will repay.” The Apostle in this quotation follows neither the Hebrew nor Septuagint, which seems to be founded on both. The words were originally referred to the punishment with which God was to visit his enemies, the idolatrous Gentiles.

Rom 12:20. Therefore, retaliate not, nor return evil for evil, but on the contrary, good for evil: if thy enemy be hungry, give him to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him to drink; for thus you will heap upon his head burning coals of charity and love, by which, being encompassed from head to foot, he will be melted into feelings of love and gratitude.

Not only should we abstain from taking vengeance for the injuries offered us, we should even return good for evil. “But if thy enemy be hungry, give him to eat.” For “but if,” the common Greek has εαν ουν if therefore, but the chief MSS. support the Vulgate, αλλα εαν. The words for “give him to eat,” in Greek, express that kind attention which is shown by a nurse in cutting up the morsels of food for her youthful charge ψωμιζε. “Heap coals of fire on his head.” Many among the ancients understand the words to mean, thou shalt provoke greater chastisements and punishment from God; and this would appear to be the meaning of the words (Prov. 15) which are quoted in this verse. In Proverbs we have “give him water to drink.” Others, among whom are St. Jerome and St. Augustine, understand the words to mean, these benefits and kind acts on your part shall be like burning coals heaped upon his head, by which he shall be warmed from head to foot and melted into kindness, love, and gratitude. This meaning, besides being the more Christian interpretation, is also rendered more probable by the words in the following verse.

Rom 12:21. Permit not yourselves to be overcome by the evil inflicted on you, by seeking vengeance; but overcome the evil inflicted on you by acts of kindness, and thus you shall gain a complete victory.

This is the only vengeance which a Christian, a son of that Father who is charity itself, and rains from heaven “upon the just and unjust,” is permitted to take, the vengeance of returning good for evil. He obtains a greater victory, who conquers himself, than does he who overcomes cities. “Better is he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh cities.”—(Prov. 16:32).

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Romans Chapter 11

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 30, 2019

Scripture links are to the Douay Rheims translation

The Apostle, having pointed out, in the two preceding chapters, the rejection of the Jews, and the vocation of the Gentiles to the faith, employs this chapter in offering consolation to the Jews, and in repressing the arrogance and boasting of the Gentile converts. He consoles the Jews by showing, that all the Jewish people are not rejected from the faith (Rom 11:1–5). But although some are saved, he does not conceal from them the painful fact, that these are only the remnant, while the great bulk of them are reprobated, according to the predictions of the prophets (Rom 11:6–10). At verse 11, the Apostle proposes a second question similar to that proposed (1), where the question regarded the number of the Jews rejected. Here the question regards the duration or period of the rejection of the greater portion; and, he answers, by saying, that this rejection shall not always continue. He adduces several reasons to show, that, at a future day, the great bulk of the Jews will be again called to the faith, and admitted to the divine favour. The first reason is grounded on the designs of God in calling the Gentiles, in order to provoke the Jews to emulation. The next reason is grounded on the advantages this conversion of the Jews would bring to the entire world (Rom 11:12). Again, he derives a reason from the designs of the Apostle himself in their regard (Rom 11:13-15). Again, he argues from the extrinsic moral consecration of the Jews in the patriarchs, from whom they sprang, and in the Apostles and first faithful who are of the same race with them (16); and after adducing several reasons why the Gentiles should not boast against the Jews, both on the grounds of benefits received from them (Rom 11:18), and of holy fear (Rom 11:19–22), he finally announces as a certain fact, that all the Jews will be converted, at some future day (Rom 11:25–29), and that the same economy of Providence will be observed towards them, that had been observed in regard to the Gentiles (Rom 11:30-31). Unable to fathom this mysterious Providence, he bursts forth into the exclamation, “O the depth!” &c.—(Rom 11:33-36).

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

Rom 11:1. (I have already said that God has rejected the Jews), but now, I ask, is the rejection, of which I have spoken, to be understood of the entire Jewish people? By no means. This is clear in my own person, who am an Israelite, carnally descended from Abraham, and of the tribe of Benjamin (yet still, I am a Christian and an Apostle of Christ).

As is clear from the Apostle’s own person, God has not altogether cast off and rejected his people; for he himself, although a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, is an Apostle of Christ.

Rom 11:2. God has not rejected such of his people as he has loved by an eternal predilection; or, such of his people as he foresaw would embrace his faith. You are not ignorant of what the Scripture records in the history of Elijah (2 Kings 19), when addressing the Lord against Israel, he accuses them all of having fallen away from the worship of the true God.

“Which he foreknew,” admits of two interpretations (as in Pharaphrase). “Know you not,” &c. What happened in the days of Elijah, addressing the Lord against Israel, when, under the impious Jezebel, the true adorers were persecuted, is a perfect exemplification of the present state of things. “Even so then, at this time,” &c., Rom 11:5. “Know you not … saith of Elijah?” In Greek, ἐν Ἠλείᾳ, “in Elijah,” which means in the history of Elijah.

Rom 11:3. Lord, they have slain thy prophets, they have dug down thy altars; I am the only true worshipper left, and they seek my life.

“They have dug down thy altars,” in contempt of thee. These are the altars which were constructed in the high places of the ten tribes of Israel, at the time they were not allowed to go to the temple, on which occasion the law prohibiting them (Deut 16:2), probably was relaxed. Their subversion by Achab and Jezabel was impious, because the act was done in hatred and contempt of God and the divine worship, although their subversion by Ezechias and Josias, from an opposite motive, on the grounds that they were forbidden (Deut 16), was an act of piety. “And I am left alone.” “Alone” refers to the true worshippers, as if he said, “I am the only true adorer left,” rather than to the Prophets, as is clear from the answer, next verse, “seven thousand” true worshippers. However, by connecting it with the preceding, it may refer to the Prophets.—(Beelen).

Rom 11:4. But what answer did the divine oracle make to those complaints of Elijah? You are not the only worshipper left me; through my all powerful grace I have still reserved for myself seven (i.e., many) thousand true adorers, who have neither been seduced nor intimidated to pay divine honours to the idol of Baal.

“The divine answer.” The Greek for these words, χρηματισμος, means, “the oracle.” “I have left me.” These words show the power of divine grace. “Seven thousand men,” not to speak of women and children. “Seven” in scriptural usage, means a great number; hence, “seven thousand” means a great many thousands, “that have not bowed their knees,” i.e., paid divine honours and rendered adoration, of which “bending the knee,” is a sign. “To Baal;” in the Greek, “Baal” has the feminine article prefixed, τῆ Βααλ, although, to the word “Baal” the masculine article is everywhere prefixed by the Septuagint: and in the Hebrew, it has the masculine plural, Belahim. Baal was the God of the Tyrians and Sidonians. Hence, it is probable that the feminine article here affects some word understood: “the statue or idol (εικονι) of Baal.”

Objection.—Does it not clearly follow from this passage, that the true Church can sometimes become invisible?

Resp.—All that would follow at most is, that the Jewish Church could cease to be visible. Nor does even this follow; for, at the very time that Elias uttered these complaints, regarding the separated ten tribes of Israel, the Jewish Church was in a most flourishing condition under Ezechias, in the kingdom of Juda.

Rom 11:5. Now, what the Scripture records of Elijah on the occasion referred to, is a perfect representation of the state of the Jewish people at the present day, of whom the remnant, consisting of a great many, are saved, according to the gratuitous election of God calling them to grace.

Here the Apostle applies the quotation from Elias to the present state of the Jewish people. In like manner, although the great bulk of the Jewish people are now rejected, the remnant, consisting of a great many, are saved. “According to the (gratuitous) election of grace.” Our election to the grace of first justification is, on the part of God, quite gratuitous, and quite independent of our actions. “There is a remnant saved;” “saved” is not in the Greek, which simply is, λεμμα γεγονεν, “there is a remnant.”

Rom 11:6. If, then, this election and call be from grace, and quite gratuitous, it is not from works establishing a strict claim, independent of grace; otherwise, grace would cease to be grace, i.e., quite gratuitous.

If, then, “it is by grace” that our election is effected, “it is not now by works,” i.e., by works in which grace has no share, such as the works performed by the sole aid of nature or the law of Moses. To this verse are added, in some Greek copies, the words, “but if it be of works, then it is no more grace, otherwise work is no more work.” In the Vatican MSS. it is “otherwise work is no more grace.” These words are wanting in some of the chief MSS. acde.

Queritur.—In the work of our justification, are not acts of faith, hope, repentance &c., which are elicited under the influence of divine grace, indispensable on our part according to Catholic doctrine? And does not the Apostle exclude these also?

Resp.—If these works precede first justification, as it is termed, or the infusion of that sanctifying grace which, from a state of sin, transfers man to a state of justice, they establish no right or claim whatsoever to justification; because, even after their performance, the infusion of sanctifying grace is quite gratuitous on the part of God; these acts are mere necessary dispositions, establishing no claim to justification. If these works follow first justification, they establish a claim to, and merit, second justification, or an increase of sanctifying grace, owing to God’s liberal and gratuitous promise. But, still, they do not exclude gratuitousness; for, besides their requiring, in order to be meritorious, that they should be performed by a man in the state of sanctifying grace, and acting under the influence of actual grace, it was quite gratuitous on the part of God, to bind himself by the promise of giving them a reward, to which they would not be otherwise strictly entitled.

Rom 11:7. What, then, do I teach? It is this: that the great bulk of the Jewish people, owing to their adoption of erroneous means, and owing to their relying too confidently on the works of the law as giving a claim to justification, thereby excluding the gratuitous election of God, have not obtained the justice for which they sought; whereas, the portion of them that were elected, in consequence of having placed no positive obstacle to God’s gratuitous election, have obtained it; the rest are blinded and hardened.

“But the election,” i.e., the portion of them elected. The abstract is used for the concrete. “The rest have been blinded” (in Greek, επωρωθησαν, hardened), or have hardened themselves by their incredulity and impenitence.

Rom 11:8. This is in accordance with the prediction of the prophet (Isa 29:10), wherein it is said of those who obstinately rebel against Christ: God hath permitted them to fall into a state of spiritual torpor and insensibility; so that, having eyes they see not, and having ears they hear not; and this very spirit of insensibility and stupefaction has seized upon them, in regard to Christ, unto the present day.

“As it is written,” i.e., agreeably to what is written. “God hath given them the spirit of insensibility.” In the Vulgate version of Isa 29:10, for, “the spirit of insensibility,” we have “the spirit of a deep sleep;” in Greek, κατανυξεως, and this is the meaning of the corresponding Hebrew word, thardemah. In several passages of SS. Scripture (v.g.), in Genesis, 2, it denotes the deep sleep of Adam; and also in Genesis 15, 1 Sam 26:6, it means the state of insensibility into which are cast those who are immersed in heavy sleep; whose senses are so perfectly numbed as to be incapable of seeing or hearing. The Vulgate expression, compunctionis, denotes the state of a man whose eyes and ears are transpierced, so as to be rendered incapable of seeing or hearing. The words, “hath given them,” according to the common opinion of Commentators, only imply sufferance on the part of God; the spiritual effect would most infallibly result from the subtraction of God’s lights and graces. “Until this present day.” These words are not found in Isaias. Hence it is, some say that the words are quoted from Deut 29:4. It may be, that the words are not strictly a quotation at all, but merely contain an allusion to several passages of Scripture. This passage furnishes no argument against the theological opinion—viz., that the obdurati and obcæcati all receive, proximately or remotely, sufficient graces; since obduracy will result from the withdrawal of efficacious graces, even though a man thus hardened should still have sufficient graces.

Rom 11:9. And David predicted a like judgment regarding them, when, in conformity with the will of God executing it, he prays (Psalm 69:23), Let their table, i.e., what was to serve for the spiritual aliment of their souls, be converted into a snare and a trap, whereby they may be caught; and into a stumbling-block of offence; and let that happen them, in punishment of their obstinacy and abuse of divine grace.

He adduces the testimony of David also to prove that the blindness of the Jews was predicted. “Let their table,” &c. These words are generally understood to be spoken by David, in the person of Christ, to the mysteries of whose life, and death, and resurrection, the entire Psalm 69, in its mystical sense, refers. The words may be regarded as a prophecy, which, in conformity with God’s will, the Psalmist wishes to be accomplished, or as a prophetical sentence of punishment, which the Redeemer, in whose person David speaks, pronounces as God, against his persecutors. By “their talk,” are generally understood the SS. Scriptures, which were spread out before the Jews, as a spiritual aliment, to nourish their souls. These Scriptures, given to the Jews for their instruction, were converted by them into sources of error, by wilfully misinterpreting the passage relating to the Messiah, and accommodating them to their own carnal conceptions and earthly expectations.

Rom 11:10. By the subtraction of divine grace, let the eyes of their intellect be darkened, and let them groan under the grievous burden of spiritual servitude, having their heart and will always bent on earth, without aspiring after heavenly things.

This, as well as the preceding verse, refers to the punishment of blindness of intellect, and obduracy of heart, with which the obstinate Jews were visited, owing to the subtraction of God’s efficacious graces. “And bow down their back always.” These words express the insatiable desire for earthly riches, which is a distinguishing characteristic of the Jews in every quarter of the globe, and which makes them indifferent to heavenly and everlasting goods, in the anticipated enjoyment and hopes of which, Christians, on the other hand, have their “conversation in heaven,” and their longing desires directed thither.

Rom 11:11. But I ask, although all the Jewish people are not rejected from the faith, is not the fall and rejection of the greater portion irretrievable, so as to leave no hope of the nation at large being called at some future day? By no means God has made their transgression and incredulity the occasion of the vocation of the Gentiles; and this call of the Gentiles is designed for bringing the Jews to the faith by exciting in them a spiritual emulation towards the converted Gentiles.

The Apostle takes occasion from the foregoing verses, wherein he proves that the judgment of spiritual blindness and hardness of heart, predicted by the prophet, had been fully inflicted on the greater part of the Jewish people, to ask another question similar to that proposed (verse 1). Although all the Jewish people are not rejected, are not, at least, the greater number rejected, so as to leave no hope that the great majority of the nation shall ever again, at any future period, be called? The Apostle answers, “God forbid,” or, by no means. And he assigns for reason—1st, that in the designs of God, the call of the Gentiles, to which the “offence,” or incredulous obstinacy of the Jews gave occasion, was intended to bring the Jews back again, by exciting them to spiritual emulation towards the converted Gentiles, to whom they would see their own birthright transferred; and thus, they would embrace the faith in order that they too might participate in the Divine promises. “That they may be emulous of them.” In this English construction, the words, “that they may be emulous,” refer to the Jews, whereas, the construction should more probably be, that they (the Gentiles) may provoke them (the Jews) to emulation. Of course, there is no difference of meaning between both constructions, but the latter is more in accordance with the Greek, εἰς τὸ παραζηλῶσαι αὐτούς.

Rom 11:12. Another reason which warrants us in hoping for their future restoration, is this: that if the fall of the Jews has become the occasion of the spiritual enrichment of the world, and the rejection of the unbelieving Jews the occasion of enriching the Gentiles, how much more shall the full conversion of the great mass of the Jewish nation enrich the world and the Gentiles?

The second reason, why we are not to look on the Jews as irretrievably lost, but on the contrary, should hope for the conversion of the great bulk of the nation at a future day, is, that from their full conversion we should expect the results, which it is directly calculated to produce, and that have already, as a matter of accident, sprung from their rejection, viz., the spiritual enrichment of the Gentiles, and of the entire world. The word “riches” means enrichment, of which the reprobation of the Jews was only the accidental cause, in regard to the Gentiles; whereas, their conversion is directly calculated to produce that effect.

Rom 11:13. And, so far as my own views and convictions on the subject are concerned, I have no difficulty in declaring to you, Gentile converts, that in honouring the ministry to which I am specially called among you,
Rom 11:14. I have in view to provoke to holy emulation my relations according to the flesh, and to place some of them in the way of salvation, by embracing the faith.

The Apostle draws a third argument of the reparability of their fall from his own designs towards them, even while he was preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles, whose Apostle he was in a special manner, and while he was honouring his ministry by his zeal, miracles, and sanctity of life and conversation. The Greek word for, “as long as,” εφʼ ὅσον, might be rendered, inasmuch as. “I will honour,” in Greek, δοξαζω, I honour. The change of tense, however, does not affect the meaning. Some persons place these two verses in a parenthesis, on account of the close connexion in sense which verse 15 has with verse 12. There is no necessity for this, if we adopt the connexion already given, and make these verses convey an additional reason of the reparability of the Jews, derived from the Apostle’s own designs in their regard. “Them who are my flesh,” refers to the Jews—his countrymen—to whose race he belonged. “And save some of them,” i.e., place some of them in the way of salvation, by inducing them to embrace the faith. From these words it is plain that the Apostle, in the preceding part of his Epistle, is treating of vocation to, and rejection from grace, since if he regarded the Jews as rejected from glory, all his efforts for their salvation would be quite useless and abortive.

Rom 11:15. For, if their rejection on account of unbelief has been the occasion of reconciling the world with God, what else shall their conversion be, but the total spiritual resuscitation of the entire earth?

“But life from the dead.” In the Paraphrase is adopted the interpretation which makes these words to mean, that the conversion of the Jews will be nothing else than the total resuscitation from spiritual death of the entire earth, which, till then, shall be partly involved in the death of sin and infidelity. In this interpretation, there is allusion to the spiritual resurrection, which it is not unusual with the Apostle to regard as the final complement of spiritual death to sin, or as the perfection of the grace of justification. Others attach a different meaning to the passage. According to them the words express the highest degree of happiness and joy, such as the resuscitation of a dear friend from the grave is calculated to engender.

Rom 11:16. Another reason for expecting their conversion is, that they have already a sort of extrinsic sanctity imparted to them by the holy patriarchs from whom they have sprung, and by the Apostles the first fruits, who first embraced the faith, just as the mass from which the first fruits are taken is, therefore, in some measure, consecrated, and as the branches partake of the qualities of their root; and hence, we ought naturally to expect, that this external consecration of the Jews in their first fruits, and in the root from which they sprang, shall be completed by the internal sanctity which flows from grace and faith.

The Jews are, in an external way, a holy race, by being descended from the patriarchs, and by being of the same stock with the Apostles, &c.; nay, it is to them we are indebted for our Divine Redeemer, quia salus ex Judæis est (John 4:22), and hence, we are naturally to expect that this external sanctity shall be completed by internal grace. The consecration of the first fruits imparts a sort of moral external sanctity to the entire mass, rendering it fit for human uses, and the root imparts its qualities to the branches; so is it with the Jews; and hence, we should hope for their perfect sanctification in future.

Rom 11:17. And although some of the natural branches are broken off from the parent trunk, and thou, O Gentile! being merely a wild olive branch, art ingrafted among, the remaining branches of that tree whose root is holy, and art thus made to partake of the fat of the root of the olive.

“And if some,” &c. The sense is suspended until we come to the words, next verse, “boast not against the branches.” The Apostle wishes to repress the boasting of the Gentiles by reminding them of their natural condition; they were only the branches of the “wild olive;” they were like a wild and unfruitful olive, sprung from an infidel and idolatrous root, from which they could derive no sap of divine grace; and it was only by being inserted among the branches of the garden olive, that they were made partakers of the rich juice, which the root of the olive imparts to its branches; in other words, the Gentiles, by being received into the body of the Church through faith, were made partakers along with Jews of the spirit of faith and grace which the patriarchs possessed.

Rom 11:18. You should not, on that account, boast against, nor despise, the natural branches that have been rejected. But should you still continue to boast, you must bear in mind, that it is from the Jewish root you derive support and nourishment; from it you have derived the spirit of faith: it supports you, and not you it.

“Boast not against the branches.” These words conclude the sense suspended throughout the preceding verse. “But if thou boast,” i.e., if, notwithstanding the consideration of thy natural state, of which thou hast been reminded in the preceding verse, thou still dost continue to boast, see what matter you have for boasting, when you call to mind, that it is not thou that imparts juice and nutriment to the Jewish root; but, on the contrary, it is it that supports and nourishes thee; you owe the Jews everything; they owe you nothing. The Church of God is the fruitful olive—the roots of which are the patriarchs and apostles, the richness and juice of it is the abundance of the grace of the Holy Ghost, which the apostles enjoyed beyond all others; each believing Jew was a branch. Some were broken off on account of their incredulity, and we, Gentiles, ingrafted in their stead, were made partakers of the grace of the Holy Ghost, associated with the prophets, patriarchs, and apostles.

Rom 11:19. But perhaps you will say, and make this the matter for boasting: the natural branches have been broken off in order that I, the Gentile, may be ingrafted in their place.

But, perhaps, you may be still inclined to glory against and insult the Jews, on the ground that God rejected them, and received you in preference.

Rom 11:20. Well, be it so; but remember, that they were broken off in consequence of their obstinate unbelief. And thou hast been ingrafted into the olive, and art firmly united to it by faith, and shouldst not, therefore, be proud, but rather fear, lest, like them, thou shouldst be broken off in punishment of having fallen away from the faith.

“Well,” i.e., admitting this to be the case, you should still bear in mind that the same thing that happened to them may much more easily happen to you; for, as it was owing to their unbelief they were rejected, and as it is owing to thy faith thou dost continue in the divine favour to which thou hast been admitted, and remainest firmly united to the true olive, thou shouldst not make this the occasion of pride, but rather fear, lest, losing this gift of faith, thou too mayest be cast off. Hence, faith is admissible, as is evidently implied here by the Apostle.

Rom 11:21. For, if God hath not spared the natural branches, but has cast them off, take care, lest he may not spare thee either, shouldst thou fall away from the faith.

For, if God rejected the Jews, the natural descendants of the patriarchs, on account of their unbelief, thou shouldst take care, lest, falling from the faith, thou too mayest meet with the like treatment. We are here reminded of the absolute necessity of Christian humility as the guardian of faith; although God may have favoured one man beyond another, he should not, on that account, boast or entertain feelings of pride, but with all humility and fear give God thanks; and he should tremble, lest, in punishment of sin, God may desert him also, and abandon him to the dominion of his passions and his natural blindness of heart.

Rom 11:22. In order, therefore, that laying aside all feelings of pride, thou shouldst with all humility, give God thanks, consider, on the one side, the severity of God towards the unbelieving, whom he cast off, and on the other, his goodness towards thee who believest; but see that thou persevere in the state in which the goodness of God has placed thee, and correspond with it by faith and good works; otherwise thou also shalt be cut of and rejected.

In order to express all feelings of pride on the part of the Gentile converts, and induce them to give God thanks with humility and fear, he calls upon them to consider “the severity of God” towards the Jews whom he has rejected, and “his goodness” towards themselves, whom he has called. “If thou abide in goodness,” i.e., if thou continue in that state in which the goodness of God has placed thee, and correspond by faith and good works with this goodness; it is only on this condition his goodness will permanently avail thee, otherwise thou, too, like the Jews, shalt be cut off and cast away. Perseverance, as is clear from this text, is the surest sign of predestination; but of it no one can be certain, as appears also from this passage. Of course, it is not here implied that the entire Church would be “cut off,” the indefectibility of the Church being clearly promised in SS. Scripture; but each one in particular may fall off; and, hence, all in general should fear that which may happen to each individual.

Rom 11:23. But the Jews also, should they not persevere in unbelief, shall again be ingrafted on the olive of the Church; for, God, is not only able, but also desirous to do so. The resistance of their stubborn will is an obstacle to his so doing at present.

They, by receding from their unbelief, and by not opposing their stubborn wills to the operation of divine grace, shall be inserted on the true olive of the Church; for, God is not only able, but willing to do so, the obstacle of their opposing wills being removed. The word “able,” implies more than bare power—it implies a desire also on the part of God. By the very fact of receding from incredulity and embracing the faith, the Jews would be ingrafted on the true olive; nor does the Apostle suppose that one would really precede the other, but he employs a mode of speaking which would apparently imply this, for the purpose of showing the co-operation of man’s free will, as well in embracing the faith, as in rejecting it, by positive unbelief.

Rom 11:24. For, if thou, O Gentile! were cut out of the wild and unfruitful olive, and hast been, contrary to, and losing the nature of thine origin, ingrafted on the garden olive, whose nature and qualities thou hast assumed, how much more easily may not the Jews, the natural branches, be ingrafted again on the parent olive to which they belonged.

The words, “contrary to nature,” mean, as in Paraphrase, that the wild olive branch has lost its own nature by being grafted on the garden olive, and acquired a new nature—viz., that of the true olive, on which it was ingrafted; or, the words may mean, that the natural order observed by husbandmen in the process of ingrafting young shoots, which is to graft good twigs on barren, useless trunks, is here inverted by their being ingrafted on good fruitful trunks, which is a proof of the excessive love of God for the Gentiles. The former interpretation seems preferable as being more in accordance with the antithesis which, in the Greek, is clearly observable between the branches that “are contrary to nature,” and “according to nature.”

Rom 11:25. For, I would not have you ignorant, brethren, of a secret truth (and my object in revealing it to you is, to prevent your boasting of your faith, and insolently glorying against the Jews). The secret truth which I wish to disclose to you is this, that blindness and hardness of heart happened to the greater part of Israel, and shall continue, until the full number of the Gentiles, who are to believe, shall have entered the Church.

The Apostle now adds, to the preceding reasons, which would afford probable grounds to hope for the future conversion of the Jews, the sure and unerring words of prophecy. He now says, it is not merely a thing that may possibly or probably take place, but he announces it as a certain truth: and this he calls a “mystery,” i.e., a hidden truth hitherto secret and concealed. “That blindness in part has happened in Israel.” The Greek word for “blindness” means “hardness;” however, the meaning is the same, when referred to the mind, “in part,” refers to the Jews; and of them to even the greater portion, although the Apostle omits saying so expressly, “until the fulness of the Gentiles,” i.e., all the Gentiles that are to be converted, shall enter the fold of the Church.

Rom 11:26. And after that, not the remnant, as now, but the great mass of the Jewish people shall be converted and saved, according to the prediction of the prophet (Isa 59): There shall come out of Sion, he that shall deliver and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.

“And so,” i.e., and then, or after that, “all Israel,” and not the remnant as now, but the great bulk of the nation, “the fulness” (verse 12), which refers to the great or moral mass of them, for, no doubt, some will continue in their incredulity. The words “all Israel,” are understood by some Commentators to refer to spiritual Israel, consisting of converted Jews and Gentiles; the number shall be completed after the plenitude of the Gentiles, the last called, shall have entered the Church. The opinion, however, which understands the words of carnal Israel, or the Jewish people, is far more probable from the entire context of this chapter (verses 12, 15, 23, 24), in which it is implied throughout, that the great mass of the Jews would be converted, but the matter is placed beyond all doubt, in verse 25, in which there is question of carnal Israel, as well as in the foregoing verses. In truth, in this and the preceding chapters, there is question of carnal Israel alone.

“There shall come out of Sion,” &c., i.e., from the tribe of Juda which dwells in Sion, shall come forth, Christ, who “shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob,” i.e., from all the tribes in Israel. This testimony is taken from Isa 59:20, according to the Septuagint version, with this slight difference, that for “out of Sion,” the Septuagint has ἐνεκα Σιων, “on account of,” or, “for Sion.” However, this change might be caused by the negligence of transcribers; or, St. Paul may have in view, in quoting this passage, the other passages, wherein it was said that the Redeemer was to come “from Sion.” The argument drawn by the Apostle from Isaias is this: whereas at the first coming of Christ this prophecy was not fulfilled (for, then, the mere remnant was saved); it must, therefore, refer to his second coming, when all the Jews shall be saved.

Rom 11:27. And this my covenant, which I have established with them, and which I will fulfil in taking away their sins.

“And this is to them my covenant.” These words are taken from the same passage of Isaias, verse 21, although the passage is left incomplete, and to be supplied by the reader—a thing not unusual with Jewish writers. “When I shall take away their sins.” These words are added by the Apostle as explanatory of the convenant; it consisted in “taking away their sins,” which is nearly a repetition of the words, “he shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.” From this passage, and from Malachi 4:5-6, is firmly established the tradition of the Church, regarding the conversion of the Jewish people at the end of the world; all the Jews shall be converted, except the tribe of Dan, which is not mentioned in the numbers of those signed of the tribes of Israel.—(Rev 7). From the same tribe, as is generally supposed, shall spring Antichrist, whom, it is thought, the Danites will follow to the rejection of the true preachers of the Gospel.

Rom 11:28. Looking to the gospel to which they have given such violent and obstinate opposition, the Jews are enemies of God, and hated by him; and this obstinacy on their part turns to your good, since it is the occasion of the preaching of the gospel among you; but, looking to the election of God, in selecting the Jews as his chosen people, and determining to call them at the end of the world; in that respect, they are beloved by God, on account of the love he bore their fathers.

Although hated by God in one respect, as obstinately opposing the Gospel—and this was of advantage to the Gentiles, because it served as the occasion for having the Gospel preached to them—still, in another respect, i.e., in respect of their election, as the posterity of a people chosen by God to be peculiarly his own, they are beloved.

Rom 11:29. For, the absolute and unconditional gifts and promises of God (such is the promise in question regarding the future call of the Jews), are unalterable, and shall surely be carried into effect.

The absolute and unconditional promises of God are irrevocable: such is the promise made by God to the patriarchs that he would not cast off their seed for ever. Such promises proceeding from election shall not be frustrated in their effect by the sins of men. Numquid incredulitas illorum fidem Dei evacuabit? (Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?)—(Rom 3:3).

Rom 11:30. For, as you, O Gentiles! were at one time incredulous, but now, by occasion of the incredulity of the Jews, have been brought by the divine mercy to the gratuitous gift of God;

He shows from the economy of God towards the Gentiles, how the same is to be exercised towards the Jews. The Gentiles “obtained mercy,” i.e., faith; which, on account of its perfect gratuitousness, is called “mercy.” “Through their unbelief,” i.e., through the occasion of the obstinacy of the Jews in rejecting the Gospel.

Rom 11:31. So are we also to judge, that the same economy has been carried out respecting the Jews, viz., that they are for a time permitted to fall into incredulity respecting the gospel and its extension to you, that they, too, may experience the mercy of God and acknowledge it, after being immersed in spiritual misery.

In like manner, we are warranted in supposing, that God exercised the same economy towards the Jews, permitting them to fall into incredulity regarding the Gospel and its extension to the Gentiles, in order that they, too, having had experience of their own misery and degradation, would find mercy with God, which they will more freely acknowledge, after seeing the misery wherein they were involved.

Rom 11:32. Thus, therefore, by a wonderful and mysterious order of Providence, God has suffered all classes of men, both Jews and Gentiles successively, to fall into infidelity, and left them shut up in the common prison of error, in order that he might show his mercy on them, and make them conscious from a sense of their miseries, that they owed all to his grace.

“Hath concluded,” i.e., permitted them to be shut up in the common prison of infidelity, into which, without his grace, they would infallibly fall; and out of which his grace alone could rescue them; hence, he is said “to conclude,” or shut them up, and this he did, in order that his great mercy would be made more evident by the greatness of their wants. “All in unbelief,” τους παντας, all men, Jews and Gentiles, εις απειθειαν, unto unbelief, in incredulitatem, like the phrase, conclusit in carcerem. Here the Apostle closes the dogmatic part of this Epistle as he began it, by pointing out the sinful state of Jew and Gentile left to themselves without God’s grace, neither of whom, therefore, had any good works which would establish a claim to the grace of justification: and what he says in the beginning of the Epistle regarding the many enormous crimes of the Pagan philosophers, &c., is here exemplified by the sin of infidelity, of which all, both Jew and Gentile, were guilty. At the beginning of the world, all lived in the true religion. The Gentiles first fell into idolatry. God made a covenant with the Jews through Abraham and Moses, and they worshipped the true God: they afterwards rejected Christ. The Gentiles were called to the Gospel and the Jews rejected. The Gentiles, at the end of the world, shall fall away (2 Thess. chap. 2), and the Jews shall be converted. Who, in considering these things, should not fear and tremble for his salvation?

Rom 11:33. As we cannot fathom or penetrate this mysterious economy of Providence, we can only exclaim in amazement: O the profound abyss of the mercy, and of the wisdom, and of the knowledge of God! How incomprehensible are his judgments and decrees, and how unsearchable are his ways in carrying his decrees into execution.

The Apostle, unable to fathom this mysterious Providence of God in the rejection and vocation of both Jews and Gentiles, and wishing to teach us to submit our judgment to the decrees of Providence, be they ever so incomprehensible, recoils with sacred horror from further examination of the matter, and oppressed with the majesty of glory, bursts into the exclamation: “O the depths, of the riches!” i.e., of his mercy displayed in the vocation of Jew and Gentile, though both had sinned, and had no claim on him. “The wisdom” in drawing good out of evil, making the obstinate incredulity of the Jew the occasion of calling the Gentile, and the envy of the Jew at the call of the Gentile, the occasion of his conversion. “And of the science” displayed in the knowledge of all things future. In the Paraphrase, the Greek construction has been adopted: “O the depth of the riches and of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God!” is the reading of ail Greek copies; but in our Vulgate, the word “riches” is not separated from “wisdom” and “science;” and the words appear to mean, “the riches of the wisdom,” and “the riches of the science,” i.e., the exceedingly rich wisdom and science. However, the three distinct questions in verses 34, 35, would appear to-correspond with the three qualities expressed in the Greek.

Rom 11:34. For who ever has known the mind of the Lord?—or who is it that has shared in his counsels?

“Who hath known,” &c., refers to his “knowledge,” or, “who hath been his counsellor,” to his “wisdom.”

Rom 11:35. Or who gave God anything first, so that God would be bound to make a return?

“Or who hath first given to him,” &c., refers to the “riches” of his mercy, which in all the affairs of creatures He can exercise, subject to no claim, since God owes his sinful creatures no exercise of mercy.

Rom 11:36. Since from God, as Creator and first source, all things have emanated; by him as Preserver, or, by his Providence, all things subsist and are preserved in existence; and to him, as their Final End, all things tend; or, in him, all things exist and are contained. To him alone, therefore, are due honour, praise, and glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

“For of him,” as Creator and first source, and “by him,” as preserving by his Providence, “and in him,” as the end for which he created all things, universa propter semetipsum operatus est Dominus (Prov. 16); or, as in the Greek, εις αυτον, “unto him,” as their last end, all things tend. Some Expositors apply each of them, by appropriation, to the three distinct Persons of the adorable Trinity: “of him,” to the Father; “by him,” to the Son; and “in him” to the Holy Ghost. “To him be glory.” Many Commentators assert that the sacred doxology, “Glory be to the Father,” &c., took its rise in the Church from the example of St. Paul here, and the common institution of the Apostles; and that in the Council of Nice, a.d. 325, was added: “As it was in the beginning is now, and ever more shall be, world without end, Amen,” in order to refute the impiety of the Arians, who asserted, erat, quando non erat, i.e., there was a time, when the Son existed not.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Romans Chapter 10

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 23, 2019

Scripture links are to the Douay Rheims translation

In this chapter, the Apostle continues the subject of the rejection of the Jews, and dilates on the cause of this rejection, as assigned, verse 30, of the preceding; but in order to remove the harshness involved in the announcement of the rejection of the Jews, he expresses his affectionate feelings towards them, and his anxious desire for their salvation (verse 1). He bears testimony to their zeal—a zeal, however, which missed its true object, Christ (Rom 10:1–4). Having referred (verse 3), to the system of justice at variance with the true justice of God, which the Jews vainly endeavoured to establish, he proves from Moses the superiority of the justice by faith (Rom 10:5–8), and he reduces the duties of a Christian life to two heads, faith in the heart and its external profession, both of which, of course, accompanied with the other conditions which faith prescribes, confer justice on all men, without distinction of Jew or Gentile (Rom 10:8–13).

He takes occasion to justify his mission of preaching among the Gentiles, since otherwise they would not become partakers of the blessings which God had designed for them as well as for the Jews (Rom 10:14–16). He shows, from Moses and Isaias, that God had determined to call the Gentiles, and to reject the Jews, on account of their obstinacy and resistance to his gracious calls and invitations (Rom 10:17–21).

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

Rom 10:1. Brethren (these matters I mention not from feelings of dislike, but rather of commiseration), since I entertain for them, i.e., the Israelites, the most heartfelt benevolence, and an ardent desire for their salvation, and in consequence, I continually pray to God for them.

The Apostle here expresses his affection and solicitude for the salvation of his Jewish brethren. “Is for them unto salvation,” in the ordinary Greek it is, ὑπὲρ του Ἰσραὴλ, “for Israel unto salvation.” There is no difference in the sense, since it is clear from the context, that “for them,” refers to the Israelites. Moreover, the chief MSS. have ὑπὲρ αυτῶν. The word “is” is wanting in the chief MSS. From the prayers of the Apostle for the conversion of the Jews is derived a probable argument to prove that in these chapters there is question, not of predestination to, or reprobation from, glory, but only of the grace of justification. In the prayers of St. Paul for the conversion of his Jewish brethren, the pastor of souls is furnished with the most affecting example of praying earnestly for the spiritual welfare of his people.

Rom 10:2. For (without excusing their incredulity) I bear witness to their great zeal for God’s honour, a zeal, however, not regulated by the proper knowledge, but rather directed to a wrong end, and to a false object.

Without excusing their obstinate incredulity, which, considering the evidences of our Redeemer’s mission, was inexcusable, “now they have no excuse for their sin,” (John 15:22), he commends their good qualities; “but not according to knowledge.” Their zeal was not regulated by the proper knowledge; it was directed to a wrong object; its end was the Mosaic law, or justification through the works performed by the sole aid of the Mosaic law, which was a mistaken application of their zeal. How necessary prudence, as a quality of zeal, is, in order that our labours in the cause of God should prove beneficial. There is nothing more ruinous in its consequences, than the indiscreet exercise of intemperate, ill-regulated zeal. The proper exercise of charitable zeal never deals perversely.—(1 Cor. 13).

Rom 10:3. For, not knowing the true justice which God bestows on us gratuitously through faith, and vainly endeavouring to establish a justifying system of their own, at variance with the system of justification established by God, far from submitting to, they reject, this true justice of God given through faith in Christ.

This verse serves as a clear elucidation of the meaning of Rom 9:31, “Seeking to establish their own,” to which is added, in the common Greek, “justice,” but it is not found in the chief MSS., which support the Vulgate.

Rom 10:4. They seem ignorant that the scope to which the law tends, the ultimate end to which it conducts us, is Christ, who alone confers real and internal justice, which is derived from faith in him by every believer.

That they were ignorant of the justice of God, is clear from the fact of their rejecting Christ, who is “the end of the law,” τελος νομου, i.e., the scope to which it tends. The law was never intended to be the ultimate resting-place, in which men were to find true justice; the term, or, “the end,” to which it was to bring us, “is Christ;” similar is the idea (Gal. 3:24), “the law was our pedagogue in Christ.” Others, by “the end of the law,” understood the fulfilment of the law; and then, Christ is the end of the law, because it is only by his grace that the law can be fulfilled; and this grace for fulfilling the entire law, comes through faith, since faith was at all times, even under the Old Law, necessary for justification. Others understand by it the termination of the law which was accomplished in Christ, and ceased at his coming.

Rom 10:5. Now, Moses pointed out the clearest difference and opposition between the justice of the law and that of faith, and gives a decided preference to the latter. Of the justice resulting from the external observance of the law, he says: “the man that shall do it,” (thereby implying difficulty and work to be done), “shall live by it,” i.e., shall not forfeit his temporal life, the forfeiture of which was the punishment annexed to the violation of the law, thereby assigning it for reward, temporal life.

Some Interpreters understand, by “the justice which is of the law,” mere external justice before men, and connect this verse with verse 3, thus: they are ignorant of the true justice of God, and establish a justice of their own; now, Moses pointed out a clear difference, &c.—(Vide Paraphrase). In this interpretation, “the justice which is of the law,” does not necessarily extend to all the precepts of the law, but to its more prominent precepts, to the external violation of which death is annexed, and by the observance of which, man shall escape the punishment of death, “he shall live in it,” though he might, in thought and will, violate them and incur the guilt of their violation before God. This opinion is rendered very probable by the evident contrast which the Apostle draws between this justice and that from faith.

Others make this “justice which is of the law,” refer to true justice arising from the observance of the law, factores legis justificabuntur—(Rom 2:13). These connect this verse with verse 4, thus: the end of the law is Christ, since without him it could not be observed, and to its observance Moses attributes eternal life (verse 5), while in regard to the justice of faith, he merely treats of it as easy of attainment (verses 6-7). If the antithesis clearly instituted by the Apostle between the justice or the law and that of faith could be borne out in this latter interpretation, it would seem preferable to the former, inasmuch as we never find the Apostle ascribing any reward to the justice said to arise from works performed by the sole aid of the natural law, or the law of Moses, which would be conveyed in the words, “shall live in it,” according to the former interpretation: but, as this antithesis is excluded, the former interpretation is preferred in the Paraphrase. It might be also said in support of the interpretation adopted in the Paraphrase, that the Apostle is only quoting Moses, and that he even wishes to depreciate the justice of the law, which merely has for recompense temporal life, while he extols true justice on two grounds—1st, on the ground of its facility (verses 6-8), and 2ndly, on account of its eternal reward, “thou shalt be saved,” (verse 9).

Rom 10:6. Whereas, in speaking of the justice coming through faith (to which his words—Deut. 30—in their mystical signification refer), he says, “who shall ascend into heaven,” in order to bring down Christ, the object of our faith?

Whereas, speaking of the justice of faith, Moses says (Deut. 30): “This commandment that I command thee this day is not above thee, nor far off from thee, nor is it in heaven, that thou shouldst say: which of us can go up into heaven,” &c. These words, in their primary and literal signification, refer to the law which Moses was about giving to the Jews. But in their mystical signification, given here by the Apostle, and explained in the words, “that is, to bring Christ down,” they refer to Christian faith, or the justice of faith, which is quite easy and within reach, involving no insurmountable difficulty, such as ascending into heaven to bring down Christ, the object of our faith, or, “crossing the sea to fetch it,” which is the reading in Deut. 30. The reading in Deuteronomy differs not in sense from that of St. Paul here, “descend into the deep,” which, in its literal meaning, refers to fetching the law, but in its mystical meaning is explained by the Apostle to mean, “to bring up Christ again from the dead.” i.e., it is not necessary to descend into the bowels of the earth to know and firmly believe that Christ descended there, who is the object of our faith. These words, as mystically explained by the Apostle, have reference to the leading principal mysteries of Christian faith.

Rom 10:7. Or, who can cross the sea, or “descend into the deep,” which mystically signifies to descend into the bowels of the earth, and bring up Christ, the object of our faith?

No commentary is offered beyond the paraphrase.

Rom 10:8. But let us hear what the Scripture says on the subject; the matter is neither difficult nor remote from thee, it is in thy mouth and in thy heart; by acts of both one and the other, that is, by internal acts of faith, and by the external profession of the same, thou canst attain to this true justice. The whole gospel which we preach is reduced to this narrow compass.

Our faith does not, any more than the law, demand any such impossibilities; of it are also verified these words, which originally were spoken of the law, “What saith the Scripture?” the word “Scripture” is not in the Greek, which simply is, but what saith it? according to this, the nominative to “saith” is, the justice of faith (verse 6), what saith the justice? &c. “The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth and in thy heart.” As the law was in the mouths and hearts of the Jews, so is it with our faith. “This is the word of the faith,” &c., i.e., the word of faith which we preach is the same, as the preceding words spoken in reference to the law.

Rom 10:9. If, then, you believe in your heart, and confess with your mouth, that Jesus Christ our Lord is Son of God, and became incarnate and suffered for us, and that God raised him from the dead, you shall obtain the salvation of true justice here, and of eternal glory hereafter.

All you require is, to believe in our Lord Jesus Christ, who descended from heaven, became man, and died for us, and believe in his resurrection, or “that God hath raised him,” &c., and profess the same externally, and you “shall be saved,” i.e., you shall obtain not temporal life—the reward of the law—but life eternal. The raising of Christ from the dead being an act of power, is, by appropriation, ascribed to God the Father. These are the leading articles of our faith. Of course, under them are included the other articles of faith necessary to be believed, together with faith, hope, charity, without which, man, although he have true faith, cannot be saved. The words, “thou shalt be saved,” like the attribute of every affirmative proposition, are understood restrictively. Instead, then, of going up to heaven to bring down Christ, or descending to the abyss, all you require is, to believe in your heart and profess with your mouth, that Christ did come, &c., and “you shall be saved,” the other conditions, the principal of which is the performance of good works, being observed.

Rom 10:10. For, the interior assent and faith of the heart is required to obtain justice, but the external profession of the same faith is necessary to preserve this justice and obtain final salvation.

The external profession of our faith is, sometimes, an imperative duty, under pain of mortal sin, and, therefore, necessary to preserve justice and sanctifying grace.

Rom 10:11. This is clearly proved from Scripture (Isa 38:16), Whosoever believeth in him shall not be confounded, or frustrated in his expectations.

He proves the truth of his assertion (verse 9), viz., that by believing in Christ, whosoever thou art, “thou shalt be saved.” This he shows from the prophet Isaiah 28. Whosoever believeth in him shall not be confounded, i.e., frustrated in his expectation. Hence, he is here treating of faith to which hope is annexed—(See Rom 9:33). The prophecy of Isaias, just quoted, regards the Messiah, since by “him” is meant the Messiah.

Rom 10:12. By saying, “whosoever,” the Scripture removes all distinction, whether of Jew or Gentile, without exception; for God is equally the Supreme Lord of all, and the riches of his bounty are held out to all who sincerely invoke Jesus as the Messiah.

The Apostle assigns a reason, why no distinction should be made between Jew and Gentile; because God is equally the Supreme Lord of all, and “rich,” i.e., bountiful towards all who invoke him, and profess him to be the Son of God.

Rom 10:13. We have in proof of this, the testimony of the prophet Joel 2:32, Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord (Jesus) shall be saved.

He proves from the prophet (Joel 2) that God is bountiful to all, without exception, who call on his name, “Whosoever shall call,” etc. We have the authority of St. Peter (Acts 2:17–37), that these words of Joel are to be referred to our Lord Jesus Christ.

Rom 10:14. But since we must believe in God before invoking his name, how can men invoke God in whom they have not believed? or, how shall they be able to believe in him, unless they first hear of him? or, how shall they be able to hear of him, unless there be some person to make him known to them by preaching?

The Apostle takes occasion, from the general promises of God regarding Jew and Gentile alike, to justify his own mission and preaching among the Gentiles. He shows the necessity of preaching, in order that they might be partakers in the rich blessings which God has in store for them; he proceeds, step by step, from invocation to faith; from faith to hearing; from hearing to preaching; from preaching to mission; so that, in a certain sense, mission becomes, in this summary recapitulation, the basis of our salvation; since, without this mission on the part of God, imparted to his preachers, the people shall not have true faith, nor the true worship of God. From this the Apostle leaves it to be inferred, that, as God is rich in bounty towards the Gentiles, and since, for the communication of his blessings, preaching the gospel with a legitimate mission is necessary, he himself has preached to the Gentiles by the orders and commission of God himself.

There are many Divines who, from this passage, undertake to prove the necessity of having a doctrine propounded by the true Church, before it can become a point even of divine faith; in other words, they assert that the proposition of a doctrine by the true Church enters the formal object of faith. At all events, we can clearly infer from this passage, that the preaching through a legitimate ministry is the ordinary means of imparting the true faith, and that God will not permanently impart his sanction to a system of faith promulgated by an uncommissioned teacher. In fact, it is clearly inferable that in the ordinary Providence of God, a divine mission and appointment are necessary for the due effect of preaching the Gospel; for, it is on this supposition that the Apostle’s argument in favour of his own mission among the Gentiles is based. God might, undoubtedly, by interior inspirations, teach an infidel the necessary truths of faith. He might also, if he pleased, aid, by the interior enlightenment of grace, the preaching of an heretical minister propounding, in a particular instance, revealed truth, so as to beget faith in the hearers; but, this is not in accordance with his ordinary Providence; nor can we admit for an instant, that he would give permanent stability to any system of faith emanating from such a teacher.

Rom 10:15. But how shall heralds of salvation preach him with permanent success, unless they are his own appointed messengers receiving a commission from him? It is of those preachers only, sent by divine commission, that we are to understand the words of the prophet (Isa 52:7): How joyous the approach of those preachers of the gospel, who announce to us peace, reconciliation with God, and all good things conducive to salvation!

As it is written (Isa 52:7), “How beautiful.” i.e., such a mission from God is necessary, in order that the teachers would be the true heralds of salvation, in whom shall be verified the words of the prophet, “How beautiful,” &c. These words, in their literal and primary signification, refer to the messengers who first brought the news of the return of the Jews from the Babylonish captivity, and in their mystical signification, to the preachers of the Gospel. The Apostle here follows, with the omission of the unimportant words, (upon the mountains), the Hebrew version, which runs thus: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, and that preacheth peace; of him that sheweth forth good,” &c. The quotation differs widely from the Septuagint, which most probably had been corrupted in this passage of Isaias.

Rom 10:16. But, although the advent of the heralds of salvation is thus pleasing; still, all men do not obey the gospel. This, however, is not to be wondered at; since, it was predicted by Isaias, who, in the person of the Apostle, says, “how few have believed and obeyed the words they heard from us.”

“Our report,” in Greek, τῇ ἀκουῇ ἡμῶν, our hearing, or the doctrine heard from our preaching. He answers the objection by showing that this obduracy was predicted by Isaias.

Rom 10:17. From the foregoing (Rom 10:14–16), I conclude that faith comes from hearing, and the hearing, from which faith springs, comes from preaching the word of God.

This is the point which he wished to establish (verse 14), “How shall they believe him, of whom they have not heard? “And hearing by the word of Christ.” In the ordinary Greek, ῤήματος θεου, the word of God. The chief MSS. have, Χριστου, “of Christ.”

Rom 10:18. But I ask, is it from want of hearing of the word of God that men have not embraced it? Certainly not. For, as the heavens, by their silent eloquence, proclaim the attributes and perfections of God throughout the entire extent of creation; so has the voice of the Apostles and of the heralds of divine truth been heard all over the globe.

“Their sound hath gone forth,” &c. These words are quoted by the Apostle from Psalm 18:5 (19:5 modern trans.), according to the Septuagint version of the Psalms. In their primary and literal signification, they refer to the heavenly bodies, and the order and harmony of the visible creation, which so eloquently proclaim the glory and attributes of God: but in their mystical signification, they refer to the preaching of the Apostles. In this sense they are to be regarded as a prophecy in the text of David, which prophecy, St. Paul announces, was about to be accomplished, and shall be gradually fulfilled before the end of the world; and hence, the Apostle, as well as the Psalmist, employs words of the past tense, “hath gone forth,” on account of the certainty of its accomplishment; or it might be said, that the prediction was really accomplished in the days of the Apostle; because the Apostles and the first heralds of salvation had announced the Gospel in the principal places of the world, from which the fame of their preaching had been heard throughout the rest of the globe. It is to be observed, that in this, and the following verse, 19, the Apostle meets a twofold objection, which the Jews might allege in excuse for their incredulity, viz., that they did not hear the Gospel, or were ignorant of its communication to the Gentiles, and so might be excused from embracing it. The first is answered in this verse., and the second, next verse, where Moses, their own favourite legislator, predicts the call of the Gentiles.—(Beelen).

Rom 10:19. And, again I ask, have not the Isarelites known that the Gospel was to be everywhere preached among the Gentiles, in order to bring about their conversion? Certainly, they have witnessed their conversion, but far from imitating, they have envied them on account of it, and persisted in their obstinate incredulity, both of which were predicted by the prophets. First, Moses, speaking in the person of God, displeased with the Jews, says to them, I will incite you to jealousy by a nation whom you contemned, as of no consideration, and I will irritate you and provoke you to wrath by a foolish nation, hitherto sunk in sin and idolatry, but on whom I shall bestow the choicest gifts of my grace and heavenly vocation.

In this is shown how inexcusable the Jews were, who not only heard of it, but even saw the Gentiles converted. This conversion, far from bringing them to the faith, was even the occasion of rage and jealousy. “I will provoke you to jealousy, &c.” (Deut. 32). Moses and Isaias both predict the universal extension of the preaching of the Gospel; and hence, the Jews had no excuse for their incredulity on this head. “Not a nation,” i.e., a contemptible people held by you in no esteem. “I will anger you,” by bestowing on them benefits, which the Jews regarded as exclusively their own birthright.

Rom 10:20. But, again, Isaias, regardless of the anger of the Jews, boldly speaks out and says, in the person of Christ: I am found by those who heretofore had not sought me, I openly appeared, by the preaching of my gospel, to those who consulted not me, but their own foolish oracles.

But Isaias loudly speaks out, for which and similar predictions he was sawn in two, according to tradition. “I was found by them,” &c. (Isa 65:1). From these words the Apostle proves that the Gentiles were to be converted and the Jews to be hardened.

Rom 10:21. But speaking of the rejection and obstinacy of Israel, he says, in the person of Christ During the entire day, i.e., continually, have I stretched out my hands to an incredulous, unbelieving people, to a people contradicting and thwarting my designs of mercy regarding them.

But it is Israel that he regards in the words (Isa 61:2), “all the day long,” i.e., continually, “have I spread my hands,” used every exertion to bring to me “a people that contradieteth me.” Such, we know, was the harsh treatment which our Divine Redeemer received from the Jews, although he incessantly preached, performed miracles of beneficence, and exhibited, on many occasions, manifestations of his Divinity, amongst them. Some Expositors understand the words of the Prophet to regard Christ’s crucifixion, during which his hands were streched out to his cruel executioners.

From this we can see how fearful a thing it is to neglect corresponding with divine grace. How fervently should we not pray against being delivered over to a reprobate sense, to the dreadful judgment of abandonment by God, in punishment of our resistance to his precious calls and inspirations. From a neglect of thy holy inspirations, deliver us, O Lord! O Mary! who hast ever corresponded, in a most perfect degree, with divine grace, pray for us.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Romans Chapter 9

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 22, 2019

Scripture links are to the Douay Rheims translation

The Apostle, having proved in the foregoing chapters, that faith in Christ, as contradistinguished from the works of the Mosaic Law, or the law of nature, was the only means of arriving at justice and salvation, employs this and the two succeeding chapters in showing that the Jews were rejected, because, confiding too much in the external advantages and privileges they enjoyed, they refused to embrace the faith of Christ; while the Gentiles were called to justice, because they embraced this all necessary faith. Before, however, announcing the disagreeable truth regarding the rejection of the Jews, he employs the strongest and most affecting language, and calls God in the most solemn manner, to witness the intensity of his affection for the Jews, whose rejection (and this he by no means expresses, but leaves to he understood) caused him the most intense grief and sorrow of heart (Rom 9:1–5). He then shows, that the rejection and reprobation of the Jews from the justice of the Gospel, was not opposed to the promises of God made to Abraham; since these promises regarded the spiritual sons of Abraham, and not all his carnal descendants. This he shows from the example of Isaac, and of Jacob, the younger son of Isaac (Rom 9:6–14). And although the promises, to which the Apostle refers, primarily regarded temporal benedictions, still, these temporal blessings, which God bestowed on certain sons of Abraham before the others, were types of spiritual benedictions, in the disposal of which God was as free, as he had been in regard to the temporal inheritance. The argument of the Apostle, then, is, that as God had conferred the temporal inheritance of Abraham on Isaac, before all the other sons of Abraham, and on Jacob, before Esau, so is he also free in calling to the spiritual inheritance of Abraham, that is to say, to the grace of the Gospel, the Gentiles, the children of promise, in preference to the Jews, his descendants according to the flesh.

He next solves an objection, to which the preceding doctrine might give rise (Rom 9:14–18). And as his reply to the objection might give rise to a further difficulty regarding the justice of God in punishing sinners, he solves this difficulty also (Rom 9:19–24). He proves, in the next place, that God called to his Church both Jews and Gentiles (Rom 9:24–29); and, finally, he accounts for the vocation of the Gentiles and the rejection of the Jews (Rom 9:30-33).

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

Rom 9:1. I call Christ to witness the truth of what I speak. I have also for this, the testimony of my own conscience directed and strengthened by the Holy Ghost.

Some Expositors interpret this verse in such a way as to make the Apostle swear by three witnesses: viz., Christ, his own conscience, and the Holy Ghost. I call Christ to witness, &c.; I swear by my conscience; and I call the Holy Ghost also to witness, that “I lie not.”

Rom 9:2. I make this most solemn protestation, that I feel great sadness and unceasing excruciating torture of mind (on account of the reprobation and rejection of my brethren).

“Continual sorrow in my heart.” The Greek word for “sorrow,” ὀδυνη, means, “the throes of childbirth.” He forbears from expressing the cause of his sorrow, until he first convinces the Jews of his affection for them. It is clearly inferred from the following chapter, that it regards the reprobation and rejection of the Jews from the grace of the Gospel.

Rom 9:3. For (notwithstanding my ardent and unchangeable love for Christ—Rom 8:35, &c.) I would wish, were it conformable to the divine will, to be eternally separated from the glory of Christ, and thus be devoted as a victim, should it serve for the glory and vocation of my Jewish brethren, who are my kinsmen according to the flesh.

“For, I wished myself,” i.e., I myself, the very same, whom nothing could separate from the love of Jesus Christ (Rom 8:35, &c.), “wished to be anathema,” &c. There is a great variety of opinion among Commentators regarding the object and nature of the wish to which the Apostle here gives expression. Some say (as in Paraphrase) that he wished conditionally to be for ever separated from the glory of Christ, ηυχομεν, I would have wished, provided it were allowed; or provided it were the will of God, and served to secure the vocation and salvation of his brethren. I say, from the glory of Christ, because he could not, for an instant, entertain the wish in any sense, of being separated from the grace and love of Christ. Others understand him to mean, that he wished for this separation by an abstract wish, abstracting from the ordination and decrees of God. Although the wish on the part of St. Paul, so far as his sincerity and self-devotedness were concerned, may be regarded as absolute; still, if we look to the object of separation, it could not be absolute. Indeed, it must be said, that the act of wishing on the part of St. Paul could not be absolute; for, he knew well, that no such thing could take place; and he also knew, that his eternal separation from Christ would never promote the salvation of the Jews.

“To be an anathema.” The word “anathema,” ἀνάθεμα, having the penultimate syllable short (with an ε), as it is written here, means a total separation and destruction of a thing as execrable and abominable, and also the thing itself destroyed and utterly abolished. “Anathema” is the word employed by the Septuagint translators for the Hebrew word, cherem, which always refers to something utterly destroyed, as execrable. In this sense, the word “anathematize” is applied in the Old Testament to the Chanaanite nations destroyed by the Jews (Numbers 21.; Judges 1:4; 1 Maccabees 5). When the penultimate syllable is long, αναθήμα, (with an ή), the word signifies votive offerings, such as shields, vases, &c., offered to the gods. In this sense, the word is employed only once in the New Testament (Luke 21:5). If we cannot comprehend this heroical charity of the Apostle, it is, says St. Chrysostom, because we never experience any such feelings of the love of God or of our neighbour.

Rom 9:4. Who enjoy so many singular and distinguishing prerogatives; who are descended from the Patriarch on whom God himself, as a title of honour, bestowed the name of Israel; to whom belongs the privilege of being adopted, in preference to all other nations, as the sons of God; in whose behalf God exhibited many glorious manifestations of his special providence; with whom he established his covenant; to whom He himself gave his law through Moses; to whom He prescribed the true mode of divine worship; to whom were made the promises, of which the principal were those that regarded the Messiah.

To show his affection for his kindred, and remove from their minds every suspicion of his entertaining the aversion for them, with which he was charged, he dilates on the several prerogatives, wherein the Jews excelled all the other nations of the earth. “Who are Israelites?” Israel was a title of honour given by God himself to Jacob. “The adoption of children.” God had adopted them as his children preferably to all the other nations from whom he segregated them (Exodus 6). He calls them, “My first-born son, Israel,” “And the glory,” the glorious manifestation of God’s special Providence by miracles (v.g.), the passage of the Red Sea, the pillar of fire, the ark, &c.; and by the prophecies which regarded them. “And the testament,” in the common Greek, διαθῆκαι, “testaments,” might have been used in the plural to designate the repetition of the Old Testament or covenant made repeatedly to the Jews; or, in allusion to the two tables on which the words of the covenant were inscribed. The Codex Vaticanus supports the Vulgate, and has διαθήκη. “The service of God” (ἡ λατρεία), refers to the true religion and pure worship of God established amongst them. “And the promises” made at different times, particularly those regarding the Messiah, to be born of them.

Rom 9:5. Whose progenitors were the renowned Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, &c., and (which is the chief prerogative of all) from whom is Christ descended according to the flesh, who is over all things, God, worthy of divine benediction and praise for ever and ever. Amen.

“Whose are the fathers,” i.e., whose ancestors are the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? “And of whom is Christ according to the flesh?” This is their greatest prerogative, viz., to have Christ take human nature, the second nature which he assumed in time, of their race.

“Who is over all things God blessed for ever.” These words contain an undoubted proof of the divinity of Christ. The groundless subterfuges to which the impugners of the divinity of our Blessed Lord have recourse, in order to evade the unanswerable argument furnished in this verse, only serve to show the weakness of their cause. They place a colon after the word “flesh,” so that the following words are a mere doxology, “May God who is over all be blessed,” &c. Such a construction is unsupported by the authority of any manuscripts, ancient or modern. It is, moreover, opposed to the common interpretation of the Fathers, and the doxology would render the passage quite unmeaning. “Besides, when εὐλογητὸς, ‘blessed,’ is used by way of predicate, with an optative mood, expressed or understood, it always precedes the noun, according to Hebrew usage. In the text, θεος, precedes.”—(Kenrick).

Rom 9:6. In thus expressing my intense grief for the rejection of the Jews, I do not wish to express the least apprehension regarding the fulfilment of the divine promises made to Abraham and the patriarchs concerning the multiplication of their seed: for, not all they who are born of Israel are the true Israelites, to whom reference is made in the divine promises.

The Apostle here meets an objection which might spring from the foregoing doctrine, regarding the rejection of the Jews. God made a promise to Abraham and to the patriarchs, that in their seed all the nations of the earth would be blessed; that their descendants would equal, in point of numbers, the stars of heaven and the sand on the sea shore. How, then, could these promises be consistent with the doctrine now advanced regarding the rejection, from God’s inheritance, of the same people? The Apostle says, the rejection of the Jews will, by no means, involve the frustration and non-fulfilment of the promises referred to, since it is not all the carnal descendants of Abraham, nor they alone, that these promises regard; for, all who are descended from Israel, “are not Israelites,” in whom are to be fulfiled the divine promises. It is in the spiritual sons of Abraham these promises are to be fulfilled, whether carnally descended from him or not, as happened Isaac, in the one case, and the Gentiles, in the other.

“Not as though the word of God hath miscarried.” “The word of God” regards the promise God made to Abraham respecting the multiplication of his seed, and the benediction to be conferred, through him, on all the nations. The Apostle is, then, treating in this and the following chapters, of the rejection of the Jews from the grace of justification and of Gospel justice, and the vocation of the Gentiles to the same. It does not fall within his scope to treat of eternal reprobation or predestination to glory. For the great object of the Apostle in this Epistle is, to prove, to both Jews and Gentiles, the gratuitousness of the grace of justification, irrespective of merits actual or foreseen, and thus to refute the false claims which both the converted Jews and Gentiles had put forward to prove that they had a right to be called to the Gospel. These claims the Apostle refutes by showing that the vocation of the Gentiles, and the rejection of the Jews, mystically and allegorically signified, by the selection of Isaac before Ismael, and the preference given, in the temporal blessings and rights of primogeniture, to Jacob before Essau, were wholly attributable to the good will and pleasure of God. In truth, in giving or refusing the grace of justification, God is accountable to no one; his own free will is his sole rule of dispensation in this respect: the grace of justification being a strictly gratuitous gift, to which no one can lay claim, and for the deprivation of which, no one has any just right to complain. That it is of the vocation to the grace of justification and rejection from it, the Apostle is treating here, appears also from this, that such rejection alone was the only tangible, palpable evil, which could form the subject of his excessive grief for the great mass of his Jewish brethren. The interpretation, then according to which the Apostle is treating of vocation to, and rejection from the grace of justification—an interpretation perfectly in accordance with every word in this passage—being once admitted, all the difficulties to which the other interpretations, which understand him to refer to rejection from glory, are liable, deprived both from the justice of God, and the exercise of the free will of man, are at once disposed of; since, in this interpretation, as will be seen in the sequel, there is not the remotest ground for any objection on these heads. “For all are not Israelites,” &c. He says, “all” are not, because some of them, who are carnally descended of Israel, are also sons of promise, imitators of his faith; and hence, as such, heirs of the divine promise. In these words, the Apostle shows that the Jews misunderstood the term “Israelite,” the subject of the divine promises.

Rom 9:7. Nor are all who are carnally descended from Abraham, to be, therefore, regarded as the true sons of promise, who are to inherit the blessings These are confined to his descendants through Isaac, according to the express testimony of Scripture (Gen. 21:12): In Isaac (this son born to thee in virtue of the divine promise) shall thy seed be reckoned.

“Neither are all they that are of the seed of Abraham, children.” The Greek reading is, οὐδʼ ὅτι εἰσιν σπερμα Ἁβρααμ, “neither because they are of the seed of Abraham.” The Vulgate has qui for quia (ὅτι), the reading of all the Greek copies There are some copies of the Vulgate in which quia, because, is found. Some of the seed of Abraham were children, viz., such as were also imitators of his faith; and to these were the divine promises restricted. “But in Isaac,” &c. He adduces the testimony of SS. Scripture from Genesis 21:12, to show, that the blessings promised Abraham were confined to his descendants through Isaac. “In Isaac shall thy seed be called.”

Rom 9:8. That is to say, it is not the children of the flesh as such, or those who are carnally descended from Abraham, that are the sons of God who are to possess the inheritance, but it is only those, who are begot ten in virtue of the promise, that are to be accounted as his seed.

From which testimony, of SS. Scripture, the Apostle deduces this inference, that it is not such of Abraham’s descendants as are merely children of the flesh, but such as are children of the promise, that are to be the inheritors of his blessings; in other words, that it is more in consequence of being children of promise, as was the case with Isaac (with whom, looking to mere carnal descent, Ismael had equal rights), than in consideration of carnal descent from Abraham, they are to inherit the blessings promised him. It is to be borne in mind that the words of Genesis, as well as the quotations regarding Jacob and Esau, in the sequel, have immediate reference to temporal blessings; but the Apostle, while merely alluding to the primary meaning of the words, grounds his principal conclusion on their mystical and allegorical meaning. His conclusion is, that the economy of God, in bestowing the temporal benedictions on Isaac, in consequence of being the child of promise, before Ismael, was intended to teach us that the spiritual blessings—the grace of justification, of which the temporal benedictions were mere types—are also to be conferred on the children of promise—the Gentiles—who, like Isaac, are children of Abraham by grace and faith, rather than on the incredulous Jews, who are, like Ismael, carnally descended from Abraham, begotten of him more by the generative power of man, than in virtue of the grace and power of God.

Rom 9:9. For, that Isaac was a child of promise, begotten rather in virtue of the grace and power of God, than of the generative power of man, is clear from the word of promise in Genesis 18:10, where the angel, on the part of God, promises Abraham, “according to this time,” or, this time twelvemonth, “will I come, and Sara shall have a son,” and this, at a time of life on the part both of Abraham and Sara, when such an event could be brought about by the interposition of the Divine power only.

He shows that the conclusion deduced from the case of Isaac, regarding the preference given to the sons of promise, was not without foundation, so far as Isaac was concerned; for, that Isaac was himself a son of promise is proved from the words of the angel.—(Genesis 18:20).

Rom 9:10. And it is not alone the history of the conception of Sara, and of its circumstances, that furnishes us with a clear proof of the efficacy of the divine promises, and of the superior advantages of spiritual adoption over the claims of mere carnal generation and human arrangements; but of the same, does the conception of Rebecca also, who bore twins, conceived at the same time of our father, Isaac, supply the most striking exemplification.

“And not only she” (“she” is not in the Greek). Lest the Jews might take exception to the reasoning of the Apostle, on the ground that, even humanly speaking, Isaac was the legitimate heir of Abraham’s promise, as being his son by his wife Sara, whereas, the other sons were but children of his servants; the Apostle adduces a case still more in point, in, which the effect of God’s promise, and of divine election, was more unmistakeably perceptible; viz., the case of the election of Jacob, the younger, and the rejection from the temporal inheritance of Isaac, the elder. In this case, God made a distinction not only between the carnal descendants of Abraham, as in the preceding instance, but even between the descendants of the son of promise himself, without having any regard to the merits of either party, as explained next verse. Nay, he set aside the natural claims of the elder, to whom the very circumstance of priority of birth should, it would appear, humanly speaking, give a preference as to the rights attached to primogeniture. There is a slight difference between the Greek and our Vulgate, in the reading of this verse. The Greek runs thus: ου μονον δε. αλλα καὶ ʼΡεβεκκα ἑξ ἕνος κοιτην ἔχουσο, “having conception by one. The Vulgate is, ex uno concubitu habeas. The ancient reading probably was. ex uno concubitum habens, conformably to the Greek.”—(Kenrick). The sense is, however, the same in both. For, “at once,” the Greek is, “by one,” ἑξ ἑνος, referring to conception.

Rom 9:11. For, before the children were born, being still confined in her womb, and consequently before they had done good or evil (in order that the purpose of God, electing the one and rejecting the other, which purpose was influenced solely by his gratuitous election, irrespective of merit of demerit on either side, whether actual or foreseen, might stand firm).

In this verse, the Apostle shows that the election of Jacob, and the rejection of Esau, were wholly independent of their personal merits, and solely attributable to the free and gratuitous decree of God (“that the purpose of God according to election might stand.”) “The purpose of God” regards the eternal decree of rejecting Esau from the temporal inheritance, and of calling Jacob to the same, a purpose “according to election,” i.e., resulting solely from God’s gratuitous election, independently of the personal merits or demerits of the parties, whether actual or foreseen. The principal object which the Apostle has in view, as shall be immediately shown, is the typical or allegorical conclusion regarding the gratuitousness of God’s call to the Gospel, and rejection from it, typified by the rejection of Esau, and the calling of Jacob to the temporal inheritance.

Rom 9:12-13. On consulting the Lord (Genesis 14:23), respecting the nature of the struggle which she felt between the children in her womb, she received an answer, wholly independent of works, and solely the result of the gratuitous call of God to this effect, that she had two nations in her womb, and that the nation descended from the elder, would serve the descendants of the younger. (13)—This prophetic response the Prophet Malachy long after declared to be fulfilled as the result of God’s love and predilection for Jacob on whose posterity he bestowed all kinds of temporal benedictions, leaving to the descendants of Esau, whom he neglected, (“hated,”) for their portion, the barren hills of ldumea, and consigning their inheritance to the dragons of the desert (Mal. 1:13.) (The plain conclusion from all this is, that God is now just as free in rejecting from the spiritual inheritance of justification, and of the Gospel, the Jews—typified by the first born, Esau, and in calling to it the Gentiles—typified by the second-born, Jacob, as he had been in disposing of the temporal inheritance, according to his sole gratuitous choice and election, the one being as perfectly gratuitous a gift, on the part of God, as the other.)

12. “Not of works, but of him that calleth.” Some Expositors enclose these words also within the parenthesis, and connect them with the preceding, verse 11, thus: (“that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth,”) as if these latter words were explanatory of the word “election.” This construction will not differ in meaning from our reading. In the Pharaphrase is adopted the meaning supplied by both constructions. “It was said to her.” The history referred to here is given fully (Genesis 25:23). Rebecca felt the twins struggling in her womb; she consulted the Lord as to what it meant, and received for answer, that “she had two nations in her womb,” &c., “and that the elder should serve the younger.” “The elder shall serve the younger.” It is evident from the quotation already adduced from Genesis, that by the “elder” is meant, the nation descended from the elder brother, and this nation would be subject to the nation descended from the younger. This was literally verified in the time of David. The Idumeans, the descendants of Esau, were subdued by David (2 Sam 8:14), and they served the Israelites, the descendants of Jacob, for about one hundred and fifty years, until the time of Joram, the son of Josaphat.—(2 Kings 8:22).

13 “As it is written: Jacob I have loved” &c. These words were written by the Prophet Malachy (chap. 1) long after the event; and hence, they confirm the prophetic testimony, “the elder shall serve,” &c. “But Esau I have hated.” The word “hate” does not, in the language of SS. Scripture, always imply a positive act of hatred, but in many cases, only an act of neglect, slight, or disregard, such as Jacob had in reference to Lia, whom he is said to have hated or “despised,” simply by preferring Rachel to her.—(Genesis 29:31). And such as our Redeemer recommends, when he tells us “to hate our father and mother,” &c.—(Luke 14:26). It is to be observed, that in the Scriptural quotations, contained in the preceding verses, there is reference, in the literal sense, to temporal benedictions, but the principal aim of the Apostle is the allegorical inference to be derived from this economy of God in the disposal of the temporal inheritance, irrespective of the merits or demerits of the parties called or rejected. His inference is this: that as God has, in the case quoted, set aside the rights of carnal primogeniture, without being influenced by the personal merits or demerits of the parties in question, whether actual or foreseen; so, also, in the disposal of the spiritual inheritance of justification, he is equally free in passing over the Jews—the first begotten of God, Filius meus primogenitus Israel (Exodus 4.)—and in preferring the Gentiles, without any relation to their good works, actual or foreseen, which, faith tells us, can never influence God in conferring the grace of justification; and, thus, he manifests in their case, who were typified by the second-born, Jacob, his purpose of giving justification gratuitously. The call of Jacob, and the rejection of Esau, had been intended by God to shadow forth the designs of his Providence in calling the Gentile, and slighting the Jew, in the work of justification.

The Apostle, then, is treating of election to grace, of the election of an entire people and nation to be the people and Church of God, and of the rejection of an entire people from the same. He is not treating of election to, or reprobation from, glory, at least, immediately. For, Jacob and Esau are spoken of not individually, but as representing entire nations, springing from them; the circumstance of Esau being older than Jacob, would have no relation whatever to the question of eternal life. And, if there were question of election to, or reprobation from, eternal glory, it would follow that Esau was damned—a thing which, to many, appears very unlikely. It is regarded as probable by many, that after having put aside his feelings of fraternal hatred (Genesis 23), he died in the true religion of his parents and obtained salvation. The opinion, therefore, which best accords with the entire scope of the Apostle is, that even in his principal and allegorical conclusion, he is only treating of election to grace and reprobation from the same. And in this opinion we could give the words, “I have hated Esau,” the sense of positive reprobation; since, in positively reprobating men from grace, God acts wholly independently of personal merits, whether actual or foreseen.

Rom 9:14. If, then, God in now preferring the Gentiles to the Jews, in the bestowal of spiritual blessings, as he formerly preferred the descendants of Jacob before those who sprang from Esau, loving one and neglecting the other, has no regard to their works, does he not act an unjust part? Far from us be so impious a thought.

“What then?” This is a formula to which the Apostle usually resorts in removing doubts or calumnies resulting from the false and erroneous conception of his words. “Is there injustice with God?” as his rejection of the Jews, and his vocation of the Gentiles, without any regard to the merits of either party, would seem to imply “God forbid,” a brief formula, in which the Apostle at once rejects every blasphemous construction put upon his words.

Rom 9:15. Whether in calling the Gentiles to the spiritual inheritance of justification, or in rejecting the Jews from the same, there is no injustice on the part of God. First, in calling the Gentiles, there is no injustice: for, in the disposal of his free and gratuitous gifts, in having mercy, as in the present instance, God is answerable to no one; he is the free and absolute dispenser of his favours, as he said to Moses: “I will have mercy on whomsoever I will, and I will be clement to whomsoever I please.”

He proceeds to prove that whether in calling one class of men to the faith, or in rejecting others from it, there is not the shadow of injustice in God. The former he proves here; the latter in verse 17. First, in selecting one class, and calling them to the inheritance of justification, there is no injustice on the part of God; because, the bestowal of this grace is as gratuitous as was the selecting of Jacob before Esau for the temporal inheritance—nay, more gratuitous. It is a pure act of mercy; and God is accountable to no one, and gives no one cause for complaint in the gratuitous exercise of mercy, as he said in a similar case to Moses—a testimony which the Jews must respect as found in their own Scriptures. “I will have mercy,” &c. (Exodus 33:19). These words were addressed by God to Moses after the people had sinned in adoring the golden calf; some of whom he punished; on others he had mercy. They express an epithet by which God wishes to be distinguished, a name by which he wishes to be known—viz., of being supreme and absolute dispenser of his favours, showing mercy as he wills. The call of a man to justification is an act of pure mercy, which God may exercise towards whomsoever he pleases. The words show that the Apostle considers man as infected by sin either original or actual in this decree, since misery is the object of mercy. Hence, the utter falsity of the interpretation given by Estius of this entire passage—an interpretation which, besides being false, is also subject to very great difficulties, derived both from the liberty of man and the attributes of God.

Rom 9:16. Therefore, our call to the grace of justification is not owing to human exertions, either in the way of strong desire or strenuous effort; but it is purely the effect of God’s gratuitous mercy.

In the interpretation adopted in the Paraphrase, there is no ground for objection against the free will of man in the performance of his actions; since, there is not question at all of human actions, but of the decree of God, calling a man to grace, which, faith tells us, is always a pure act of mercy on the part of God, wholly uninfluenced by the merits of man, whether actual or foreseen. Before actually obtaining, however, this grace of justification, certain acts are required on the part of adults, such as faith, hope, &c.; but these are mere dispositions, establishing no claim to justification, which God might not refuse. The actions excluded here by the Apostle are such as, in the minds of the converted Jews and Gentiles, gave them a claim to the grace of the Gospel. “Of him that runneth, nor of him that willeth.” These words, probably, contain an allusion to the eager desires and exertions of Esau to secure his father’s benediction, or, they may in general refer to the inutility of human efforts in this matter.

Rom 9:17. Secondly, in withholding from the incredulous Jews the grace of justification, and in leaving them in their obstinacy, there is no injustice on the part of God. In this respect also he can act perfectly at will, as happened in the case of Pharaoh, whom God left in his obstinacy, and of whom he said: for this purpose have I set thee up and preserved thee thus long as king, that I might display my power through thee, and announce the glory of my name throughout the entire earth.

In this verse, the Apostle shows that in rejecting the Jews, as in the case of Esau and leaving them in their obstinacy, there is no injustice on the part of God, which is the second point he wishes to prove. This he shows from the words of SS. Scriptures, addressed to Pharaoh (Exodus 9:16): “For this purpose have I raised thee up.” In the Septuagint version for “raised thee up,” it is, “I have preserved thee;” so as to mean that God preserved him, and continued his reign amidst the many plagues wherewith he had scourged him. The sense furnished by our reading differs very little from the preceding. It means: For this purpose have I constituted thee king of Egypt, “that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name may be declared throughout, &c.” The primary and principal intention which God had in view in preserving Pharaoh, and raising him to the throne, was, that he might govern his people, according to the laws of justice, and thus promote his own and their salvation; but, this primary object failing, the secondary object was, to make him the instrument whereby to display the divine power, and make his obstinate resistance to the divine commands, the means of rendering God’s name the more illustrious, owing to the signal punishment inflicted on him. Similar is the economy of God’s Providence in reference to all obdurate sinners, whose salvation He intends, in the first place; but, this end failing, He draws good out of evil, and makes their sinfulness the means of displaying the glory of His name, and of manifesting His vindicative justice. There is no injustice in punishing such persons, since they deserve it for their sins.

Rom 9:18. The conclusion, therefore, from the foregoing is, that whether in bestowing mercy, or in leaving men in their obstinacy of heart, God is perfectly free to act as he pleases, without injuring any one, and consequently, without giving any one cause for complaint.

This is the twofold conclusion which he draws from the two preceding examples of mercy in the case of Moses, and of justice in that of Pharaoh: it is a fuller expression of “God forbid,” (verse 14). The words, “he hardeneth,” do not imply a positive act of hardening, or the infusion of hardness of heart, on the part of God. They only imply a negative act, the refusal or withholding of his efficacious graces, leaving man to himself, alter which he will infallibly become as obdurate as it God had positively infused obduracy, “non indurat,” says St. Augustine, “infundendo malitiam, sed non infundendo misericordiam.” “Induratio Dei est, nolle misereri,” says the same Father. And in reference to the obduracy of Pharaoh—the example in question—we find in many parts of SS. Scriptures that, although his heart was softened to let the people go during the continuance of the plagues; yet, still, when the plagues were withdrawn, “he himself hardened his own heart.”—(Exodus 7:13). God, by withdrawing or withholding the efficacious graces, which were indispensable for softening his heart, left him to himself, and by this abandonment, as well as by furnishing him with what proved merely the occasion of sin (v.g.) riches, power, &c., on the part of God, the obduracy of Pharaoh as infallibly took place, as if God himself had hardened him positively. In this sense only God is said to “harden him.”—(Vide Rom 1:24, of this Epistle, and 2 Thess 2:10).

Rom 9:19. But, you may still object and say: if such be the case, why should God complain of sinners, why punish and accuse them, since it would appear that they are such by his will, and who is able to resist his will?

The Apostle now proposes an objection which would appear to flow from the preceding doctrine. If God hardens sinners, why blame sinners for this hardness and obduracy, caused by himself; brought about by his own will, since no one can resist his will.

Rom 9:20. O man (slime of the earth), who art thou that darest to enter into account with God, or dispute his sovereign will? Thinkest thou that the thing formed has any right to call its maker to account for the mode in which it has been formed?

At this haughty and blasphemous remark, the Apostle is seized with holy indignation, and at once turns upon the impious, reminding them of the vileness of their origin, of the high and exalted dominion of God over them, and of his indisputable right to treat them as he pleases. The Apostle reserves the direct answer for verses 22, 23. “O man, who art thou,” &c. The words in the Vulgate are more expressive, and the contrast more striking, “O homo” quasi, ab humo, formed from the dust of the earth. “Who art thou?” How dares a creature, so vile and contemptible, question the ordinances and providence of “God?” The contrast is very strong, “man,” mere dust and “God,” the eternal, self-existent, supreme Creator and Lord of all things, “that repliest,” in a disputatious spirit with God. “Shall the thing formed (or, the creature) say to him that formed it, why hast thou?” &c.

Rom 9:21. As well might the clay, or kneaded dough in the hands of the potter, dispute his rightful power to mould it for whatever purposes he might think proper, whether honourable or dishonourable.

The Apostle here asserts the high dominion and undisputed right which God has to show mercy, or not to show mercy, just as he pleases, without leaving any ground whatever for creatures to act as censors or judges of his dealings towards them. In the example of the clay and the potter, there is allusion to Isaias (Isa 29:16, 45:9), where the same similitude is employed for the like purpose of showing, that men should neither reprehend, nor murmur at the providence of God. “The same lump.” The Greek word, φυραμα, means something kneaded, especially dough. From the entire passage it is clear that the Apostle considers man (“the same lump,” or human nature) as infected and corrupted by sin, since it is in this respect only, he is a fit object for mercy (Rom 9:15), and fit for destruction (Rom 9:22). The parity here, as is observed by St. Chrysostom, should not be urged in every respect. It is a canon or law regulating the application of similitudes, that the things compared are not always to be regarded as similar under every respect, since there are but few things, or none at all, in nature, in every respect strictly similar. The rule, then, for the extent of the comparison, is the scope or object of him who employs it; unless this rule were agreed upon, no writer or speaker could ever attempt to employ comparisons of any kind, From the comparison of man in the hands of God, with clay in the hands of the potter, we are by no means to infer the exclusion of human liberty; for, we might, by urging the parity, as well exclude the existence of a rational soul in man. The object of the Apostle, in employing the comparison, is merely this, viz., that man has no more reason to complain of rejection from grace—a thing perfectly at the free disposal of God—than the clay would have of its destination for dishonourable purposes. From man’s rejection from grace also follows his rejection from glory; but the decree of positive reprobation from glory must be always grounded on the provision of man’s demerits; the contrary is the damnable heresy of Calvin.

Good God! Who, in reading this passage, should not tremble for his salvation! Who can know what is in store for him, whether in the ways of God, he is finally marked out for honourable or dishonourable purposes, for “glory” or perdition! Oh! through the intercession of the Omnipotent and Immaculate Queen of Heaven, grant us the great and crowning gift of final perseverance, which if we obtain, we are saved; if we lose, we are damned. It cannot be merited; but, it may be obtained by prayer—“Suppliciter emereri potest.”—(St. Augustine). We should, therefore, constantly and perseveringly pray for “this great gift of final perseverance unto the end.”—(Concil. Trid. SS. vi. Can. xvi.) “Magnum illud usque in finem perseverantiæ donum.”

Rom 9:22. What grounds for murmuring, or cause for complaint is there, if God, wishing to display his vindicative justice and power, has endured with patience and forbearance these obstinate and unrepenting sinners, whom he renders not such; for, he merely bears with them, after having of themselves become fitted for, and merited eternal destruction.

In this verse, the Apostle gives a direct answer to the objection (Rom 9:19). It is not God that hardens sinners; but it is sinners themselves that do so. They become, of themselves, “fitted for destruction,” (κατηρτισμενα εις απολειαν), and, then, God patiently tolerates them, having had primarily in view their salvation (for, “he wishes all men to be saved,” and “that no one should perish”); but, this end failing, he wishes to manifest his wrath and his power in their punishment, and by this means, to strike others with a salutary fear.

Rom 9:23. And having also in view, by the exhibition of the merited and rigorous punishment of the reprobate, to manifest the greatness of his mercy towards his saints, whom, rescued from sin and its punishment, he made, by his grace, fit subjects for glory.

And, again, he has in view, by the rigour of his punishment inflicted on the reprobate, which they justly merited (having of themselves become “fitted for destruction,”) to display in the contrast with his elect, the magnitude of his favours in their regard, by preparing and fitting them for glory, and, of course, rescuing them from the punishment of the reprobate, in which they, too, would be infallibly involved, had it not been for his rich and abundant grace. From these verses it is clear that the Apostle considers man corrupted in his nature, and infected with sin. This is clearly the state in which the divine decree regards man. “The same lump,” (Rom 9:21), out of which “the vessels of honour and dishonour” are formed, is evidently supposed to be corrupted, it being an act of mercy towards the vessels of mercy, to rescue them; and the vessels of wrath are supposed to be of themselves “fitted for destruction,” and their punishment, owing to the contrast, more clearly manifest the riches of God’s mercy towards the others.

Rom 9:24. By these saints whom he prepared for glory, I understand the Christians, whom he called to the faith, not only from among the Jews, but also from among the Gentiles.

The Apostle adds this to show that the Gentiles are made sharers in the promises of Abraham. The call here referred to is the call to Christianity, and not predestination to glory. How many are called to Christianity that are not predestinated to glory?

Rom 9:25. As to the vocation of the latter, it had been long since foretold by the prophet Hosea (chap. 1, 2), I will call the idolatrous Gentiles, who were not my people, to my faith and true worship; and then, they that were not my people will become my people, and they that were not beloved by me, and obtained not mercy, will now become my well beloved, and receive proofs of my gratuitous mercy.

“And it will come to pass, in the place where it was said unto them, you are not my people,” (v.g.) in Greece, Italy, Gaul, &c., where God permitted them to walk in their own ways, that they shall now, after their conversion, and after being adopted into the true worship of God, “be called the sons of the living God”—(Hos 1:10).

He first proves the latter part of the foregoing proposition, regarding the call of the Gentiles, from the prophecy of Hosea, chapters 1 and 2. The words quoted here by the Apostle are in substance read in Hosea (Hos 1:6–10, conjointly with Hos 2:23). All Greek copies omit the last clause, “And her that hath not obtained mercy, one that hath obtained mercy;” while St. Jerome omits the middle clause, “And he that was not beloved, beloved.” Hence, it appears likely that the Apostle, in quoting from Osee, wrote only one or the other; and, as both referred to the same thing, it is probable that they were inserted here in order to reconcile the omission of either clause in the several copies. The words of the prophet in their literal sense, refer to the deliverance of Israel from the kings of Syria, after having turned aside to the worship of false gods—in this respect, a most expressive type of the idolatrous Gentiles—but in their mystical sense (a sense oftentimes principally intended by the Holy Ghost, as in the present instance), the Apostle adduces them to prove the vocation of the Gentile;, to whom, in this sense, they refer.

Rom 9:26. And in the places where it could be truly said, you are not my people, it shall then be said, you are the sons of the living God.

“And it will come to pass, in the place where it was said unto them, you are not my people,” (v.g.) in Greece, Italy, Gaul, &c., where God permitted them to walk in their own ways, that they shall now, after their conversion, and after being adopted into the true worship of God, “be called the sons of the living God”—(Hos 1:10).

Rom 9:27. But that out of Israel, there shall be some called to the faith (verse 24), Isaias loudly proclaims, although they shall be but very few, when he says: If the number of the children of Israel be ever so great, some shall be saved, but only a remnant of them.

In this verse, the Apostle is proving the first part of Rom 9:24, viz., that out of the Jews, some shall be called. If Osee advocates the cause of the Gentiles, we have Isaias loudly proclaiming the vocation of the Jews, who shall be converted, although in a comparatively very small number; and hence, the promises made to Abraham shall be principally fulfilled in the great mass of the Gentiles. Some Commentators, and among the rest, Estius, are of opinion, that the object of the Apostle, in this and the following quotations from Isaias, is, not so much to prove the vocation of some from among the Jews, (Rom 9: 24) as the rejection of the Jews, of whom only a remnant shall be converted, as the prophet Isaias has it, and, consequently, the greater portion rejected. This interpretation is rendered probable according to them, by the conclusion at which the Apostle arrives (Rom 9:30), and which, they say, is deduced from this passage; while the supporters of the opinion adopted in the Pharaphrase say, the conclusion drawn (Rom 9:30) is not intended by the Apostle to refer to the passage immediately preceding; it is merely (according to them) a general conclusion from all that the Apostle has been saying in these chapters, regarding the rejection of the Jews and the calling of the Gentiles.

Rom 9:28. For, the Lord shall accomplish what he has said regarding the salvation of the Jews, reducing the Israelites, whom he is to save, to a very small number. This he shall do by justly punishing the greater number or by remunerating the good and faithful by the abundant gifts of his grace, for he shall make a short reckoning of the affair on earth.

“For he shall finish his word,” i.e., accomplish his saying regarding, &c. (vide Pharaphrase), “and cut it short in justice” by reducing to very narrow limits the number of Israelites who are to be saved. “In justice,” by justly punishing the greater number; or, by conferring on the few faithful the abundant gifts of his justice. “Because a short word” &c. This second clause is merely a repetition of the first. There is a difference of reading between the words of the Apostle—which are read according to the Septuagint—and the Vulgate of St. Jerome, on Isa 10:22, of Isaias, from which this verse is quoted. The passage of Isaias literally refers to the deliverance of the small number of the faithful Jews in the days of Ezechias, from the destructive sword of Sennacherib. These were a type of the small number of the Jews who would embrace the gospel. It is only in their mystical sense, the words are applied by the Apostle to the rejection of the greater number from grace, and the call of only a few thereto.

Rom 9:29. So that, according to the predictions of the same prophet Isaias, if the Lord of armies had not left us a seed, we would have been utterly destroyed, like Sodom and Gomorrha.

From Isaias is adduced a second testimony (Isa 1:9), wherein the prophet literally speaks of the small number that were to survive the captivity; the Apostle, however, takes the mystical meaning of the words, and shows from it, the small number that were to be called to the faith. The “seed” refers to the Blessed Virgin, to the Apostles, and the others first called in the infancy of the Church from the Jewish nation.

Mauduit has made the three preceding verses the subject of a very learned and elaborate dissertation, purporting to refute the interpretation given by Estius of this passage. He undertakes to show, in the first place, that the quotations from Isaias are intended by the Apostle to prove the second part of Rom 9:24 (vide Paraphrase), that as Osee was quoted in favour of the Gentiles, so is Isaias in favour of the Jews; but in order to prove this latter part, he adopts a line of interpretation quite different from the one commonly received. He insists that the word, “remnant,” (Rom 9:27), far from expressing a small number of the Jews to be converted at the time of Christ’s coming, on the contrary, refers to the great bulk of the Jews who, at the end of the world, having survived the persecution of Antichrist, shall be converted to the Lord. He says that, in the 10th chapter of Isaias, from which the quotation is taken here, there is question of Antichrist under the figure of the king of Babylon, whose defeat shall be so great and general that a child could easily count the survivors (see Isa 10:19). “That the remnant of the house of Israel … shall lean on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, in truth.” i.e., “resting on the truth of his promises,” (Isa 10:20); and that “the remnant” or, all that shall remain of the house of Jacob, “shall be converted to the Lord,” (Isa 10:21); and, “that although the people of Israel were as the sand of the sea,” “a remnant of them,” i.e., all that shall remain, or survive the slaughter, “shall be converted; the consumption abridged shall overflow with justice,” (Isa 10:22); i.e., in order to accomplish in a short time their perfection, God shall pour upon them the deluge of his graces and justice. “For the Lord God of hosts shall make a consumption, and an abridgment in the midst of all the land,” (Isa 10:23); i.e., he shall bring about these two wonderful results, consummate virtue, and that, in a very short time. The Jews, then, who shall survive the conquests of Antichrist, may be called a “remnant,” and shall be called so in opposition to the Jews of preceding ages, and of those who died in the reign of Antichrist. Although these survivors should be as numerous as the sand of the sea shore, they shall be converted; and that at once, unlike the Gentiles, to whom the execution of God’s merciful decrees was applied gradually in the course of all preceding ages. Mauduit also explains the second text (Rom 9:29), taken from Isaiah 1:9), in the same sense. The word “seed” is made by him to refer to the carnal descendants of those men referred to by Isaias, which seed have propagated the Jewish race, who are to live at the second coming of the Lord, and then shall be converted. This, he says, is clearly the meaning of the prophet, and the same is the meaning of the Apostle, who, by quoting the words of the prophet in this true meaning, proves most clearly the truth of his assertion (Rom 9:24), that from among the Jews some shall be called to embrace the faith, and these are destined “as vessels of mercy prepared unto glory,” (Rom 9:23).

Rom 9:30. What inference, then, are we to deduce from an that has been already urged? It is this: that the Gentiles, who heretofore sought not justice (who performed no works whatever even establishing the appearance of a claim to justice), found true justice, I say, that justice at which we cannot arrive but by faith.

The Apostle here recapitulates all that he had been treating of in this entire chapter. These things being so, what conclusion are we to arrive at? What other but thus, which is really founded on fact, viz., that the Gentiles, who never did anything, establishing even the appearance of a claim to justification, found it through the purest mercy of God—of which justification “the root and foundation is faith.”—(Council of Trent, SS. vi., c. viii.)

Rom 9:31. While the Jews, who followed after the Mosaic law, which they fancied would confer justice, did not obtain the true justice of sanctifying grace conferred by the Law of Christ.

While the Jews, who sought after and followed the law of Moses, which, in their, opinion, conferred justice, or which really would lead to justice, if properly observed, did not arrive at the justice for which this law would be a preparation. The words, “law of justice” in the words, “following after the law of justice,” refer to the Mosaic law, which prescribed and pointed out justice. In the preposition, “is not come unto the law of justice;” the words “law of justice” mean sanctifying grace, and the law of justification through Christ.

Rom 9:32. And what is the cause of this difference of dispensation, with regard to Jew and Gentile? The cause is this—that the Jews endeavoured to obtain justice through wrong means, viz., through the works of the law without grace or faith, as if such works could confer it, rejecting the proper means, viz., faith in Christ. They placed, owing to their incredulity, an obstacle to the operation of this essential means for obtaining true justice; and thus Christ became in their regard a stumbling-block, and a rock of offence.

Having established the fact of the rejection of the Jews and the vocation of the Gentiles, which is a summary of all that he had already said, the Apostle assigns the reason of this difference of dispensation regarding both. The reason was, because the Gentiles had recourse to the proper means of arriving at true justice, viz., faith; and placed no obstacle to the gratuitous goodness of God, while the Jews had recourse to wrong means, viz., works performed by the aid of the Mosaic law, without grace or faith, “as it were of works,” as if these works could give them justice. Hence, by establishing such a system of justification, they placed a positive obstacle to the operation of divine grace; and thus Christ became to them a stumbling-block.

Rom 9:33. And that Christ would become a stumbling-block in their regard was predicted by the Prophet Isaias (Isa 28:16, and Isa 8:14). Behold I lay in Sion a stumbling-block and rock of scandal; and whosoever believeth in him, shall not be subjected to the confusion and shame of disappointment.

This result was long before foretold by the prophet Isaias. This quotation is in part made up of two different passages of Isaiah (Isa 8:14, and Isa 28:16), but principally derived from the latter; or, we may say, that it merely contains a reference to both, without professing to be a quotation from either. The latter words, “shall not be confounded” (ου καταισχυνθησεται), are taken from the Septuagint; but instead of them, we have in the Hebrew, according to St. Jerome’s version, “let him not hasten,” which differs but little in sense from the other; since these latter words express that hurry and trepidation consequent on confusion or disappointment in one’s expectations.—(See 1 Peter 2:6).

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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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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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