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An Exposition Of the Epistles Of Saint Paul And Of The Catholic Epistles Volumes 1&2

Analysis

In the first two verses of this chapter, the Apostle addresses his apostolical salutation to the faithful who are elected to grace here, and to glory hereafter, and shows that the Three Persons of the Adorable Trinity concur in the work of redemption. He next bursts forth into the praises of God, for the great gift of spiritual regeneration bestowed on the faithful, which carried with it a lively hope (verse 3); and this regeneration was bestowed on them in order to qualify them, as sons of God, to enter on the possession of his priceless and undying inheritance, securely laid up in heaven for them, who are protected by the strong fortress of faith, until they enjoy this consummate salvation, which shall be manifested on the last day (4, 5). And on account of the blessings in store for them, they now rejoice under the afflictions which it may please Providence to send them, with a view of testing their faith, and bringing it to a happy issue (6, 7). He points out the greatness of the blessings bestowed on them, by referring to the anxiety of the prophets of old to become fully acquainted with them, and of the angels themselves to view these mysteries of grace with awe and wonder (10–12). Here closes the dogmatical part of the Epistle.

He next enters on the moral part, and exhorts them to remove every obstacle, arising from their unsubdued passsions, to the attainment of the bliss prepared for them (19), and to obey, as children of God, his precepts, and perform good works (14). He exhorts them to sanctity of life, after the example of God (15, 16), and to have reverential fear of him as just judge (17). He reminds them of the value God attaches to their souls, owing to the price paid for them (19); not only did Christ shed his blood for them in due time, but this was pre-ordained from eternity; hence, a new motive for sanctity of life (21). He exhorts them to practise fraternal charity (22), and points out the excellence of their new spiritual birth (23–25).

Paraphrase

1. Peter, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, (addresses) the Christian converts, dispersed throughout the districts of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Ionia, and Bithynia, called and elected,

2. According to the predestinating decrees and foreknowledge of God, the Father, to become sanctified by the grace of the Holy Ghost, to obey Jesus Christ, by performing the good works which he has marked out, and thus become partakers, both in this life and the next, of the merits which he has purchased by the effusion of his sacred blood. May you enjoy the abundance of all spiritual blessings, and the quiet, undisturbed possession of the same.

3. Eternal praise and thanksgiving be rendered to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, regardless of any merits of ours, whether actual or foreseen, and influenced solely by his copious and abundant mercy, has given us a new spiritual birth, which carries with it a firm and undying hope of life everlasting; and this new birth of grace has resulted from the resurrection of Christ from the dead, by which our justification has been completed.—(Rom. 4:25).

4. He has given us this new birth of grace, in order to qualify us, as sons, for the enjoyment of an inheritance, which, unlike earthly heritages, is neither subject to corruption nor decay; and, unlike the voluptuous and impure pleasures proposed to themselves by the impious, shall be free from all stain and defilement—an inheritance also which will not only remain incorruptible in substance, but will also retain its original lustre and never-fading beauty; it is, moreover, securely laid up in heaven, “where thieves cannot break through nor steal,” and securely reserved there for you.

5. Who, by the powerful grace and protection of God, are guarded by faith, as by a strong fortress, for that perfect salvation both of soul and of body, which only awaits the last period of time for its full and open manifestation.

6. On account of this hope of future blessings in store for you, and of which you even at present enjoy a foretaste, you now rejoice in the very midst of the painful trials wherewith it may please God’s providence to visit you.

7. The object God has in view in sending these sufferings is, that your faith, well tried and tested by afflictions (a faith, more precious than gold, which men try in the furnace), may be found to terminate in the praise, honour, and glory, that shall be bestowed on you on the last day, when the majesty of Jesus Christ will be fully revealed.

8. Whom, although never seen by you who have lived so remote from Judea, you still love, in whom also, although invisible to you, now that he has ascended into heaven, you still believe, and while believing, you enjoy, by anticipation, a foretaste of that inconceivable joy, which is the portion of God’s glorified elect in heaven.

9. Receiving as the fruit and end of your faith the salvation of your souls, by grace and justification here, and by glory hereafter.

10. After which salvation, now enjoyed by you, the prophets of old, who had prophesied concerning the gracious benefits to be conferred in time upon you, ardently sighed and inquired, and anxiously examined its nature and multifarious details (Ephes., chap. 3).

11. Searching and investigating at what particular period, or at what description of times, whether prosperous or otherwise, the Spirit of Christ, or the Holy Ghost, which dwelt in them, would point out, as the term of the accomplishment of these great events, while it inspired them to foretell the sufferings which Christ was to undergo, and the glories which were to be consequent on them.

12. To whom, in remuneration for their anxious search and eager longings, it was revealed, that it was not for themselves, but for you, they were made instrumental in predicting these wonderful mysteries of grace, now clearly announced to you, by those who have preached the gospel to you as already fulfilled, after the Holy Ghost was sent down from heaven to descend upon them, and teach them all truth; upon whom the angels themselves are anxious to gaze, and with mingled feelings of awe and astonishment, to contemplate in him those mysteries of grace, by appropriation, ascribed to him.

13. Such, therefore, being the exceeding great value of the blessings and inheritance in store for you, you should, by the perfect subjugation of your passions, remove every obstacle to your onward march towards your heavenly country, and with vigilance and sobriety, constantly and perseveringly hope for that grace of perfect happiness, which is to be brought to you at the coming of Jesus Christ to judgment.

14. As obedient children of God, you should also comply with all the precepts of his law, and not live any longer following the dictates of your carnal desires, or in exhibiting this in your external demeanour, as you did heretofore, while you lived in ignorance of Christ.

15. But, following the example of the Holy One, who called you to faith and salvation, be you holy in all the actions of your life.

16. For, it is not a new, but an old precept, that commands you to imitate, as far as the weakness of human nature will permit, the sanctity of God: “Be you holy,” &c.—(Leviticus, 11:44, &c.; 19:2; 20:7; 21:8).

17. And although, in your daily prayers, you address God, and invoke him as your Father; still, you must bear in mind, that he holds in your regard another relation, viz., that of a most just and impartial judge, who judges without favour, or exception of persons, according to every one’s works; hence, you should spend the short period of your passing sojourn here below in a reverential awe and fear of offending him.

18. And you can form an idea of the great rigours of his justice, should you not lead holy lives, from the great price paid to ransom you, and to enable you to become saints. For, you have been redeemed, not with corruptible gold or silver—the most valuable of earthly possessions—from the vain and useless ceremonial observances, handed down to you by your fathers;

19. But, with the precious blood of Christ, of whom the Paschal lamb, which should be free from all spot and defilement, offered up among the Jews, was an exact type and figure.

20. Who was predestined from eternity to ransom us; however, it was only in the last stage of the world, upon which you have fallen, that he has been fully manifested, and all the circumstances of redemption fully made known, for your peculiar advantage.

21. Who through his grace and merits, have faith in God, who raised him from the dead, and conferred glory on him, that your faith and hope might be firmly founded on God.

22. Having, by obedience to the precepts of the law, of which charity is the plenitude, purified your hearts, through the grace of God’s holy spirit, love each other ardently and perseveringly, as brothers, with a sincere brotherly love, and from a pure heart.

23. This brotherly love, which you should have for one another, is grounded on the spiritual regeneration you have all received in common; for, you have been born again, and received a new spiritual existence, not from a principle, or seed of corruption, but from the seed of incorruption, and that is the word of God, who liveth and endureth for ever.

24. In your first birth, you were begotten of a corruptible seed; for, according to the prophet Isaias, (chap. 40:6), every man is as frail and corruptible as grass, and all his glory as transient and fleeting as the flower of grass; the grass withers and its flower falls away. Hence, as man viewed according to his earthly origin, with all his glory passes away, the seed from which he springs must be corruptible.

25. But the seed from which you derive your second generation is incorruptible; for, according to the same prophet, “the word of the Lord remains for ever.” Now, the word referred to by Isaias, is the same that was preached to you, and the same that has been the seed of your spiritual regeneration.

Commentary

1. “Peter.” With the history of this name all are acquainted. He was originally called “Simon,” the son of Jonas. This name was changed by our Redeemer into “Cephas” in Greek, Πετρος, or rock, expressive of the high pastoral jurisdiction and authority over the entire Church, “lambs and sheep,” i.e., people and pastors, promised him (Matt. 6), and conferred on him (John, 21).

“An Apostle,” he might add, “Prince of the Apostles.” but from this title he abstains through humility. “Strangers” (see Introduction). The word refers in a special manner to the converts from Judaism, under whom are also included the Gentile converts. “Pontus, Galatia,” &c., districts in Asia Minor. “Asia” designates “Ionia” of which Ephesus was the capital; but not Asia, Major or Minor, since the other provinces here mentioned are in them; and Asia is sometimes taken in this sense in Scripture (ex. gr. Acts, 2:9, and 19:22). St. Peter addressed these provinces in particular, in consequence of the grievous persecution to which the converted Jews, residing therein, were subjected; and, as “Apostle of circumcision,” he wishes to exhort them to patience and perseverance in the faith. “Elect,” to the grace of Christianity, which, in regard to many of them, doubtless, implies election to glory; to this latter election, however, the Apostle does not immediately refer, nor does he wish to tell those to whom he wrote, that they were all elected to glory.

2. “According to the foreknowledge of God the Father.” This foreknowledge includes predestination, or the decrees of God’s providence, to give grace and the means of salvation. By the predestination, then, of God the Father, they were elected. To what? “Unto the sanctification of the spirit,” i.e., to be sanctified by the grace of the Holy Ghost in this life, and to receive its consummation in glory, in the next; for, grace is the seed of glory. For “unto the sanctification,” we have in some Greek copies, “by or in the sanctification;” but, in, frequently means, unto, in the Greek. The meanings supplied by the Greek reading referred to, and by Vulgate, are united in the Paraphrase. The idea intended by St. Peter is the same as that expressed by St. Paul (Ephes. 1:4), “he chose us in that we should be holy,” &c. “Unto obedience,” i.e., the performance of good works (similar is the idea, Ephes. 2:10) and the observance of God’s commandments, which is obeying the gospel, a necessary condition for their attaining the end of their predestination. “And sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ,” i.e., they were elected to be partakers of the merits of Christ, purchased by his blood, and applied to them in baptism and the other means of grace in the New Law; and it is only through the merits of Christ that our good works or obedience can be of any value whatever. In these words, the Apostle probably refers to the remission of our sins, effected by the application of the blood of Christ; and then he fully describes our justification, consisting in the remission of sin through the infusion of sanctifying grace, and the performance of good works, expressed by the word “obedience.” In the word “sprinkling,” St. Peter makes allusion to the sprinkling of the blood of the legal victims, the effects of which are far beneath that of the blood of Christ (Hebrews, 9:13) St. Peter in this passage shows that the Three Persons of the Adorable Trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, concur in the work of our salvation. “Grace and peace,” &c. The usual form of apostolical salutation.

3. The Apostle commences the subject of the Epistle with the praises of God—“blessed be the God,” &c. Our blessing of God is different from his blessing of us His blessing of us consists in bestowing benefits; whereas, our blessing of him consists in benevolence towards him, in acts of praise, thanksgiving, and gratitude. “The God and Father of our Lord,” &c. This refers to God the Father, the First Person of the Adorable Trinity. The words bear the same meaning as in Rom. 15:6; Ephes. 1:3. He begot the Son by an eternal generation. “Regenerated us,” i.e., has given us a new and second birth of grace, in the laver of baptism, thus bestowing on us a new spiritual essence by grace. “Unto a lively hope,” this new spiritual birth carries with it a “lively hope,” i.e., a hope of life everlasting. “Hope,” may be also put for the object of hope, which is an object ever living, viz., life eternal; and unto this life and the hope of it has he regenerated us, “by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” The resurrection of Christ is the exemplary cause or model of our justification, and it completed our justification by carrying with it, the graces necessary for our spiritual life. “Resurrexit propter justificationem nostram.”—(Rom. 4:25). Or, if we join the words “by the resurrection,” &c., not with the word “regenerated,” as in the preceding, but with “living hope,” then, they will mean—this lively hope is confirmed by the resurrection of Christ, which is a sure pledge and earnest of our spiritual and immortal life (1 Cor. 15:12–14). The hope of the faithful is called “lively,” because animated with charity and good works, which give a foretaste of eternal life, a foretaste never enjoyed by the impious, who “have no hope.”—(1 Thes. 4:12).

4. “Unto an inheritance,” &c. This is the object of the living hope into which we are regenerated. Even though we were to connect this verse with “living hope,” it still must be connected with “regenerated.” He gave us this new existence, in order to qualify us to enter, as sons, on his inheritance. Such is God’s goodness that he wishes to grant eternal life and never ending happiness on the most exalted titles as a “kingdom,” as an “inheritance,” &c. The Apostle shows the exceeding great excellence of this inheritance—“incorruptible,” never to crumble away, or be ruined or dissipated, like an earthly inheritance; “undefiled” (“nothing defiled can enter it,” Apocalypse, 21:27), unlike the voluptuous enjoyment which many unbelievers and heretics propose to themselves; such, for, instance, was the carnal elysium of Mahomet: “and that cannot fade;” it will never grow old; it will retain for ever its original freshness and beauty, not only incorruptible in substance, but unfading in its form and appearance. And finally, he says, it is “reserved in heaven.” This shows its excellence as being a heavenly inheritance, and its certainty, as being safely laid up, “where thieves cannot break through nor steal.” “For you—.” In some Greek copies, for us. The Vatican and Alexandrian MSS. have εις ὑμας, “for you,” the Vulgate reading. It is reserved in heaven for the sons of God; an inheritance is destined for children; and they, whom the Apostle addresses, have become sons of God in their spiritual regeneration, which is for them a new and second birth.

5. “By the power of God,” i.e., the powerful grace and succour of God. “Are kept by faith.” The Greek word for “kept,” φρουρουμενους, conveys the idea of being protected as by a strong military fortress; faith is the medium through which the justifying grace of God protects us, being the root and foundation of all justification (Council of Trent), and they are guarded “unto salvation”—that perfect salvation of soul and body—“ready to be revealed in the last time,” that is, which requires only the last period of time, or the day of judgment to arrive, in order to be fully revealed and manifested. What motives have we not in this passage to aspire, with all the ardour of our souls, after the possession of our heavenly heritage, to disregard and undervalue everything else in comparison with it; to omit nothing, in order to secure this inheritance stored up for us by the boundless goodness of our heavenly Father. “Filii hominum, usquequo gravi corde, ut quid diligitis vanitatem et quæritis mendacium?” And, in truth, what are all things else, all pleasures, all enjoyments, not conducing to the possession of our heavenly inheritance, but delusive, cheating vanities and lies? Of this alone can it be said, that it is, “incorruptible,” “undefiled,” and “never fading.” It alone is our true end, our only rest—“fecisti nos ad te, et inquietum est cor nostrum, donec requiescat in te.”—St. Augustine. O God! grant us true wisdom ever to keep in view our heavenly inheritance; never to barter it for any temporal emolument or gratification, whatever. Mary, “gate of heaven,” pray for us.

6. “Wherein you shall greatly rejoice.” If the word “wherein” be connected with those immediately preceding, “in the last time,” then the words, “you shall greatly rejoice,” retain their future signification, as in our Vulgate (although in the Greek they are read in the present tense, αγαλλιασθε, you rejoice), and mean, that in the last day they will rejoice, although they may have been afflicted with several trials and temptations for a short time in the present life, should it be the will of God to send them. If the word “wherein” refer not to “the last time,” but to the preceding benefits (as in Paraphrase), then, the Greek reading is to be strictly adhered to in the present tense; and the words mean: on account of which hope of future inheritance and salvation prepared for you, you now rejoice in the very midst of the trials which it may fall to your lot to suffer for a short time here below; for, although the inferior part may feel pain, the spirit will rejoice.

7. “That the trial of your faith,” &c. This is connected with the foregoing, “if you must now be made sorrowful,” &c. The end of these afflictions is, “that the trial of your faith,” whereby is meant their faith, tried and tested by afflictions (“much more precious than gold, which is tried in the fire”), and hence, it is left to be inferred, that it is no wonder, that their faith, also, which is more precious, should be tried in the furnace of tribulation—“may be found unto praise,” that is, may be found to eventuate in the praise and commendation, which will be bestowed by God on his faithful servants, “well done, thou good and faithful servant,” &c.; “and glory,” the celebrity and good fame consequent on their virtuous actions—and “honour,” the exalted dignity which will be conferred on them “at the appearing” (in Greek, αποκαλυψει, the revelation), “of Jesus Christ, on the last day when his glory will be revealed.” To the words, “more precious than gold,” are added, in the Greek, the words, which perisheth. “Glory and honour.” This order is sustained by the Alexandrian and Vatican MSS. The ordinary Greek has, “honour and glory.”

8. “Whom having not seen,” because, when on earth, he had not gone amongst them, who lived so far remote from Judea, and, although some amongst them might have seen him at Jerusalem on the occasion of the great festivals (Acts, 2:9), still, the greater portion of those, to whom the Apostle writes, had not. For, “seen,” the ordinary Greek is, ειδοτες, known, but the Vatican MS. has, ἰδοντες. “You love,” as your God and Redeemer. “Though you see him not, you believe;” the words, “you believe,” are not in the Greek. They are implied, however, in the following words, “believing you shall rejoice,” &c. For, “you shall rejoice,” we have in the Greek, αγαλλιατε, you rejoice, in the present tense, “with joy unspeakable,” which neither eye hath seen, nor ear heard, &c.; “and glorified,” such as is enjoyed by the saints of God in glory. Of course, if the words be read in the present tense, as in the Greek, they mean, as in the Paraphrase, that even now they enjoy a foretaste of the unspeakable and glorified joys of heaven.

9. “Receiving the end of your faith,” the end for which faith is given and to which it conducts us. “The salvation of your souls.” If the preceding words be read, as in the Greek, then these words regard the present salvation of their souls by grace and justification, which is the seed of future glory. If the Vulgate reading be followed, the words regard the consummate salvation of their souls in glory, which carries with it the glory and salvation of their bodies. The following verses are in favour of the opinion which makes “salvation,” immediately and directly refer to salvation by justification and grace in this life.

10. The Apostle shows the exalted nature and great value of the salvation, the faithful now enjoy, which is as a foretaste of future glory, by pointing to the eager longings of the prophets of old after it, and their anxiety to obtain a full knowledge of its nature. By referring to the prophets of old, he also shows that it was not a novel system, but such as the Jews themselves should expect. “Of which salvation,” viz., of justification and grace, and the whole economy of redemption. The words are very like the passage (Eph. 3:5–10, &c.), “have inquired and diligently searched.” The prophets of old anxiously inquired and sighed after the accomplishment of redemption. How often, from the gloomy prison of Limbo, did they send forth their sighs and entreaties, “rorate cœli desuper et nubes pluant justum, aperiatur terra et germinet salvatorem” (Isaias, 14:8), “Oh, that thou wouldst rend the heavens and wouldst come down” (Isaias, 64); similar is the allusion (Luke, 10:24): “Many prophets and kings have desired to ses the things that you see, and have not seen them.” “And searched diligently.” The prophets were ignorant of many circumstances of man’s redemption, afterwards fully developed, and made known in the Church (Ephes. 3:5–10).

11. “Searching what, or what manner of time,” that is, after how many years, or, at what kind of times, whether of national prosperity or adversity, “the spirit of Christ,” the Holy Ghost, who proceeds from the Father and Son, “in them,” (the Greek has, which was in them), “did signify;” or, referred to, when, treating of the accomplishment of this event; “when it foretold,” i.e., previously inspired them with a knowledge to foretell. “The sufferings that are in Christ,” i.e., the sufferings which Christ was to undergo, “and the glories, which should follow.” He says, “glories,” owing to the many instances in which Christ, after his passion, received glory, (v.g.) in his Resurrection, Ascension, &c. As his glory was consequent on his sufferings, so must we too suffer with Christ, before we can enter with him on his glory.

12. “To whom (the prophets of old) it was revealed, that not to themselves, but to you, they ministered these things;” that it was not to confirm or strengthen their own faith, or that of their contemporaries, but to confirm your faith in after ages (for, the the things that happened in figure, were written for our admonition—1 Cor. 10:6), they were employed in the ministry of predicting beforehand, “those things,” those mysteries of redemption and grace, “which are now declared to you,” announced to you as already accomplished “by them that preached the gospel to you,” by the Apostles, who preached in Pontus, Galatia, &c. “The Holy Ghost being sent down from heaven;” after the Holy Ghost descended upon them from heaven, on the day of Pentecost, teaching them all truth. The ordinary Greek has “in the Holy Ghost,” but the preposition, in, is not found in either the Alexandrian or Vatican MS. “On whom the angels desire to look;”—“on whom” is referred by Venerable Bede, and others, to “Christ,” of whom mention is made in the preceding verse. Others refer it to the Holy Ghost, the word immediately preceding. In the Greek, instead of “on whom,” we have, εις ἅ, into which, referring to the mysteries of redemption and grace, which the angels are anxious to examine into most closely, in order to know them fully. And this will have the same signification with chap. 3:10, Epistle to Ephesians. It will, moreover, contain a further commendation of the exalted benefits, conferred on the faithful, when we know that the angels themselves, with mingled feelings of admiration and awe, are anxious to search narrowly into them. The present Greek reading is preferred by Estius and others. The Greek word for “look,” παρακυψαι, which means, to stoop down, for the purpose of examining a thing more narrowly, also favours this reading. The meaning will not be very different, even though we adhere to the Vulgate reading, and understand it of the Holy Ghost; for, in him they would see the wonderful mysteries of grace, by appropriation, ascribed to the Third Person of the Adorable Trinity.—A’Lapide. From all this, we, who, as well as the faithful in the time of St. Peter, are sharers in the benefits of redemption, can clearly see the debt of gratitude we owe Almighty God, for having favoured us, in preference to millions of his creatures, upon whom, both in past and present generations, never has beamed a single ray of his revelation. It is the effect of his great mercy, “secundum magnam misericordiam regeneravit nos.” “Misericordias Domini in eternum cantabo.”

13. The Apostle, in this verse, commences the moral part of the Epistle. “Wherefore,” since the inheritance and the blessings reserved for you in heaven, of which you have here a foretaste and sure earnest, are so great, that the prophets sighed after them, and the very angels regard them with astonishment. “Having the loins of your mind girt up.” These words contain an allusion to the custom among the ancients of girding their flowing robes, when preparing for any active feat, and “the loins of the mind” are taken metaphorically, to denote the passions of the soul; hence, the words mean, subjugating all their passions, and removing every obstacle, arising from the concupiscible and irascible appetites, to the onward march towards their heavenly country. “Being sober;” the Greek word, νηφοντες, means also, being vigilant, as in 1 Timothy, 3:2; both meanings are given in the Paraphrase. “Trust perfectly in the grace, &c.” “Perfectly” may mean, perseveringly unto the end, or, trust with a hope, animated with charity and good works. “In the grace,” the perfect salvation of soul and body, “which is offered.” The Greek, φερομενην, means, which is to be brought you “in the revelation,” &c., on the day of general judgment.

14. In order to gain the inheritance, they should not only repress the passions of the soul, but as obedient sons of their Father, who has this inheritance in store for them, they should obey all his precepts, and “not be fashioned.” The Greek word, συσχηματιζομενοι, means, putting on the external form and dress of a thing; similar is the idea conveyed (Ephes. 4:22). Hence, it means here, not to exhibit in their external actions and conduct, the workings of their corrupt passions and carnal desires; “former,” according to which they formerly lived; “of your ignorance,” before they were gifted with the true knowledge of Christ. These latter words apply to the Jewish, as well as to the Gentile converts. Hence, they furnish no argument that this Epistle was addressed principally to the latter.

15. He encourages them to sanctity of life after the example of God, “him that called you, who is Holy.” God is such, by his very nature and essence. “In all manner of conversation;” they should exhibit sanctity of life in all their actions, in all places, and in all circumstances of life.

16. “Because it is written: you shall be holy,” &c.—(Leviticus, 11:44, and 19 and 20) Hence, the precept of being holy after the example of God—who is holy by essence—as far as our infirmity will permit, is not a new precept, having been enjoined of old, on the Jewish people. It is promulgated in the New Law, “be you perfect as your heavenly Father,” &c.—Matthew, 5:48. The ordinary Greek, instead of, “you shall be holy” has, γενεσθε, “be ye holy;” but, the Vulgate is the reading of the chief MSS.

17. Another motive to stimulate them to sanctity of life, “and if you invoke as Father,” as you daily do in the Lord’s prayer, “Our Father who art in heaven.” “Without respect of persons,” for the meaning, and application of these words (see Rom., 2:11). “Converse in fear;” similar is the exhortation (Philip. 4:12). “During the time of your sojourning here.” The word, “sojourning,” conveys the idea of strangers or pilgrims travelling through a strange land, and such is truly our condition, while travelling through this vale of tears towards our heavenly country. Hence, though God be a father, whom we should love, he is also a just judge, of whom we should have a reverential fear.

18. “Knowing that you were redeemed,” &c. This is an additional motive for sanctity of life. They were “redeemed,” and their ransom effected, “not with corruptible gold and silver,” which are the most valuable of earthly possessions: “from your vain conversation of the tradition, &c.,” that is, from the observances of the legal and ceremonial law, handed down to them from their fathers, but which were “vain,” of no effect, for really cleansing their consciences from sin and justifying them. The legal ceremonies were useless for conferring justice, while the Scribes and Pharisees added many mandates, even opposed to God’s law (v.g.), the tradition referred to Matthew (15:6), about giving to the temple, what was necessary for the support of their parents. The Apostle wishes, in those verses, to show, that as God has so valued our souls, as to give for their ransom the blood of his Son, he will exercise, as a just judge, the utmost rigour, if we undervalue this great gift, and ruin these souls so dearly purchased, by not following a course of sanctity.

19. “But, with the precious blood of Christ;” it is called “precious,” being the blood of God, a person of infinite dignity. “As of a lamb;” “as,” means, that he was like a lamb, both in innocence of life and patience in suffering. “Unspotted and undefiled,” is allusive to the Paschal lamb among the Jews, which should be without blemish, (Exodus, 12:5), and was an exact type of Christ, who was a victim, which was “holy, innocent, &c.,” (Hebrews, 7:26). Can anything give us so exalted an idea of the value of immortal souls in the eyes of God, or stimulate us so strongly to co-operate in their salvation, as these words of the Apostle, “Redempti pretioso sanguine Christi!” Woe to us, if either through neglect and indifference in regard to those under our care, or, through positive scandal, we cause the blood of a God to have flown in vain, for immortal souls! “Better for us that a mill-stone were tied about our neck and we were drowned in the depth of the sea.”

20. “Fore-known,” that is predestined, “before the foundation.” In Greek, προ καταβολης, “before casting the foundation of the world,” that is to say, from eternity. “But manifested in the last times.” Christ made his appearance on this earth, and displayed the mysteries of his redemption, in the last stage of the world; “for you,” Jews, to whom the kingdom of God was first announced, or “for you,” who live in this last age, who are partakers of redemption, and are in a special manner bound to make a return of love; each one can appreciate to himself the passion of Christ.—“dilexit me et tradidit semetipsum pro me.”—(Galatians. 2:20).

21. “Who, through him,” through his grace and merits, “are faithful in God.” In the ordinary Greek, believe in God; the Vatican MS. supports the Vulgate; from God’s grace alone faith can come. “Who raised him from the dead;” the raising of Christ from the dead, although common to the three Persons of the adorable Trinity, being an act of power, is, by appropriation, ascribed to God the Father. “And hath given him glory;” the glory of Christ commenced in his Resurrection, and was continued in his Ascension, in the mission of the Holy Ghost, in the preaching of his gospel, &c., so that he was declared the Lord of angels and of men, of heaven and earth, and received that renown which he had before the world was—(John, 17:5). “That your faith” (which would be vain, if Christ had not risen, 1 Cor. 15:5)—“and hope, might be in God;” for, by rising from the dead, has given us a sure hope and earnest of being one day raised with him, our glorified head, to a glorious and immortal life.

22. From verse 17, to this, may be included in a parenthesis, in which the Apostle turns aside from the moral exhortation commenced verse 13 to enlarge on the blessings of man’s redemption, “purifying your souls in the obedience of charity.” In the Greek, in the obedience of truth, the meaning of which will be, having purified your hearts through faith in God’s truths. Similar is the passage (Acts 15), “fide purificans corda corum.” In the ordinary Greek are added here the words through the spirit; they are not, however, found in our Vulgate, nor in the Vatican MS. “With a brotherly love.” In Greek, εις φιλαδελφιαν ανυποκριτον, unto a brotherly love without hypocrisy. According to which the meaning would be: having purified your hearts by obedience to faith, through God’s spirit, so as to promote and advance a sincere brotherly love. “From a sincere heart.” In the ordinary Greek, εκ καθαρας καρδιας, from a pure heart. The word “pure” is not found in the Alexandrian or Vatican MMS. From the Greek words above quoted, it is clear, the word “sincere” or without hypocrisy, ανυποκριτον, should be joined not with “heart,” as in our English version, but with “brotherly love.” The meaning of the entire verse comes to this: that having purified their souls and affections, by the observance of the entire law, and having particularly in view to advance in brotherly love, they should continue to entertain a pure and ardent love for one another. Alas! where is there any other precept of our blessed Redeemer so shamefully violated as this peculiar one, which he emphatically calls his own—“This is my precept, that you love one another”?

23. “Being born again not of corruptible seed.” In these words, he shows the chief grounds on which their pure and persevering brotherly love is founded. They are brethren, by a new spiritual generation, having received a new essence and existence, not from any human principle or corruptible seed (qui non ex sanguinibus, neque ex voluntate carnis, neque ex voluntate viri—John, 1), “but from an incorruptible seed”—(Sed ex Deo nati sunt), this seed is “the word of the living and ever enduring God.” What is meant by this “word” is a matter of dispute with Commentators; some understanding by it, the word of revelation, the gospel preached to them; or, rather, the faith and preventing graces of God, consequent on hearing the preaching of the gospel. All these dispositions of faith, joined with hope and penance, being placed in the soul, serving as the seed of the new life, God infuses sanctifying grace, and thereby bestows a new spiritual existence of which the word of God was the seed. Others understand by it the form of the sacrament of Baptism—“I baptize thee in the name of the Father, &c.”—which, being added to the matter or element, constitutes the sacrament of regeneration, accedit verbum ad elementum et fit sacramentum—St. Augustine. The former opinion, referring it to the word of revelation, which is the seed of faith, and the other dispositions, that precede the infusion of sanctifying grace, appears the more probable.

“The word of God who liveth and remaineth for ever,” may be also rendered from the Greek, λογου ζῶντος Θεοῦ και μενοντος, which (word) liveth and remaineth for ever. The latter signification is, however, included in the former; for, if God remains for ever, so shall his word, which is his seed.

24. He proves the first part of the assertion implied in verse 23, that in their first, or carnal birth, they were born of a corruptible seed (“being born again not of corruptible seed.”) This he shows from the prophet Isaias (chap. 40:6), “all flesh is as grass;” by “flesh” is meant human nature, or, man viewed according to his earthly or carnal generation; then, every man, viewed in this respect, is as frail and corruptible “as grass,” and, consequently, the seed from which he was begotten, or, the principle of his human generation, was corruptible. “And all the glory thereof as the flower of grass” that is, all the celebrity, fame, and honours, which dazzle and attract the eyes of men, are as nought, passing away, like smoke and vapour. “The grass is withered and the flower thereof,” its frailest part, thus, an apt image of all earthly and human grandeur, “is fallen away.” Oh! what an idea is here conveyed to us of the uncertainty and instability of all human honours and enjoyment. They are likened by the Spirit of God to “the flower of the grass” the frailest thing that exists—“homo, sicut fænum dies ejus, sicut flos agri sic efflorebit, tanquam spiritus transibit in illo et non subsistet, et non cognoscet amplius locum suum.”—(Psalm 102:15).

25. From the same passage of Isaias, he proves, that the seed from which we have derived our second, or spiritual generation, is incorruptible; for, in Isaias it is said “that the word of the Lord endureth for ever.”—(Chap. 40:8). Now, the word which, according to Isaias, endureth fer ever, is that, “which by the gospel has been preached to you;” and this same is the word or seed of which you have been spiritually begotten, and have derived your new spiritual existence by sanctifying grace. The “word,” of which we are spiritually begotten, most likely refers to the word of God’s revelation, from which we conceive faith—the first grace in the order of justification, and the first of the dispositions consequent on which, as a seed, God infuses the form of a new spiritual existence, viz., sanctifying grace. The conclusion which the Apostle wishes us to draw from this incorruptibility of the principle of our new birth is, that our charity and love for our brethren (verse 22) should correspond with the qualities of this principle, that it should be constant, enduring, persevering, pure, and holy.








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