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

Analysis

In this chapter, the Apostle, after having digressed from the subject of the death of Christ (3:18), now returns to point out the lesson of instruction, which they should all derive from it, viz.: that they should no longer live in sin, but that their whole lives should be employed in performing the will of God (1, 2). For, they had already devoted too much time to the gratification of the corrupt passions, to which the unconverted Gentiles are prone (3), who, on seeing the Christian converts, now refuse to join them in the perpetration of their former crimes, execrate and blaspheme both them and their holy religion, as the enemies of all social and friendly intercourse among men (4). For these blasphemies, they shall one day have to render a most strict account to Christ, the judge of the living and the dead (5).

Against the Epicureans and other sects, who held, that, at death, man ceases to exist, and hence, no judgment or accountability, he proves from the fact of Christ having preached in the prison of Limbo, to those who had been long since dead, that Christ was to be judge of the dead as well as of the living (6). Not only have these been judged; but, in a short time, all things are to come to their final close; and hence, those whom he addresses, as well as all future generations, should be very circumspect and watchful duly to discharge the great duty of prayer (7).

He exhorts them to the practice of uninterrupted charity towords one another, and particularly of that branch of it, which consists in affording lodging and support to poor indigent strangers (8, 9).

He, next, prescribes the proper mode of exercising the spiritual gifts with which they might have been endowed for the good of others (10). These gifts he reduces to two heads, viz.: the gift of speaking, and the gift of action or administration; and both one and the other, should be exercised so as to promote, as indeed all our actions should, the glory of God through Jesus Christ (11).

He then renews his former exhortation to patience, on several grounds: because, by suffering they only submit to what all the elect before them had to undergo (12). Because, patient sufferings cause us to share in the sufferings of Christ, and lead to unalloyed joy and transport (13). Because, these sufferings and reproaches are the source of peculiar blessedness (14). From this peculiar blessedness, he excludes sufferings, undergone for the commission of crime (15, 16). He exhorts them to patience, because they are thus submitting to the general will of God, in saving his elect (17). Finally, he encourages them to commit their souls to God (19).

Paraphrase

1. Since, therefore, Christ has suffered for us in his human and passible nature, the just for the unjust, to atone for, and destroy our sins, you too should be armed with the same, or a similar thought, of which his death is typically suggestive, viz.: that the Christian, who has suffered in his carnal passions, and crucified them, conformably to the lesson mystically taught us, by the crucifixion of Christ, has ceased from sins, and holds no more commerce with them, than the living do with the dead.

2. So as to live no longer according to the sinful desires of men, to which he has died, but to devote the remainder of his life in fulfilling the precepts of God, which are the formal expression of his will.

3. For, the portion of our time that has passed was sufficiently long (nay, too long), for complying with the corrupt will of the unconverted Gentiles, while we habitually indulged in deeds of uncleanness, whether interiorly, by illicit desires, or exteriorly, by drunken debauch and excessive indulgence in wine, in revolting and wanton feastings, in drinking matches, and in the execrable and abominable worshipping of idols.

4. At this they are amazed, as at something strange and unaccountable, viz., that you refuse to join any longer with them, in the same evil practices of dissoluteness and luxury, and hence, they blaspheme your holy religion, and curse yourselves, as the enemies of all friendly and social intercourse.

5. For these blasphemies, as well as for all their deeds of dissoluteness, they shall render a rigorous account to him, who is ready soon to exercise the power given him by his Father, of judging both “the living,” viz., those who shall be alive immediately before his coming, and “the dead,” viz., those who departed this life during all preceding ages.

6. And it was in order that it might be clearly seen, that Christ is to be judge, not only of the living, but also of the dead, that the gospel was preached by him to the dead, shut up in the prison of Limbo, (3:18, 19), so that (although) these, long since departed, may have been judged by men, who look only to appearances, to be for ever lost, once their life in this world has been extinct, or at least to be fools in restraining their passions in hopes of future bliss, as, indeed, you are regarded now by the unconverted Gentiles (5:4), (still) they may be found to enjoy with God—who judges according to truth—a glorious and immortal life in the world to come—(“in the spirit.”)

7. Christ is ready to judge the living and the dead, to punish the wicked, and reward the patient suffering of the just, and that at no distant time; for, the final end of all is fast approaching. In order, then, to be fully prepared for his coming, be prudent and circumspect, and be sober and vigilant for the due exercise of the important duty of prayer.

8. Above all things, entertain for each other mutual unceasing feelings of charity, which nothing can interrupt; for, this charity covers the sins of the neighbour, be they ever so numerous, and obtains or merits the remission of our own.

9. Practise the virtue of hospitality, by harbouring in your houses and supporting your indigent Christian brethren, without murmuring at the inconvenience or expense which the laudable exercise of this virtue may entail upon you.

10. Let each one, who has been endowed with any spiritual gift, employ and minister it with the same liberality with which it was bestowed on him by God, for the service of his neighbour; all persons thus gifted should regard themselves merely as faithful stewards of the manifold grace and gifts of God, and dispense them accordingly.

11. If any one be endowed with the grace of the word; if he speak, whether to explain the mysteries of faith, and instruct in the Christian doctrine, or to console those under affliction, or to exercise the gift of tongues or interpretation, let him employ words perfectly in accordance with the truths of faith, without any admixture of error—if he exercise any spiritual ministration, whether in curing the sick, or administering the sacraments of the Church, let him, in the exercise of such ministry, display that zeal and fervour with which God inspires those engaged in his service; so that by the proper exercise of all these gifts and all your actions, God may be honoured and glorified, through the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom is due eternal honour and empire for ever and ever. Amen.

12. Dearly beloved, be not surprised, nor consequently troubled, at the fire of tribulation and persecution which you endure, sent you by God, to test your virtue, and exercise your patience, as if something new had happened you, that is to say, as if your case were a departure from the ordinary providence which God has at all times manifested towards his elect.

13. But since by thus suffering patiently for justice sake, you share and take a part in the sufferings of Christ, you should now rejoice, in order that, at the revelation of his glory hereafter, you may become partakers of unmixed joy and ineffable transport.

14. And if you suffer reproach for bearing the name of Christian, and professing the doctrine of Christ, you are blessed here in firm hope, and shall be blessed, hereafter, in the enjoyment of never ending happiness; for, far from its being dishonourable; inglorious, or cowardly in you to bear silently such reproaches; on the contrary, you alone are possessed of real honour, glory and fortitude abidingly conferred on you by the power of God and of his Holy Spirit, the only source of good gifts.

15. But in pointing out the merit of patient suffering, I speak not of suffering in a bad cause, on account of outraging the laws of society; for none of you should draw down upon himself merited punishment, due to a homicide, or a thief, or a slanderer, or to such as curiously pry into other persons’ affairs, in order to circumvent and rob them.

16. But if any one of you suffer for being a Christian, and for practising Christian virtues, far from feeling ashamed, he should give glory to God on this account.

17. For, the present life is the time during which judgment is to commence with the house of God, with his own chosen elect; but if God be so severe in his remedial punishment which he exercises in the salutary chastisements of his mercy towards us, if the merciful beginning be so severe, what shall be the severity with which his outraged justice shall continue to punish for eternity, those who obstinately disobey and refuse to embrace his gospel?

18. And if the just man shall obtain salvation only at the expense of so much suffering and sacrifice, where shall the impious and sinful man appear on the day of judgment?

19. Wherefore, since it is only on condition of suffering that the just are saved, let those who, according to God’s holy will, are doomed to suffer, commend their souls, as a deposit, into the hands of a faithful depositary, their Creator, not failing, however, on their own part, to co-operate by the performance of good works.

Commentary

1. “Christ, therefore, having suffered in the flesh.” In some Greek copies it is, having suffered for us. The words “for us” are omitted in the Codex Vaticanus. The Apostle returns to the subject of the death of Christ, from which he had digressed (3:18), and points out the moral lesson, of which it is suggestive, “you should be armed with the same thought,” i.e., a thought, which his death suggests, owing to the mystical signification which it bears; for, his death mystically represents our death to sin; as his resurrection represents our resurrection to a new life of grace. This idea is inculcated in many passages of St. Paul (Rom. 6; Colos. 2 and 3) “For he that hath suffered in the flesh;” this is the thought with which they should be armed, and which they should be disposed to carry out in practice, viz.: that the man, who, after the example of Christ dying on the cross, “hath suffered in the flesh;”—“flesh” here is taken in a different signification from that which it bears in the foregoing part of the verse, “Christ suffered in the flesh,” which means, in his human or passible nature; here, it means, having suffered in his carnal passions, and having crucified them—such a person, I say, “hath ceased from sins,” holds no more intercourse with them, than the living hold with the dead.

2. “That now he may live the rest of his time in the flesh.” The Greek, literally translated, will run thus, so as to live the remaining time in the flesh, which may either refer to the man who has suffered in his carnal passions, as our Vulgate has it, or to the persons whom St. Peter addresses, “that now you may live the rest of your time,” &c., “not after the desires of men,” or, following the corrupt passions of men, “but according to the will of God,” i.e., in obeying and fulfilling God’s commandments.

3. “For the past time is sufficient.” There is here, a meiosis; the phrase implies more than it expresses, viz., that too much time was devoted to the corrupt practices to which he refers. “To have fulfilled the will of the Gentiles.” In some Greek copies, the words, for us, are added, but they are not in the Vatican or Alexandrian MSS. “The time past is sufficient (for us) to have fulfilled,” &c., that is, to have practised these evil deeds, to which the unconverted Gentiles are prone; “for them who have walked,” &c., i.e., habitually lived and indulged “in riotousness, lusts,” &c. The former refers to outward, external deeds of uncleanness; the latter, to internal desires, and acts of consent; “excess of wine,” drunkenness, arising from drinking wine, under which are included other strong intoxicating drinks; revellings, feasts or banquets instituted for the purpose of wanton excesses; “banquetings,” drinking matches, which lead to intemperance and debauchery. To such reference is made (Proverbs, 23:30), “they that pass their time in wine, and study to drink off their cups.” “And unlawful,” the Greek, αθεμιτοις, means execrable, or, abominable. “Worshipping of idols.” It is not unlikely, that the Jews, to whom this Epistle is addressed, were prevailed upon by the Gentiles, among whom they lived, either from fear or friendship, or poverty, to join, at least in the illicit use of idolothytes, and that they partook of them in common with the Gentiles; or, it may be, that in this verse, the Apostle, in a special manner, addresses himself to the converted Gentiles. The corrupt practices of the Gentile world are here reduced, by the Apostle, to two sorts, viz., sins of uncleanness, and excessive intemperance in eating or drinking, the latter crime generally produces the former, “in vino luxuria;” the excessive indulgence in strong drinks is a sure source of uncleanness, “venter æstuans vino spumit in libidinem” (St. Jerome). In order to incur the mortal guilt of intemperance, here denounced by the Apostle, it is by no means necessary, that a person should lose the use of reason. The excessive habitual indulgence in strong drinks, even unaccompanied with the loss of reason, would appear to entail mortal guilt, “væ vobis, qui potentes estis ad bibendum vinum, et viri fortes ad miscendam ebrietatem.”—(Isaias, 5:22).

4. “Wherein.” The Greek, ἐν ὠ means at which, but as it has reference to what follows, viz., their refusal to join in the former wicked practices, it is explained in Paraphrase, at this; “they think it strange,” or are completely at a loss to know how it could come to pass, viz., “that you run not with them into the same confusion.” In Greek, αναχυσιν, profusion, or practices of abominable dissoluteness: “speaking ill of you,” and your holy religion, as opposed to friendly feelings and social intercourse.

5. For these blasphemies, and their wicked deeds, they shall one day render an account to Christ, who is ready, and armed with judicial power, to pass sentence on the “living and the dead.” By “the living,” whom Christ is to judge, are commonly understood, those who shall be alive at the time of his second coming, whose death will be followed by an instantaneous resuscitation, so that they may be regarded as having never died, and as always “living,” the interval between their death and resuscitation being so very short. By the “dead,” are understood such as have died during all preceding ages.

6. This verse is regarded by the generality of Commentators as exceedingly difficult and perplexing, and, indeed, it is not easy to see what interpretation to adopt, regarding it. It was the evident connexion which he thought he perceived between this, and verse 19 of the preceding chapter, that made St. Augustine interpret the words, “spirits in prison” (3:19), of living men detained, in the days of Noe, in the prison of infidelity and vice; it was this that involved him in the insuperable difficulties attached to that strange interpretation. He thought the only interpretation of the word “dead,” in this verse, that could at all accord with the context, is that which makes the word refer to sinners and infidels, “dead” to grace and faith; for, it is of such the Apostle is treating (4) and it is in reference to their blasphemies, he introduces the judgment to be passed by Christ (5), on the living and the dead, and the word “dead” (5) clearly refers to the same persons, that it refers to in this verse. Mauduit, who has been followed in the interpretation of verses 19, 20 of preceding chapter, while he rejects the opinion of St. Augustine regarding the passage referred to and denies that there is reference to the preaching made by Christ, through Noe, to the incredulous antediluvians, follows St. Augustine in his interpretation of this verse, and in a dissertation, in which his reasoning is principally aimed against the interpretation of Estius—reasoning which seems to be more specious than solid—endeavours to show, that in this verse there must be question only of those who are “dead” to grace and faith. These are the dead, of whom it is said in the gospel, “suffer the dead to bury their dead;” and by the “living,” in verse 5, he understands those who believe in Christ and are not deaf to his voice, of whom it is said, “arise ye who sleep, and come forth from the dead, and Christ will enlighten you.” “The hour cometh, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who shall hear will live.” Mauduit lays some stress, also, on the difference between the original Greek words for “preached,” in 19 of 3, and in this verse; in 3:19 it is εκηρυξεν proclaimed as herald, in this, ευηγγελισθη, evangelized. The interpretation adopted in the Paraphrase is that given by A’Lapide. It has this advantage, that it retains the common meaning of the words “living and dead,” when referring to the judging power of Christ, and it is free from the objections to which the reasoning of Estius is liable, although both agree in giving the same interpretation of the passage, and understand it of the preaching made by Christ, during the brief period of the separation of his soul from his body, to the souls shut up in the prison of Limbo.

“For, for this cause was the gospel preached also to the dead,” viz., to show that those who were long dead were to be judged by Christ; this the Apostle is anxious to demonstrate, in opposition to the false tenets of the Pagan sects, particularly the Epicureans, among whom the early converts from Judaism and Paganism lived. With them it was a favourite maxim, that after death the soul had perished with the body, without further accountability; and hence, during life, we should deny ourselves no gratification whatever; their motto being, “let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we shall die,” (1 Cor. 15); against these St. Paul directs chap. 15 of his 1st Epistle to the Corinthians. “That they might be judged, indeed, according to men, in the flesh.” If we confine the word “dead,” merely to the antediluvians, whose souls were saved in the deluge, then the words mean, so that although they may have been judged by men, Noe and his children, as by all future generations, whom the history of the deluge reached, to be for ever lost to God and heaven—as many suppose with St. Augustine—“in the flesh,” that is, judging merely according to appearance, as mankind always do; still, they “live” in the judgment of God—which is always according to the truth—“in the spirit,” that is, a life of immortality and glory in the world to come. If the word “dead” refer to all the spirits shut up in Limbo, then, the latter words will have a meaning perfectly in accordance with the context, that although all these dead, to whom the gospel was preached, may, during life, have been judged by foolish men, to have perished for ever, “in the flesh,” i.e., the moment the dissolution of their souls from their bodies occurred—or, judged by men, who merely look to external things (“in the flesh”) to be fools and madmen for mortifying their passions, as they judge of you now (4)—still, in the judgment of God, they will be found to have earned for themselves a glorious and happy life. The same judgment you, too, are to expect if you live “according to the will of God” (2). The only objection that can be urged against this interpretation is, that the particles “although” and “still,” expressive of opposition between the two members of the sentence, “that (although) they might be judged,” “but (still) may live according to God,” &c., are added to the interpretation. This difficulty will vanish on a close examination of the text; for, it is clear, there is an opposition between the two members of the sentence—“judged according to men in the flesh”—“live according to God in the spirit;” and the addition, in the interpretation of the particles in question, serves only to express more clearly this implied opposition.

7. This verse may be connected with the preceding, thus: not only has the end of these men, to whom Christ preached in Limbo, and upon whom judgment has been already passed, come, but the end of us all, and the entire world, is fast approaching. It is, however, more commonly connected, as in Paraphrase. “The end of all is at hand,” may refer to the near approach of the death of each individual, at which his judgment takes place, and his eternal doom sealed; or to the near approach of the day of judgment, the world being now in its last stage, “hæc est hora novissima” (1 John, 2:18); “in quos fines seculorum devenerunt” (1 Cor. 10:2); and the time that intervenes, be it ever so long, compared with eternity, is but as yesterday, which is past and gone. “Be prudent, therefore,” that is, circumspect, in all your actions, observing that prudence of salvation, which is true wisdom with God. “And watch in prayers.” The Greek word for “watch,” νὴψατε, also means, be sober, in which signification it is taken (chap. 5:8). Watch and be sober for the exercise of prayer; for, the prayers of such as are given to intoxication are heavy, drowsy, and unacceptable to God. There is allusion in these words to the words of our Redeemer (Matthew, 25:13, and 26:41).

8. “But before all things.” These words show the importance of charity, which is justly designated, the queen of virtues. “Have a constant mutual charity among yourselves.” The word “constant” means, that their charity for one another should be persevering and uninterrupted. “For charity covereth a multitude of sins.” These words are commonly understood to refer to the sins of our neighbour, and to the offences committed by him against us. These charity dictates to us to palliate and excuse; for, “charity is patient, kind, beareth all things, endureth all things” (1 Cor. 13); and hence, by dissembling and pardoning the sins of our neighbour, we most effectually secure the inestimable blessing of concord and peace. The Apostle appears to allude to the words (Proverbs, 10:12), “hatred stirreth up strifes, and charity covereth all sins,” wherein reference is made to the sins of our neighbour. No doubt, the words will, even in this interpretation, indirectly include the sins of the man who exercises charity, by obtaining their remission, should there be question of mortal, or by meriting the remission of venial sins, in a man already justified. Some interpreters say, there is direct reference to the sins of the man who exercises charity, and that this is proposed by the Apostle as a motive of reward for the cultivation of charitable feelings. Both interpretations are adopted in the Paraphrase.

9. “Using hospitality one to another,” that is, towards such as require it. By “hospitality” is meant, the exercise of Christian charity in affording shelter, lodging and support to destitute Christian strangers. The practice of receiving Christian strangers into their houses was much recommended in the primitive Church, and was a very necessary exercise of Christian charity, owing to the want of accommodation at inns, and on account of the dangers, both to faith and morals, to which the recently converted would be exposed, by associating with infidels. Hence, the usage among the early churches of giving passports or “tesseræ hospitalitatis,” on showing which, a Christian was sure of a hospitable reception from his brethren of the faith. The Apostle here recommends the exercise of this virtue, “without murmuring,” either at the number or condition of the poor Christian strangers, to whom it might become necessary at times to afford accommodation.

10. He now instructs them in the proper exercise of the spiritual gifts and ministrations gratuitously conferred on them by God. “Hath received grace.” By “grace,” as appears from the Greek word, χαρισμα, is meant, any gratuitous gift. These gifts were bestowed on them liberally and gratuitously for the good of others; and hence, they should be exercised in the same way (“as every man hath received,” &c.), gratuitously and liberally. “As good stewards of the manifold grace of God,” they should recollect that they are merely dispensers of a deposit placed in their hands; they should, then, administer it according to the will of him from whom they received it, neither allowing it to remain idle, nor employing it for their own interest or selfish advantages. “The manifold grace of God” (vide Rom. 12:6).

11. These gifts are reduced by the Apostle to two great divisions, viz., the gift of the word and of action. This is conformable to the division made by St. Paul (Rom. 12, and 1 Cor. 12) “If any one speak,” by which is meant: if any one is called to exercise in the Church the gift of wisdom, or knowledge, or prophecy, doctrine, exhortation, interpretation (vide Rom. 12), “let him speak as the words of God,” that is, let him say nothing that is not perfectly in accordance with the truths of God, and worthy of the minister, through whom God speaks. The phrase, “as the words of God,” is perfectly similar to the words, “according to the rule of faith.”—(Rom. 12:6). “If any one minister,” that is, be gifted with the grace of action, if he exercise any spiritual ministry, whether in curing the sick; or, as probably the words refer to the duties of the early deacons, in administering the Holy Eucharist, or relieving the corporal wants and necessities. “As of the power which God administereth,” that is, let him display that zeal and fortitude in overcoming difficulties which God supplies to those engaged in his service. “That in all things,” in all our actions, no matter how apparently indifferent, “God may be honoured.” This should be the great end of all our ministrations and actions, “through Jesus Christ,” since it is to his merits we are indebted for the grace through which our actions are rendered acceptable with God. “To whom,” refers either to Jesus Christ or to God, “is glory and empire,” &c.

12. The Apostle again adverts to the subject of patience under afflictions, of which he had been treating already, in several passages of this Epistle. “Think not strange the burning heat.” In the Greek are added the words, τῆ ἐν υμιν, which is in you, i.e., feel not surprised at seeing yourselves subjected to the fire of persecution and tribulation, which you have to submit to. “Which is to try you.” The object of God in sending these afflictions is to try your virtue, and test your patience; for, “as gold and silver are tried in the fire, so are acceptable men in the furnace of humiliation.”—(Eccles. 2:5). “As if something new had happened to you,” that is, be not surprised at the tribulations which befall you, as if something new or strange had happened you, as if, in your case God had departed from the ordinary treatment which he always exhibits towards his elect. Persecutions have been always the chosen inheritance of God’s servants. “From the protomartyr Abel, to the last of the elect, persecution will never cease to be the portion of God’s children.”—Venerable Bede.

13. This is an additional motive to suffer patiently, because, by so doing, they share in the sufferings of Christ, their sufferings are united with his (2 Cor. 1:5), “as the sufferings of Christ abound in us.”—(Heb. 13:13, 11:26; 2 Cor. 4:10; Rom. 8:17; Gal. 6:17). Christ is our head—we his members; we are also incorporated with him by baptism. “Rejoice,” then, as you know that these sufferings are united with those of Christ. “That when his glory shall be revealed,” on the day of judgment, “you may also be glad with exceeding joy;” and the present joy which you now feel, although embittered by pains and crosses, will then be exchanged for ineffable, unalloyed joy, which will manifest itself in transport and the rapturous joy of your glorified bodies.

14. “And if you be reproached for the name of Christ.” The profession of Christianity had been to the first Christians a subject of reproach and disgrace. “You shall be blessed.” This is a subject of peculiar blessedness rather than of reproach. “For that which is of honour,” &c., that is, far from its being either dishonourable, or inglorious, or cowardly to profess Christianity, and to bear such reproaches silently, as probably had been charged upon the faithful by their enemies; on the contrary, they alone were possessed of real honour, and glory, and fortitude, which God only can confer, and which comes from his Holy Spirit, the giver of every good gift. In the Greek we have not “honour or power;” it runs thus: ὅτε το της δοξης και το τον Θεον πνευμα, because what is of glory, and the Spirit of God, rests upon you. But in some Greek copies are added the following words: indeed in them it (the Spirit of God) is blasphemed, but in you it is glorified. These words are not found in any Latin copies, nor in the Syriac version, nor in the chief manuscripts.

15. The Apostle excludes from all merit suffering in a bad cause; for, to suffer the penalties due to human justice, in consequence of outraging the laws of society, far from being honourable, is a disgrace to religion. Or “railer;” for this the Greek has κακοποιος, an evil doer, one who maliciously injures his neighbour in person or property. “Or a coveter of other men’s things.” The Greek word for this, αλλοτριοεπισκοπος, means, one who pries into the concerns of others. The Vulgate has, however, fairly given the meaning, because the words mean, one who pries into other men’s concerns, for the purpose of circumventing them, and rapaciously depriving them of their property, taking advantage of the knowledge thus unwarrantably acquired.

16. But if any one among you be subjected to suffering for bearing the name of Christ and for practising the virtues which Christianity prescribes, far from feeling ashamed, he should glory “in this name,” that is, on this account, or, as in some Greek copies, in this part. The Alexandrian and Vatican MSS. support the Vulgate, ἐν τῷ ονοματι τουτω. Such was the conduct of the Apostles, who “went rejoicing from the presence of the council, because they were judged worthy to suffer reproach for Christ.”—Acts, 5:41.

17. The Apostle holds out, as an additional motive of consolation for the faithful under affliction, the consideration, that in enduring affliction, they are only submitting to the general will of God in bringing his elect to salvation. “The time is,” the present life is the time, “that judgment,” the consoling chastisements of God’s mercy, “should begin at the house of God,” viz., his Church, termed by St. Paul to Timothy, “the house of God.” There is allusion to the passage in Ezechiel, 9:6, where the Lord commands the destroying angels—“begin ye at my sanctuary.” “And if first at us,” which shows what the Apostle means by “the house of God,” in the foregoing, “what shall be the end of them that believe not”—(or, as in the Greek, απειθουντων, disbelieve)—“the gospel?” that is, if the storm of God’s wrath shall commence with God’s elect, whom he shall visit with punishment, as a merciful chastisement for the past, and as a preservative against the future, what shall be its endless continuance on the reprobate upon whom it shall exercise its fury for eternity? If God be thus severe in the remedial chastisements of his mercy, what shall he be in the vindictive punishments of inexorable justice? Oh! blessed for ever be his mercy which has spared us from the eternal vengeance which our sins deserved.

18. “And if the just man shall scarcely be saved,” i.e., if he shall obtain salvation only at such sacrifices, by sufferings and afflictions in this life, “where shall the ungodly and sinner appear” when called to render an account to God in judgment? Of course, the Apostle wishes us to understand, that the impious and sinners shall be so terrified at the prospect of coming judgment, that, like men certain of condemnation, they will endeavour to shun the presence of the Judge; “they shall call on the mountains, &c., to hide them from the face of him that sitteth on the throne.” The first part of the verse by no means regards the day of judgment, as if the Apostle wished to say, that on the day of judgment the just man shall scarcely be saved; for, on that day, “they shall stand in great constancy against those that afflicted them.”—Wisdom. chap. 5 The word “scarcely” regards the suffering of crosses in this life. This verse is quoted by St. Peter, from Proverbs, chap. 2, according to the Septuagint version. St. Jerome translates it from the Hebrew, thus: “if the just man receive (the punishment of his sins) in the earth, how much more the wicked and the sinner” (shall receive, in the life to come, the punishment of their crimes).—Proverbs. 11:31.

19. This is the conclusion of the Apostle. “In good deeds” may mean (as in Paraphrase), not relying solely on their Creator, so as to do nothing themselves, but rather, on their own part, co-operating by good works; or, while suffering, commend your souls to God, “in good deeds,” doing good for the evil inflicted on you by your persecutors.

“In good deeds.” In Greek, ἐν αγᾳθοποιΐα, in well doing. The Vulgate is supported by the Syriac interpreter and the Alexandrian manuscript.

“The faithful Creator.” In Greek, as unto a faithful Creator. The particle “as” is not in the Alexandrian nor in the Vatican manuscripts.








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