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

Analysis

The Apostle commences this chapter with the usual form of apostolical salutation (verses 1, 2). In the next place, he exhorts the faithful, seeing that God has bestowed on them the most exalted gifts (3, 4), to correspond with his gracious designs, by performing, on their part, aided by divine grace, the good works necessary for securing the end of salvation, and by practising, in an exalted degree, the Christian virtues, of which he points out, in a beautiful order, a perfect series or gradation. In this chain of virtues, the first link is the virtue of faith; the last, charity (5–7). He points out the good effect of cultivating, in a perfect degree, these exalted virtues (8); and, on the other hand, he shows the great evils which their absence entails on a Christian, who, without them, is blind and groping in the dark (9).

He next exhorts them to insure, by good works, the object of their vocation and election (10). And he points out the end and glorious rewards to which perseverance in good will conduct them (11). He declares his determination to instruct them in these truths; this he considers a matter of duty, during the short time he had to live; that his continuance in life was to be very brief, he knew from revelation (12–14).

He expresses his anxiety to take some steps, whereby they may be enabled, even after his death, to call these truths to mind, probably, by leaving his written Epistles, or, “by commending these things to faithful men,” as did St. Paul (2 Tim. 2). No wonder, he should be anxious to impart to them his doctrine; for, he received it not from any false or erroneous source; he only declared concerning Christ’s glory, what he, himself, was an eye-witness of, at the transfiguration, a type of the glory to be displayed at his second coming (16). He refers, also, to the splendid testimony rendered to him by God the Father (17); a testimony which St. Peter, together with John and James, heard when they were with him on Mount Thabor (17–18).

He next adduces the testimony of the prophets, which, in the mind of the Jews, carried greater weight with it, than any attestation of the Apostles; and, he commends them for attending to this testimony, until they are firmly established in the faith (19).

He tells them, in attending to the oracles of sacred Scripture, to beer in mind, that the sacred Scriptures are to be interpreted, not by any private exposition: but, to be explained by the same spirit, by which they were originally dictated (20, 21).

Paraphrase

1. Simon Peter, a servant, that is to say, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, being specially engaged in the divine ministry of preaching the gospel, (writes) to those who, without any merits on their part, have gratuitously received the gift of faith, equally precious and of equal value with ours, together with the grace of justification from God the Father,—its efficient cause,—and from our Saviour Jesus Christ,—its meritorious cause.—

2. May the blessings of grace and peace be increased and multiplied for you, along with, or, through your knowledge of God, and of Christ Jesus our Lord, which knowledge is the source of all spiritual blessings.

3. As God has, by his divine power, conferred on us all the gifts, which contribute to bring us to godliness, or spiritual life here, and eternal life hereafter, through the knowledge and faith of him, who has called us, by his glorious benignity, or merciful humanity.

4. Through whom he has bestowed on us the most exhalted and precious gifts, promised in the Scriptures of the Old Testament, so that by these gifts you may become, in a certain sense, partakers of the divine nature by imitation, flying the obstacles to this spiritual existence, viz., the corrupt deeds of concupiscence or lust, which reigns in the world.

5. (As God, then [verse 3], has, on his part, conferred the greatest blessings on you, by thus raising you to a participation in his divine nature, &c.), so do you, on your part, co-operate with him, by employing all diligence and care, for the permanence and perpetuity of these gifts; with faith supply, or join the moral virtues, and performance of good works; with the performance of good works join prudence, or the practical knowledge of the befitting circumstances of each action.

6. With prudence, join, the government of your passions, and abstinence from illicit indulgence in carnal and sensual pleasures; with abstinence, join patient and persevering endurance of afflictions and mortification; and with patience, join godliness, making the good will and pleasure of God, the pure motive of your virtuous suffering and endurance.

7. And with piety towards God, join a due regard and love for your neighbour, and with this love of your neighbour, join the motive of charity or loving him for God, and not from any purely natural motive.

8. For, if these virtues now enumerated be with you, and abound with you, as with good and perfect Christians, they will render you neither empty nor idle, nor devoid of the fruit or merit of good works, in the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ.

9. But, on the other hand, the man who is devoid of these virtues, and practises not good works, is blind in heart, and sees not beyond present and earthly things, having forgotten the great benefit of the remission of his former sins, remitted on condition of his not falling into them again, and of his leading a life of virtue.

10. Wherefore, brethren, since your call to the faith requires of you not to be found devoid of good works, nor to fall into your former sins, you should the more diligently and earnestly exert yourselves, by the performance of good works, to render firm your vocation to the faith, and to secure the end of your vocation, which is eternal life; for, by so doing, you will not fall into sin at any time.

11. For, thus, by your abounding in virtue and good works, you will be abundantly supplied with their rich rewards, by obtaining a sure entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

12. In order, therefore, to promote your salvation, and the secure possession of Christ’s eternal kingdom, I will not cease admonishing you of the necessity of persevering faith and good works, even although you are fully instructed and confirmed in the knowledge of the truths of which there is question at present.

13. For, as your pastor, I think it a duty attached to my office, as long as I remain in the tabernacle of this body, to resuscitate in your minds the memory of these truths, and thereby excite you to fervour, by reminding you of them.

14. I shall be the more zealous in the discharge of this duty, being perfectly certain, that I am soon to lay aside the earthly tabernacle of this body, according as the Lord Jesus Christ hath signified it to me.

15. But I will endeavour that, even after my departure out of this life, you may be enabled often or at all times, to call to mind those precepts and truths which I have inculcated.

16. This doctrine, even now on the point of death, we wish firmly to impress upon your minds; it deserves at all times to be cherished by you; for it was not in following learned and cunningly-devised fables, that we have made known to you the powerful and glorious coming of our Lord Jesus Christ to judge the world; but, we have told you that, of which we ourselves have been immediate eye-witnesses. (The glory of his transfiguration was a type of the glory and power, which he will display when he shall come to judge the world).

17. For he received from God the Father an honourable and a glorious attestation, a voice having been pronounced over him, after issuing from the bright cloud, in which the majesty and glory of the Father shone resplendent, to the following effect: “This is my well beloved Son, the object of my singular and infinite complacency, hear ye him.”

18. And this voice of the heavenly Father, I myself, James, and John, heard coming down from the cloud, when we were with him on the holy mountain.

19. And we can adduce a testimony in favour of the same, of greater weight with you, to which you attach more value than to any whatsoever coming from us Apostles; and this testimony is, that which is borne by the oracles of the ancient prophets, to which you do well to attend, as to a lamp or light, that shineth in a dark place until the more brilliant light of sure and firm faith dawn and illumine you, and Christ, the morning star, arise in your hearts, by the plentiful effusion of the light of perfect and unerring faith. Or (as interpreted by Mauduit):—We have, therefore, a testimony firmer and more certain than the fables of the heretics (verse 16), viz., the testimony or prophetic oracle of God the Father, to which you do well to attend, as to a lamp shining forth dimly, with the light of faith, in this darksome world, until the day of eternity dawns upon you, and the light of glory, like the morning star, shines in your hearts.

20. You will do well to attend to the oracles of sacred Scripture, understanding this well beforehand, in order to guard against error, that no exposition of Scriptures should be made by private interpretation; or, no prophetic scripture or scriptural oracle, is effected by the private invention of any one.

21. For, no prophetic oracle was ever produced in the mind of the inspired author, or communicated by him to mankind through any human exertions or power; but the holy men of God, the authors of the inspired writings, uttered and wrote these sacred oracles, from the impulse and inspiration of the Holy Ghost.

Commentary

1. “Simon Peter;” the first, the name given him at circumcision, by his parents; the second, given him by Christ (Matthew, 16), expressive of his office and dignity, as the rock or foundation of Christ’s Church—(see 1 Ep. 1:1). “Servant and Apostle of Jesus Christ.” The word “servant” regards that special engagement to preach his gospel, as is more clearly expressed by the word “Apostle;” for a full exposition of both (see Commentary, Gal. 1:1). “To them,” the word, writes, addresses, or some such is understood; “that have obtained equal faith with us.” The Greek for equal, ισοτομον, means, equally precious; although, of course, faith is more worthy and more perfect in some persons than in others; for, in Scriptures, some are upbraided with weakness of faith, “modicæ fidei,” and others praised for their “great faith,” and the disciple asks our divine Redeemer, to “increase their faith” (Luke, 17); still, it is here said, to be equally precious, objectively considered, in all Christians, as it proposes the same truths and promises to all, and is the foundation of the same objective beatitude. “Have obtained;” the Greek word, λαχαουσιν, means to obtain as if by lot, and expresses the gratuitousness of the gift, as if we obtained it by mere chance in a lottery; but, with regard to God, it was given by the express arrangement of his adorable will—(vide Ephes. 1:11). “In the justice of our God,” &c., may mean, “through the justice (or merits) of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ;” for, all spiritual blessings come to us through the merits of Christ, who is “our God and Saviour.” Others make “in the justice,” the same as, with the justice; for, such often is the meaning of the Hebrew, Beth, and they explain it, as in the Paraphrase: who have obtained equal faith, together with the justifying grace, of which faith is the foundation—“of God” the Father, its efficient cause—and justification is called “the justice of God” (Rom. 1:3), and “of our Saviour Jesus Christ,” its meritorious cause.

2. “Grace” &c.—the apostolical salutation—“be accomplished.” The Greek, πληθυνθειη, means, be multiplied or increased, “in the knowledge,” &c. The particle “in,” is interpreted, with, here, also (vide Paraphrase). Others make “in” the same as by, or through, so as to give the words this meaning: may peace and grace be multiplied for you, through the knowledge you will obtain of God, and of “Jesus Christ” (as man), “our Lord;” for, almost all the fundamental articles of our faith have for object, the divinity and humanity of Christ. “Of Christ Jesus.” The word “Christ” is omitted in the Greek. It is, however, found in the Alexandrian MS. and versions generally.

3. Some interpreters connect this verse with the preceding, thus: “may grace and peace be increased for you through the knowledge of God” (verse 2), as it was through the knowledge of him, who called you by his glorious power, that all the gifts of the divine virtue, which conduce to your spiritual and eternal life, were originally conferred on you. According to these, the Apostle prays for an increase of all spiritual blessings, “grace,” and their secure possession, “peace,” through the same medium or channel, through which they were originally imparted, viz., the knowledge of Jesus Christ, “of him who called you, by his own power and virtue.” Others, with greater probability, suspend the sense, until we come to verse 5 (the construction adopted in Paraphrase). It is to be remarked, that in the Greek, the words, “are given to us,” are read in the past participle passive, agreeing in the genitive case with “of his divine power,” της θειας δυναμεως δεδορημενης. But in the next verse, the same is rendered actively (“he hath given us”—verse 4, in Greek, δεδωρηται), and so it should, most probably, in this also; hence, adhering to the Greek, it ought to run thus: “as his divine power hath given us all the gifts which appertain to life, &c.” “By his own proper glory and virtue;” (“his own” are not in the Greek), “glory and virtue,” mean, glorious power. “Virtue,” however, in this latter case, is different in signification from “power,” in the words, “of his divine power” (δυναμειως), where it refers to his attribute of omnipotence; in this (as appears from the Greek, αρετης), “virtue” means, his benignity, goodness, or humanity.

4. “By whom;” in the Greek it is (δί ὧν) “by which” gifts of his divine power, conducing to spiritual and eternal life; some, however, of the best copies support our Vulgate, “by whom,” viz., Christ; and this accords best with the sacred Scriptures, which exhibit the Father, as bestowing all blessings on us, through Christ; “that by these you may be made partakers of the divine nature,” refers to sanctifying grace, which is a quality that permanently resides in the soul by way of habit, gives to it a new spiritual essence, a supernatural subsistence; makes it the constant abode of the Holy Ghost; and this spiritual, supernatural subsistence, makes us sharers or partakers of the divine nature by imitation, as nearly as a creature can approach the nature of the Creator in this life, and in the next life, when “we are transformed into him.” “Flying the corruption of that concupiscence which is in the world.” The Greek is, αποφυγοντες της εν τῳ κοσμῳ εν επιθυρίᾳ φθορᾶς flying the corruption that is in the world, in, or through, concupiscence. The Apostle points out the obstacles to the preservation of this spiritual existence, viz., mortal sin, with which sanctifying grace can never co-exist in the soul; the corrupt deeds of concupiscence or lust, which reigns in the world, are, in a particular way, opposed to the purity of sanctifying grace; he calls these unclean deeds “corruption,” because indulgence in them corrupts and degrades the rational nature of man, blinds his intellect, and perverts his will.

5. Here, the sentence commencing at verse 3 is now completed, as, God, on his part, has conferred the greatest blessings (verse 3); so, do you, on your part, co-operate with him. The words, αυτο τουτο for this very reason, are added in the Greek; and mean, for the purpose of permanently enjoying those blessings already conferred on you; “employing all care.” The Greek word for “employing,” παρεισενεγκαντες, expresses the subordinate co-operation of our faculties, aided by God’s grace. The Apostle, in a beautiful gradation, now points out the deeds wherein our free will, aided by divine grace, should co-operate, and manifest our gratitude “for the great and precious promises” (4) gratuitously fulfilled for us by God; for, although our co-operation is the effect of divine grace, he still wishes to remind us of the necessity of this co-operation on our part, just as the husbandman should be reminded of the duty of planting and watering, although the increase be the work of God alone. “Minister” (in Greek, επιχορηγησατε, supply) “in your faith, virtue.” “In” signifies, with, the meaning of the Hebrew, Beth, with faith supply virtue, that is, to your faith join the moral virtues or good works; since without them, faith is dead; “and in virtue, knowledge,” to the moral virtues, join the practical knowledge commonly termed prudence, which considers all the circumstances of any moral work to be performed.

6. “And in knowledge, abstinence,” to prudence join temperance, or the governing of the passions, together with abstinence from carnal pleasures; for, nothing so much blinds the mind, or obscures the prudent judgment of the intellect, as the inordinate indulgence in sensual pleasures. “And in abstinence, patience,” since, if a man have not patience to bear up against crosses and adversity, he will not long persevere in abstinence; for, as this very abstinence, this mortification and crucifixion of the carnal man, is itself opposed to our corrupt nature, it will require great patience to hold out; without such patience, we will give up this state of suffering, and fall back for solace on carnal pleasures and enjoyment. “And in patience, godliness,” to patience, join piety. The service and good pleasure of God should be the motive of this self-mortification, and of our sufferings. This will distinguish our virtues from that of the Pagan philosophers, whose motive in suffering was pride and vain glory.

7. “And with godliness (join) a love of brotherhood.” Many who are severe on themselves, and apparently pious and exact in regard to the duties which they owe God, are frequently wanting in a due love and consideration for their brethren. The Apostle corrects this mistaken idea or neglect of duty. “And in love of brotherhood, charity;” their love of the neighbour should not be grounded on mere natural feelingse nor on motives of interest—such would be mere Pagan virtue, “do not even the publicans and heathens this?”—(Matthew, 5:46, 47); he must be loved with the love of “charity,” for God’s sake. It is worthy of remark, that in this chain of virtues the first link is “faith,” without which the moral virtues will rarely or never be practised: and the last, “charity,” the queen of virtues, without which all the rest will not secure our salvation.

8. If you be possessed of the virtues now enumerated, and if they abound with you in an exalted degree, as with good and perfect Christians, they will render you “neither empty,” for which in the Greek it is, ουκ αργους, neither idle, nor indolent in the practice of good works, nor without their fruit; you will be furnished with those virtues, and with the fruit of good works, which the faith of Jesus Christ should produce in all. This the Apostle adds for the purpose of refuting the errors of the Simonites and Gnostics, regarding the sufficiency of faith alone, without good works.

9. “Is blind and groping,” blind in heart; for, nothing so much blinds the heart as indulgence in vice, and “groping,” may mean, that although not entirely blind, he can only see things immediately near him, and held up to his sight, and cannot raise himself beyond earthly and sensible objects; he is blind, in expecting salvation without these virtues which the gospel requires for that end. Others understanding the word, “groping” to contain an allusion to moles—a signification warranted by the Greek, μυωπαζων—interpret the passage thus: Such a person, like a man who walks in darkness, and feels his way, knowing not where to direct his steps, knows not practically what course to take, or what actions to perform, in particular instances. “Having forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.” This, the Apostle adds, with a view of pointing out more clearly the ingratitude of such persons.

10. “Wherefore,” since your vocation to the faith requires of you not to be found devoid of good works (verse 8), nor to fall into your former sins (verse 9); “labour the more;” you should the more diligently exert yourselves, “that by good works”—(these latter words are not found in all the Greek copies, but only in a few); they are, however, found in all the Latin copies of the Vulgate, and in the Alexandrian manuscript, as also in the Syriac version, and even where they are omitted, they are evidently understood from the context; the Council of Trent quotes them with this passage (SS. xi. chap. 1)—“you may make sure your calling and election;” by “calling” is, most probably, meant, their vocation to grace and faith, and this vocation they will render sure, or (as in the Greek, βεβαιαν, firm), “by good works,” which will secure their perseverance in the faith; while, on the other hand, by sinful acts, men fall away, and in punishment thereof, are permitted to make a shipwreck of it. By “election,” is most probably, meant, election to glory, and this being only conditionally annexed to their vocation to the faith, viz., on the condition of perseverance in good works, will also be made firmly secure by the same. The words may be simply explained thus: make sure the object or end of your vocation and election, which is, ultimately, life eternal; “for doing these things,” by good works, and by adding virtue to virtue (5–7), to secure the end of your vocation, “you shall not sin at any time.” The Greek word for sin, πταισητε, means, to fall. Hence, it means here, to fall into grievous sin; the word might mean, also, to fall away from obtaining the object of their vocation. The former, however, is the meaning attached to the word, by the Vulgate interpretation. The meaning of the Apostle may be expressed in this syllogism; whosoever shall endeavour to preserve himself from the stain of grievous sin, will secure his eternal salvation; now, the man who performs good works, will preserve himself from the stain of grievous sin; and hence, will make sure his salvation.

11. “For so,” that is, by persevering in good works, and thus endeavouring to secure your vocation, “an entrance shall be ministered to you abundantly:” the abundant rewards of these good works and merits shall be furnished to you “abundantly,” that is, with a degree of abundant liberality on the part of God, proportioned to the abundance of your merits here on earth.

12. “For which cause,” that is, in order to promote your salvation, and your possession of the eternal kingdom of Jesus Christ, “I will begin.” In some Greek copies, I will not neglect, or omit, in which more is conveyed than is expressed; hence, the meaning is well expressed in our Vulgate, “I will begin,” (which is supported by the Vatican Codex, διο μελλησω) now with fresh ardour, “to put you always in remembrance of these things;” that is, of the necessity of persevering in faith and good works, in order to secure salvation: “though indeed you know them, and are confirmed in the present truth,” the truth regarding the necessity of faith and good works. This latter is added by the Apostle, to soften down the offence which they might conceive, from the suspicion contained in his foregoing expressions regarding them. Similar is the prudence of St. Paul (Rom. 15:14, of St. Jude, chap. 1, and of St. John, 1 Ep., chap. 2) From this verse, we can clearly see the great zeal for the salvation of souls which burned in the heart of St. Peter. This aged Apostle, now approaching his end, “begins,” as if afresh, to instruct his people in the truths of salvation, although already fully instructed. What a reproach to those idle pastors, who hide the truths of God in injustice, by neglecting to instruct their flocks—even when famishing for want of spiritual knowledge—in the necessary and essential truths of faith. Is not eternal woe to be justly apprehended by those idle, negligent pastors (thank God, but very few), who, unmindful of their covenant with God on the day they were prostrate before his altar, anointed with the “oil of gladness beyond their fellows,” either misspend their time, or devote their energies to things not appertaining to their calling, thus allowing the poor, for whom Christ died, to be lost eternally! “His sheep were scattered, because there was no shepherd?”—(Ezechiel, 34).

13. “Meet,” a duty which I am in justice, and in virtue of my office, bound to discharge, “to stir you up, by putting you in remembrance.” No matter how well instructed a flock may chance to be, the pastor, still, is not exempt from the important duty of instructing them; for, he shall always find among them some subjects either for “healing, or strengthening, or binding, or bringing back.”—(Ezechiel. chap. 20; 14:4). “In this tabernacle,” this body, called a “tabernacle,” because in its present state, it is only a temporary abode of the soul; and also, because tabernacles, or tents, are the temporary abodes of soldiers engaged in warfare, such as the life of man here below is. (2 Cor. chap. 5).

14. “Being assured that the laying a way,” &c., as if he said, I will the more zealously exert myself during the very brief period I have to live; for, I am assured that I am soon to lay aside “this tabernacle;” this body, in which the soul dwelt for a time as in a tabernacle, “according as our Lord Jesus Christ hath also signified to me.” The Apostle refers to some revelation, made to him regarding the near approach of his death; what it is, cannot be well ascertained. Some say, he alludes to the apparition with which he was favoured shortly before his death. We are told by St. Ambrose (Ep. 33), by St. Gregory on Psalm 4, and by Hegesippus (libro 3, de excidio Jerusalem), that Christ appeared to St. Peter shortly before his martyrdom, as he was leaving the city by the advice of some Christians, in order to avoid death; and St. Peter, having asked the Redeemer, whither was he going, received for answer, I am going to Rome to be again crucified, which words the Apostle took for an intimation of the divine will that he should suffer, and accordingly returned to Rome. However, it is said by many, that it was after escaping from prison, St. Peter was favoured with the vision referred to; and hence, in this Epistle, written in prison, there could be no allusion to an event, which occurred subsequent to his leaving it. It is, therefore, likely that he refers to some other revelation, unknown to us, or to that mentioned (John, 21:19), regarding his death.

15. “And I will do my endeavour,” that even after my departure, or exit hence, you may be enabled, “often,” or, at all times, “to keep a memory of those things,” of these truths and precepts which I have delivered to you. This St. Peter could do, by elaving after him his Epistles, in which these things would be fully explained, or, by enjoining on the pastors, who were to come after him, zeal in preaching the word, according to the injunction of St. Paul to Timothy (2 Ep. 2:2). Some interpreters give the words this meaning:—I will endeavour, after my departure, to have you in remembrance, by interceding with God for you. Many Catholic controversialists adduce this text as a proof, that the saints pray for us in heaven. But this latter interpretation is not borne out by the text, as will appear evident to any one who consults the Greek version. Estius well remarks, that it is by no means proper to adduce, in proof of a certain and doctrinal truth, arguments that are quite doubtful, while we have abundance of irrefragable ones, in its favour. Such a course will only have the effect of directing the entire attention of the heretics to these doubtful arguments, leaving the certain ones unheeded. From this verse, we can see the solicitude of the Apostle to have the true doctrine propagated and continued among the faithful. Similar was the solicitude of St. Paul (2 Tim. 2:2): “and the things thou hast heard from me by many witnesses, the same commend to faithful men, who shall be fit to teach others.”

16. The connexion is given in the Paraphrase. At the very point of death he is not afraid to inculcate these doctrines, of future punishment, and they are so important, that even after death he would wish to impress them on their minds. For, it was not in following “cunningly-devised fables,” such as the false teachers, among the Jews and Gentiles, dealt out for truths, and for which they will one day render a most rigorous account, “that we made known to you the power and presence,” (in Greek, παρουσιαν, coming) “of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Most likely he refers to the second coming of Christ, which is to be in “power,” (his first coming was in infirmity); and this second was the coming which was questioned by many, to whom St. Peter refers (chap. 3,) “saying where is he coming?” Of this coming, Christ’s transfiguration, to which the Apostle refers immediately after, was a type and figure. “Having been made eye witness of his majesty.” The Greek word for “eye-witnesses” εποπται, means immediate lookers-on. He refers to the transfiguration, with the sight of which he himself, and James, and John, were favoured. The Apostle selects this from among the other miracles of our divine Redeemer, in order to silence the injurious suspicions of certain persons, who wished to call in question all that the Apostles had taught regarding Christ’s glorious coming. This he does most effectually, by referring to a splendid manifestation of the Redeemer’s glory, of which he had, himself, been an eye-witness; and this is further strengthened, by the unequivocal testimony of his heavenly Father, as in the following verse.

17. “He received honour and glory,” that is, a glorious and honourable testimony, “from God the Father;” “this voice,” that is, a voice, to the following effect, “this is my beloved Son,” &c. “Coming down to him from the excellent glory,” that is, from the bright cloud in which the glory of God the Father shone forth resplendent. “This is my beloved Son,” eternal and con-substantial with me, singularly beloved, “in whom I have pleased myself,” the object of my infinite good will and eternal complacency. Some understand the words to mean: in whom I have pleased myself with man, and have become reconciled to the world; “hear ye him.” The words are not in the Greek of this passage; they are, however, found invariably in the gospel, whenever allusion is made to the transfiguration, to which St. Peter here refers.

18. As a proof, that I have not followed fables, I can adduce the testimony of the other Apostles, James and John, to confirm my own; we not only beheld the majesty of our Redeemer, when transfigured before us, but we heard the voice of the heavenly Father, “brought from heaven,” that is, from the cloud which overhung the mountain; “when we were with him in the holy mount.” It is disputed what mount is referred to. Some say it was Mount Libanus. The common opinion, however, transmitted by tradition, with the authority of St. Jerome and of almost all sacred writers in its favour, is, that the mountain alluded to, is Mount Thabor, situated in the centre of Galilee, and called “holy,” on account of its having been the theatre of many wonderful manifestations of our divine Redeemer, viz.: his transfiguration, his apparition after his resurrection to five hundred brethren, his sermon commencing with the eight Beatitudes (Matthew, 5, &c.)

19. “And we have the more firm, prophetical word;” the common interpretation given Of this passage is: If you do not attach due weight to this testimony of the Father, as related by us Apostles, although eye-witnesses of the whole event, I can refer, in favour of Christ’s glory and power, to a testimony, which, in your mind, carries with it more weight, than any attestation, furnished by us, viz., the testimony of the ancient prophets. The words, “more firm,” do not mean, according to this interpretation, that the testimony of the ancient prophets carried with it, in reality, more weight and certainty, than that rendered by the Apostles; but it did so relatively to the Jews, with whom St. Peter here identifies himself, “we have,” &c. They placed more reliance on the testimony of the prophets, as being of longer date, and more authentic in their minds.

“Whereunto you do well to attend,” for, they will lead to Christ. He exhorts them to the perusal of the prophetic Scriptures; for, they serve to confirm the faith of the believers, and to bring the unbelievers to the faith. Thus, we see that the Bereans are praised “for searching the Scriptures daily with all eagerness” (Acts, 17); and the Catholic Church recommends to her children the reading of God’s word, provided it be expedient, and done with proper dispositions; otherwise, as is known from melancholy experience, the indiscriminate reading of the SS. Scriptures becomes the fertile source of heresies, fanaticism, and errors of all kinds, alike subversive of religion and society. “As to a light that shineth in a dark place.” The oracles of the prophets are compared to the imperfect light, held out by a lamp shining in a dark and misty place, contrasted with the perfect light of faith. “Until the day dawn;” by “the day,” in this interpretation is meant, the light of faith in this life; “and the day-star arise in your hearts,” expresses, in other words, the idea conveyed by the words, “the day dawn.” By “the day-star,” or lucifer, is understood Christ, pouring forth the light of faith in our hearts. The obscurity of faith in this life, as contrasted with the full light of glory in the life to come, is well expressed by the shining of “the day-star,” which precedes the rise of morning; its light weak and feeble, compared with the full splendour of the meridian sun.

Mauduit dissents from the common interpretation, which, in an able dissertation, he undertakes to refute, and he gives a new one of his own (vide Paraphrase). He says, that the phrase, “the more firm prophetical word,” regards not the predictions of the ancient prophets; that it by no means conveys a comparison regarding the value of the testimony of the prophets, even in itself, or in the minds of the Jews; but, that it refers to the testimony or prophetic oracle of God the Father, alluded to (verse 17); and that it is between this and the fables of the heretics (verse 16), the comparison is instituted, hence called “more firm.” Similar is the comparison instituted by Moses (Deuteronomy, 32:31), “for our God is not as their gods.” In this verse is drawn the conclusion, which he announced (verse 16), “that he had not followed fables,” he had a stronger testimony. This he proves in verses 17, 18, and then concludes, “and we have,” that is, we, therefore, have a firmer testimony to follow than fables, viz., the prophetic oracles of God the Father. Mauduit says, that the words, “prophetical word,” refer to the inspired word of God, revealed to men. When utterly orally, as here, it is called “a prophetical word;” when written, “a prophecy of Scripture,” as in next verse. He undertakes to show, that the comparison conveyed in the words. “more firm,” cannot be instituted between the Apostle’s own testimony and that of the prophets; for, to give the oracles of the ancient prophets a preponderance, in any sense, over that furnished by the Apostles, is opposed to the usage of the inspired writers, in the New Testament. To do so would be useless, and would be even perilous to the faith of those whom he addresses. The following words, “as to a light that shineth in a dark place,” refer in this interpretation, to the light of faith; “until the day dawn,” the day of eternity, “and the day-star arise in your hearts,” that is, the light of glory be fully communicated to you. The common interpretation is open to one difficulty; it supposes, that the “day,” and “day-star,” which it understands of faith in this life, had not yet shone for those, whom the Apostle addresses, although he supposes them to have embraced the faith—“that have obtained equal faith with us” (verse 1). The interpretation of Mauduit leaves no room for any such difficulty, and has the advantage, in this respect, over the other.

20. “Understanding this first,” that is to say, in attending to the scriptural oracles (verse 19), they should bear this beforehand in mind, in order to secure them against fanaticism or error; “that no prophecy of Scripture,” by which some understand, the prophetic oracle found in Scripture; others, more probably, the exposition of Scripture, in which sense, “prophecy” is frequently employed in the sacred writings (Rom. 12; 1 Cor. 12:12, 13, 14; 1 Thes. 5, &c.), “is made by private interpretation.” The Greek word for “interpretation,” επιλυσεως, which means unfolding, or developing, favours this latter meaning of “prophecy.” No exposition of Scripture is made by private interpretation. The former meaning is: no true prophecy, contained in Scripture, is effected by the private invention of any man.

21. “For, prophecy came not by the will of man at any time,” that is to say, it was not owing to any human exertion of intellect or will, that any man, at any time, propounded the hidden truths, revealed in God’s word. And this the Apostle adduces, as a reason why the Scripture should be explained, not by private interpretation, but, by the same spirit by which it was originally inspired, viz., the Holy Ghost residing in the Church, with which Christ promised that His Spirit would remain for ever. This passage clearly refutes the fanatical doctrine of modern heretics, regarding the right of private interpretation of SS. Scripture. “But the holy men of God,”—the writers of sacred Scripture, with the exception of Solomon, whose end is uncertain, were all holy men, “spoke,” that is, orally delivered their oracles; under this is, also, included writing the same; “inspired by the Holy Ghost,” they were inspired and impelled to write freely, while in the full enjoyment of their faculties, unlike those, who, in a phrenzied state, and bereft of all consciousness, delivered diabolical oracles.








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