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

Analysis

The Apostle, having referred in the preceding chapter, to the divinely inspired prophets, takes occasion from thence to advert to the false prophets, and enters on the principal subject of the Epistle, which is, to caution the faithful against such. He in the first place, informs the faithful, that impostors of this sort shall be always in the Church (1). He next describes their corrupt morals and doctrines (2), together with the punishment in store for them (3).

From the rigorous punishment inflicted by God in past times on the fallen angels, on the antediluvian world, on the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha—and from his preserving the just Lot, the Apostle concludes that He will also, in his own good time, rescue the just from their afflictions and trials, and punish eternally the wicked (4–9); this latter point he applies in a special manner, to the heretics in question. He then describes their morals, their impurities, their blasphemies (10).

He contrasts the conduct of these wicked men in littering blasphemies with the forbearance shown by the good angels to their fallen associates, to whom, although deserving of it, they never apply execratory language; while, on the other hand, these men blaspheme what they understand not (11, 12). He describes their sensuality, wholly engrossed with present earthly pleasures, incessantly indulging in impurities and seeking after gain (13, 14). They are imitators of the avaricious Balaam, whose conduct is described (15, 16).

He points out their utter worthlessness, their pride and hypocrisy, promising things which they have no power to give—promising men true liberty, although themselves the slaves of their corrupt passions (17–19). He shows that far from giving their followers true liberty, they inthral them in a worse description of slavery, than that from which they at first escaped (20), and that the present condition of those whom they succeed in alluring from the way of justice, is worse than their former sinful state (21).

In the case of such relapsing and apostatizing sinners, the old proverbs, of the dog returning to his vomit, and of the sow wallowing in the mire, are fully verified and applicable.

Paraphrase

1. (But not only were there true prophets inspired by God, whose writings you may read with profit, among the Jewish people of old); but there were false prophets also, as there shall be even amongst you, numerous false teachers (some of whom have already made their appearance), who will secretly and furtively introduce pernicious heresies—even denying, both by word and action, the Lord, who purchased them with the last drop of his blood, bringing upon themselves speedy destruction here and hereafter.

2. And they shall have many imitators of their lasciviousness, and followers of their corrupt doctrines, whom they shall involve in the like ruin, on whose account the gospel of truth shall be blasphemously traduced, as if it sanctioned such immoralities in its followers.

3. And through insatiable avarice they will, with words artfully and smoothly framed for the purpose of deceit, drive in you a lucrative trade; whose judgment of condemnation, long since decreed, is not put off or slow of approach, and whose perdition, far from slumbering, shall overtake them in due time.

4. For, if God spared not the exalted spirits, his angels, after having fallen into sin; but, after having dragged them down by infernal cables to the lower hell, delivered them unto torments, to be confined until the day of judgment.

5. And if he spared not the men who lived of old, before the deluge, having only preserved Noe with seven others as a herald to proclaim His justice to mankind, while the rest of the impious race who inhabited the earth he submerged in the waters of the deluge.

6. And if, after having reduced the cities of the Sodomites and Gomorrhites to ashes (by raining fire and brimstone on them from heaven, Genesis 12), he executed judgment on them by their utter destruction, making them serve for a typical example of the punishment in reserve hereafter for all who were to live a life of impiety.

7. And if the just Lot, grievously afflicted and wearied out by the unjust treatment and profligate conduct of lawless sinners, was rescued by him from sharing in their punishment.

8. For, neither by sight nor hearing did he offend or contract the contagion of vice and wickedness, although dwelling amongst them, who by their wicked deeds tortured his soul, while witnessing these crimes which he could not put a stop to.

9. If, then, in past ages the Lord neither spared his angels, nor the antediluvian world, nor the cities of Sodom, &c.; and if he rescued the just Lot, he therefore knoweth how, on future occasions also, to rescue the godly and just men out of the dangerous trials to which they shall be exposed; but the wicked he knows how to reserve unto the day of judgment to be tortured.

10. But those in a special manner will he punish, who, following after and obeying the desires of the flesh, live in the enjoyment of all sorts of lustful, impure pleasures, despise divine and human dominion, daring and self-willed, fearing not to introduce sects or heretical doctrines, blaspheming God and has holy angels.

11. Whereas, on the other hand, the angels, who both in natural strength and supernatural power are far superior to man, who is but dust and ashes, do not utter the language of execration or indignant denunciation against the fallen members of their own order, who deserve it.

12. But these men, like senseless beasts formed by nature, to be captured and destroyed for the use and service of man, blaspheming truths which they know not, as placed far beyond their reach, shall perish eternally, owing to their corrupt libidinous practices.

13. They shall have thus received the punishment due to their sins; having placed their entire happiness in the fleeting and passing delights of sensual pleasures, regardless of a future state. They are stains and spots, a disgrace not only to Christianity, but to human nature itself, abounding and sporting themselves in delicacies, and rioting in their feasts which they join in with you;

14. Betraying in their very looks, the adulterous feelings of their hearts; never ceasing to view and think on objects, calculated to excite them to sin: artfully ensnaring weak souls, not firmly grounded in the faith, having their hearts practised in all the arts of amassing wealth; men marked out and destined for eternal malediction;

15. Having turned aside from the straight way of the gospel, they have wandered through all the winding mazes of error, imitating the conduct of Balaam, the son of Bosor, who eagerly loved the wages of his unjust conduct, in cursing the Jewish people;

16. But he received a rebuke for his mad transgression of the divine precept, ordering him not to curse the Israelites; for, the dumb ass, used to the yoke, in whose mouth an angel miraculously formed human articulate words, forbade the prophet to follow up his foolish intention of cursing the people of God, to which course he was stimulated by avarice.

17. These are fountains, promising to give the refreshing waters of grace and Christian knowledge, of which they are wholly destitute. They are light clouds, scattered and carried about by the whirlwinds; they are men for whom eternal darkness is reserved.

18. For, speaking pompous, high-sounding and empty words, they allure, by the concupiscences of the flesh, prone to lasciviousness, in which they permit their followers to indulge, those converts from Paganism, who had been lately or imperfectly converted:

19. Promising them a license to do what they please, an exemption from all laws, civil and ecclesiastical, which they dignity with the specious name of Christian liberty; as if they could grant liberty to others, who are themselves the slaves of their corrupt passions; for, according to the principle generally acted upon and admitted, the vanquished party is the slave of him, by whom he is vanquished.

20. Far from bestowing on them liberty, they reduce them to the worst description of slavery. For if, after having escaped, and being rescued from the defilements of this world, through the grace of God, that is to say, through the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and faith in him, which is the first grace in the order of justification—they become again entangled in these corrupt practices, and are overcome—their latter state is worse than the former.

21. For it would have been a lesser evil for such persons never to have known the way of the gospel, which points out the mode of leading a life of justice, than, after having known it, to turn back from that law—every mandate of which is holy, and enjoins sanctity of life—delivered to them by the Apostles and preachers of the Gospel.

22. For, in their case is illustrated and fully verified the truth of the proverb: the dog is returned to his vomit; and the sow that was washed, to her wallowing place.

Commentary

1. There were false prophets among the Jewish people who represented themselves as true prophets (Jeremiah, 23:16), “who spoke visions of their own hearts, and not out of the mouth of the Lord,” and constantly had in their mouths. “hæec dicit Dominus.” “Even as there shall be among you lying teachers.” He speaks of the Christian Church, and says, “there shall be,” because, although some appeared in the days of the Apostle, they were to spring forth in still greater numbers afterwards. Thus, St. Paul says, “there shall be men lovers of themselves,” &c. (2 Tim. 3), although some of them made their appearance, at the very time; for, he tells Timothy to “shun them” (verse 6) “Lying teachers,” in Greek, ψευδοδιδασκαλοι; who these were, is disputed. He probably refers to the Simonites, Nicolaites, and Gnostics. “Who shall bring in sects of perdition,” in Greek, αἵρεσεις απωλειας, heresies of perdition, or pernicious heresies. He adds “of perdition;” because the word, heresy, of itself did not originally express bad doctrine; “of perdition,” fully qualifies it. The words, “and deny the Lord who brought them,” may be also construed thus: denied him who redeemed them, to be Lord; for, although they admitted Christ to be the Messiah—otherwise they would not be Christians at all—they still denied him to be supreme Lord. It is, then, likely, that he refers to the errors of the Simonians, who erred regarding the Divinity and Supreme Lordship of Christ. “Bringing upon themselves swift destruction.” This is not far off; as the interval which is to intervene until the hour of their death is very brief. The words may also refer to their sad temporal fate. The history of the Church records several instances of the frightful end of the propagators of heresy.

2. They shall not only err in faith, but they shall be also corrupt in morals, and they shall have many imitators of their dissolute conduct and lasciviousness. In many Greek copies, for ασελγειαις, “riotousnesses,” we have, απωλειαις, destructions. The Greek reading followed by our Vulgate, is the more probable. Both readings are united in the Paraphrase. “Through whom the way of truth,” that is, on account of whom the gospel or Christian religion “shall be spoken evil of.” (In Greek, blasphemed), and brought into disrepute, as if it sanctioned the immoralities of those who went forth from its bosom. “Per vos nomen Dei blasphematur inter gentes.”—(Rom. 2) It was owing to the immoral lives of the early heretics, that the Christian religion was designated by Tacitus, “Superstitio exitialis,” (Annal. 15).

3. “Through covetousness,” or the insatiable desire of amassing wealth. “They shall with feigned words,” words artfully formed to deceive—the idea is borrowed from the fraudulent language and practices employed by merchants in disposing of their wares—“make merchandize of you,” i.e., abuse the confidence which they shall gain by teaching the people for their own selfish and avaricious purposes. Similar is the description given of them by St. Paul (Rom. 16:18): “By pleasing speeches and good words, they seduce the hearts of the innocent, they serve not Christ but their own belly.” Such have been the corrupt motives of heretics in all ages. It requires but a very slight knowledge of the unhallowed attempts, that throughout this entire country, have been made of late years, during seasons of dire distress, by many of the Anglican heretical emissaries and heartless proselytizers, to pervert the faith of the poor starving victims of famine, to whom relief was preferred only on the cruel condition of hypocritically abjuring the faith of their fathers, dearer to them than life itself, to be convinced, that modern heretics also are still true to their lucrative trade, in the souls of men. “Whose judgment,” or punishment, “lingereth not,” will not be slow in undertaking them, “now a long time,” from eternity decreed for them, or long since prefigured in the punishment of the wicked in the Old Testament; hence St. Jude says (verse 4), “who were written of long ago unto this judgment.” “And their perdition slumbereth not.” God keeps in mind their crimes, and will visit them with his destructive vengeance in his own good time.

4. The Apostle adduces in these verses the examples of God’s rigour in punishing his angels, in the judgment of the deluge, in the punishment of Sodom and Gomorrha, to prove that he will “not slumber” in punishing the Heresiarchs, which conclusion he draws, (verses 9 and 10). The sense of the passage is kept suspended in this and the following verses; it is concluded at verses 9 and 10. “If God spared not the angels,” although more exalted than man, “greater in strength and power,” (verse 11), “that sinned,” after they had sinned. He refers to the sin of the rebel angels. What this sin is, has not been known for certain. The most probable opinion is, that it was the sin of pride, for, “pride is the beginning of all sin,” (Eccles. 10) “in it all perdition took its rise,” (Tobias 4). The sin of Lucifer is commonly supposed to be described mystically by Isaias (14:13,) when, in the person of the haughty king of Babylon, he introduces him saying, I will ascend … I will become like the Most High. “But delivered them, drawn down by infernal ropes to the lower hell.” There are no corresponding words for “drawn down unto torments” in the Greek, in which the whole sentence runs thus: ἀλλά σειροις ζοφου ταρταρωσας, παρεδοκεν εἰς κρισιν τηρουμενους, “but, after having hurled them into Tartarus, he delivered them unto the ropes or cables of darkness to be kept unto judgment.” The infernal ropes, by which God dragged down the angels, mean, the great power of God hurling them irrecoverably from their seats in heaven; or if we follow the Greek, the ropes of darkness, to which he gave over the fallen angels, mean the barriers of hell within which they are confined, and the punishment to which they are doomed. “Drawn down to the lower hell.” The Greek of which is, ταρταρωσας, hurling them into Tartarus, by which is meant the infernal regions, the place of confusion (as the word, Tartarus, implies), “where no order but everlasting horror dwells.—(Job.)” The common opinion of the Fathers is, that God hurled all the apostate angels into hell. Some of them, at the temptation of Adam were permitted to leave it, and St. Jerome (in cap. 6. Ep. ad Ephes.) assures us that it is the common opinion of all the learned, “that the space which lies between heaven and earth called ‘inane,’ is filled with these contrary powers,” who, of course, carry their hell about with them: and are there to tempt man and to carry on their fiendish war against him. “To be reserved unto judgment.” On that day they shall be subjected to the rightful punishment of appearing with the reprobate before the eternal judge, than which there can be nothing more humiliating to their pride.

5. “The eighth person.” He was not eighth, but tenth from Adam; hence, the words mean, he was the eighth of those saved in the ark. “The preacher of justice,” “justice,” may either mean the vindicative justice of God, which Noe proclaimed to be impending while he was building the ark; or, his justice, by which we are justified through faith and good works; and this he preached by his words (most likely he exhorted men to be reconciled with God), and by the deeds of his own life, particularly the building of the ark in which the mystery of our justification was contained; for, it was figurative of the Church and baptism.—(1 Ep. 3:21).

6. “And reducing,” (in Greek, τεφρωσας, having reduced), “the cities of the Sodomites and Gomorrhites;” two other cities, Adama and Seboim, were also destroyed. Segor, the fifth city of Pentapolis, was spared through Lot’s intercession. “Making them an example.” The Greek word, ὑποδειγμα, means a typical example of the future punishment of the wicked, “who shall be cast into a pool of fire and brimstone,” &c.—Apocalypse, 20:10.

7. “And delivered”—by his grace, he delivered from sin, and by the ministry of his angels, from punishment—“just Lot, oppressed by the injustice,” that is by the unjust and violent treatment which the men of Sodom inflicted on him (v.g.), when they offered him violence in his house, until the angels came to his rescue.—Gen. 19:9. There is no word for “injustice” in the Greek. “And lewd conversation of the wicked.” The Greek for “wicked,” αθεσμων, means, lawless. The word “if” is all along to be understood in these verses; for, the sense is still suspended.

8. “For in sight and hearing he was just.” This verse is to be included in a parenthesis. Neither by the sense of sight or hearing did he offend, or contract the contagion of vice, although (Commentators add) through both he was solicited to crime. “Dwelling among them.” This was what rendered his virtue and exemption from crime the more meritorious and wonderful; for, “he that toucheth pitch shall be defiled by it.”—Eccles. 13:1. “Who from day to day vexed the just soul with unjust works.” The Apostle wishes to convey to us, that Lot, on beholding the abominable crimes of the Sodomites, which he could not prevent, and whereby God was so outraged and offended, was tortured thereat in his very soul. Similar were the feelings of David when he exclaimed: “Vidi prævaricantes et tabescebam.” The common Greek reading of this verse differs from that adopted by our Vulgate—“for, the just man dwelling amongst them, by seeing and hearing tormented his just soul with their wicked deeds.” The meaning of which is, that whilst dwelling amongst them, he tortured his just soul in consequence of seeing and hearing their wicked deeds, which it was out of his power to prevent. The Vulgate is partly sustained by the Codex Vaticanus.

9. In this verse the sentence, commenced (verse 4), the sense of which had been suspended in the intervening verses, is concluded. If God spared not the angels (verse 4), nor the antediluvians (verse 5), nor the Sodomites (verse 6), and if he rescued Lot (verse 7), the conclusion is, that he knows how to preserve just men, and rescue them out of trials and dangers, in future times, as well as he has done in the past. “But to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be tormented.” The devils shall be judged anew on the day of judgment; they shall undergo a new torment in being humiliated before the assembled nations of the earth; and the reprobate shall be more grievously tortured in soul and body, than they had been hitherto in their souls only. Some Greek Commentators supply the conclusion from the preceding verses thus:—“If God punished the angels, &c., and preserved Lot. he will, therefore, punish those false teachers, and rescue you from your dangers.” Pope Hyginus (Epistola 2da) fills up the sense in the same way. According to the latter connexion, this verse furnishes not a conclusion from the preceding, but a new reason to prove that God will punish the false teachers. For, the Lord is well versed in the exercise of Providence like this.

10. The Apostle now applies the general principle regarding God’s Providence referred to in the preceding verse, to the heretics of whom he treats, and resumes the description he was about giving of them, left off (verse 3); in the subsequent part of the chapter, he graphically delineates their corrupt morals. “In the lust of uncleanliness,” the Greek, ἐν επιθυμία μίασμου, means, the lust of pollution or defilement. This refers to their abominable impure practices. “And despise government.” Some understand this of the high dominion and exalted Providence of God, which the heretics brought into contempt by their ridiculous, foolish fables; others, of their contempt for Ecclesiastical authorities, to undervalue whom is a never-failing practice with heretics, in all ages; others, of their contempt for temporal or civil authorities. Hence, among the charges made against the first Christians, for which these heretics gave some pretext, was that of insubordination to the governing powers. “Audacious, self-willed,” who are pleased only with their own conceited notions, claiming the right to speak and act, as they please. “They fear not to bring in sects,” or heretical doctrines, is a great display of hardihood and daring, considering the authority on which the true doctrine rests, “blaspheming” God and his angels. The foregoing is the exposition of the text, according to the Vulgate reading.

The Greek reading of the latter part of the verse is, however, quite different. In the Greek, we have no word for “to bring in.” It runs thus: δοξας ου τρεμουσιν βλασφημοῦντες, fear not, blaspheming glories, or, “fear not to blaspheme glories.” So that the meaning most probably is that of St. Jude, who closely follows St. Peter in this chapter, “and blaspheme majesty” (verse 8), which some refer to Ecclesiastical authorities; others, more probably, to the heavenly spirits whom the heretics blasphemed by their degrading, disparaging fables, regarding them.—(See St. Jude). The Greek word for “sects,” or opinions, δοξας, will bear that meaning as given in the Vulgate; but it more commonly signifies “majesties or glories,” the meaning given the same word by the Vulgate.—(Epistle of St. Jude, verse 8).

11. “Bring not against themselves,” that is, against the angels who had fallen. The Greek is, κατʼ αὐτων, against them, i.e., the powers. “A railing judgment,” that is, do not employ against them the language of denunciation and execration, expressive of their fate, and their being condemned for ever to hell, as cursed, hideous, rebellious devils. That this is the meaning of the passage becomes clear by comparing it with a similar passage of St. Jude (verse 9), where he refers to the contest which Michael the archangel, and the devil, had for the body of Moses, on which occasion, he says, Michael abstained from all language of reproach or execration. The Greek has in this verse, παρα κυριω, before the Lord, which means, when the angels and the devil stand before him (Job. chap. 1), or dispute concerning any matter. These words are wanting in the Alexandrian MS. (Jude, verse 9).

12. “As irrational beasts.” The same words ἀλογα ζωα, in the Greek, are rendered in St. Jude (verse 10), “dumb beasts.” “Naturally tending to the snare, and to destruction.” Instead of “naturally,” we have in the Greek φυσικα, natural, that is, borne away and guided by the senses and instinct, rather than by reason, and created for the purpose of serving man, to be captured and destroyed by him. “Blaspheming these things which they know not.” He probably alludes to their blasphemies regarding the angels, whose nature and qualities they were ignorant of, or to some other mysteries of the Christian faith, which they treated disrespectfully. “Will perish in their corruption.” They will corrupt and destroy their rational nature here, by being immersed in deeds of corruption, and will suffer eternally hereafter, in punishment thereof.

13. “Receiving the reward of their injustice,” that is, while thus perishing eternally (verse 12), they shall receive the punishment due to their sins; “injustice” is put for sins of all kinds. “Counting for a pleasure the delights of a day.” Some interpret these words (as in Paraphrase) to mean: they regard the fleeting pleasures of the present time (“of a day”) as the only true happiness, without any regard for a future life. Others, adhering to the Greek, την ἐν ἡμερα τρυφην, the delights in the day, understand the words to express their utter shameless profligacy, while indulging in broad daylight, in those riotous revellings, which should be veiled by the darkness of night. “Stains and spots,” the very essence of infamy itself; thus we say of a very impudent person, he is impudence itself. So the Apostle says of these that they are not only stained and defiled, but “spots and stains,” infamy itself, a disgrace to human nature. We are assured by St. Epiphanius, that the abominable impurities and corruption of the Gnostics, and the first spawn of early heretics, exceeded all conception, and could not decently be described in language.

“Sporting themselves to excess, rioting in their feasts with you.” The common Greek reading for “feasts,” ἀπαταις, means, deceits, that is, by their deceits and illusions practised on you through their false teaching, they are enabled to live riotously. The Vulgate translator, found in the Greek, ἀγαπαις, “feasts,” as it is read in a like passage of St. Jude (verse 12). The Apostle most probably refers to the love feasts or Agapæ, which were usual in the infancy of the Church (see 1 Cor. 11); and he describes the misconduct of the heretics at these assemblies of Christian charity. The Vatican and Alexandrian manuscripts, together with the Syriac and Arabic versions, support the Vulgate reading.

14. “Having eyes full of adultery,” betraying in their libidinous looks, the impure feelings of their corrupt hearts; for, the eyes are the inlets of sin and spiritual death. “Averte oculos meos, ne videant vanitatem.”—(Psalm 118) “Pepigi fœdus cum oculis meis,” &c.—(Job. 31) “And of sin that ceaseth not.” This refers to the eyes, as appears from the Greek; ἀκαταπαυστους αμαρτιας, their eyes cease not from viewing objects calculated to beget in them feelings of sin. “Alluring unstable souls,” insnaring, by the promises of pleasures, souls not firmly grounded in the Christian faith. “Having their heart exercised with covetousness.” The word “covetousness” is read in the plural in the Greek, πλεονεξιαις, hence, it means, all the arts of gaining and accumulating riches. “Children of malediction,” a Hebraism to denote men marked out for the eternal malediction, which God will pronounce on the reprobate.

15. “Having followed the way of Balaam.” His history is given (Numbers, 22, 23, 24). He was a soothsayer, noted for his avarice; for a reward, he engaged to curse God’s people (Numbers, 23). He likewise counselled Balac, king of Moab, to send the beautiful women of Moab and Madian into the Hebrew camp, in order to entice the Jews to commit fornication, and afterwards worship Beelphegor (Numbers, 24:14, 25:2, 31:16; Apocalypse, 2:14). So, in like manner, these corrupt teachers falsify the gospel, and pervert the people for the purposes of avarice and sensuality. “Balaam of Bosor,” that is, as the Greek article, τοῦ Βοσὸρ, would appear to imply, the son of Bosor. In numbers (22:5) he is called “the son of Beor,” which, in being translated into Greek, might, by a slight inflexion or corruption, be made, Bosor. In the Vatican MS. it is, τοῦ Βεωρ. Others make it “Balaam from Bosor,” where he was born, or lived.

“Who loved the wages of iniquity,” that is, the money and presents which he hoped would accrue to him from his malediction of the people whom God blessed: and hence, he repeatedly wished to curse them.—Numbers, 22, 23

16. “But he had a check of his madness.” For “madness,” the Greek word παρανομιας, means, wickedness or transgression of the law. “The dumb beast used to the yoke.” We have no word in Greek for “beast.” It is, however, implied in the Greek word corresponding with, “used to the yoke,” ὑποζυγιον, which means a beast of burden. “Which speaking with man’s voice.” By a Hebrew idiom, he calls the articulate words, which the angel had formed in the ass’s mouth, “a man’s voice.” In the Codex Vaticanus, the construction is, ὑποζυγιον ἀφωνον ἐν ανθρωποις, φωνῃ φθεγξαμενον, a dumb beast under the yoke among men, speaking with a voice. “Forbade the folly of the prophet.” In the words uttered by the ass (Numbers, 22:28–30), there is no prohibition conveyed to Balaam, or rebuke for his crime; but from the extraordinary circumstance of his speaking, Balaam could perceive that the course he had in contemplation, of cursing God’s people, notwithstanding the divine prohibition, was displeasing to Him. And this also gave him an opportunity of seeing the angel who forbade him to curse God’s people.—(Numbers, 22:35). Balaam is called a “prophet” (although—Numbers, 22:5—“he is called a soothsayer,” ariolus,) because he uttered true prophecies (v.g.) he predicted, “orietur stella in Jacob” (Numbers, 24:17). And in the account given of his communication with Balac, king of Moab, (Numbers, 22, 23, 24), he everywhere says, he will declare only what the Lord shall tell him; he consults the Lord on several occasions, and the Lord tells him what to say. However, the fact of his being called a “prophet” does not oblige us to regard him as a true prophet; for, the word “prophet” is not confined to the good; we find it applied to others, (v.g.) “prophets of Baal.”—(3 Kings, 18:19).

17. He points out the utter worthlessness and hypocrisy of these men, “fountains without water.” From a distance the dried wells promise water; but, the hopes of the traveller end in disappointment. So, these men promise, or pretend to promise, the refreshing waters of grace and Christian knowledge, which they are unable to give; hence, their hypocrisy. “Clouds tossed with whirlwinds,” light, empty clouds, tossed about by the wind, not permitting the wholesome waters of heaven to irrigate the earth, nor the genial rays of the sun to warm it. The Greek for “whirlwinds” is ὐπο λαιλαπος, tempest. These words also show the inconstancy of the heretics, and the ever fleeting varying nature of their doctrines, like clouds tossed here and there by the winds. “To whom,” that is, the heretics, as is clear from the Greek, οἷς, “the midst of darkness is reserved.” St. Jude adds, “for ever.” He refers to the everlasting darkness of hell.

18. “For speaking proud words of vanity.” This is an illustration of the dried empty fountains (verse 17), they speak pompous and high sounding, but empty words. This is the constant practice of heretics, as St. Jerome tells us (on Isaias, 22) “They allure by the desires of fleshly riotousness;” they allure through the desires of the flesh, prone to lasciviousness, which they indulge in themselves, and teach their followers to regard as lawful; “those who for a little while escape such as converse in error,” that is, those who have, for a short time, or imperfectly, left the society of such as still cling to the errors, of Paganism.

19. The Apostle points out the mode, in which they insnare weak souls, “promising them liberty,” a gift which always sounds sweet to our ears; they promise and proclaim an exemption from the restraint of all laws, whether of the church or state—a license to do whatever men may please; and this they term Christian liberty, or the liberty into which Christ asserted man. St. Jude more clearly expresses it, “turning the grace of our Lord God into riotousness;” verse 4.

“Whereas, they themselves are the slaves of corruption,” that is to say, it is preposterous to see men, themselves slaves, promise true liberty to others. They are “the slaves of corruption,” that is, of their corrupting, debasing passions, and carnal desires. “For by whom a man is overcome, of the same also is he a slave.” According to a fixed maxim observed, and universally admitted between contending parties, those who are conquered in war become the slaves of the victors; and hence, these men, being subdued by their own corrupt passions, are become the slaves of passion.

20. He proves in this verse that these false teachers, far from giving true liberty to their followers, on the contrary, involve them in a corrupt servitude, worse than that from which they were originally emancipated.

“If flying from the pollutions of the world,” that is, the corrupt practices in which they were immersed, while in Paganism; the idea is the same as that conveyed—verse 18—“escape such as converse in error.”

“Through the knowledge,” &c., through the grace of God justifying them; and in the order of justification, faith, or “the knowledge of Christ,” is the first grace. “They be again entangled in them, and overcome,” by yielding to their solicitations. “Their latter state is worse than the first;” because their knowledge being now greater, they are not left the excuse of ignorance, and their ingratitude, consequently increased. Similar is the saying of our Divine Redeemer: “the last state of that man (viz., of the relapsing sinner) is worse than the first.”

21. “It had been better,” that is, a lesser evil, “for them not to have known the way of justice,” i.e., the truths of the gospel, which point out the road of a just and holy life, “than after they had known it, to turn back from that holy commandment;” that is, the Christian law, every commandment of which is “holy,” points out, what is holy, and begets holiness, if observed. This “holy commandment” includes the precepts of faith and morality. It was a greater evil to have fallen away from this law, than never to have received it; for, they now sin with greater knowledge, and greater ingratitude; and they commit sin, by their very relapse. “To turn back;” “back,” is not in the Greek. It is, however, found in the Alexandrian and other manuscripts.

22. He illustrates the base and filthy conduct of such sinners, by referring to the expressive proverbs, which are verified in their regard. “The dog is returned to his vomit,” is taken from the Book of Proverbs. “As a dog that returneth to his vomit, so is the fool that repeateth his folly,” (chap. 26:11), The second proverb is probably added by St. Peter himself, according to Bede; at least, it was current and in vogue among the people of the East; it is a form of expression found in the writings of every country. “Give not that which is holy to dogs, nor cast ye your pearls before swine.” (Matthew, chap 7)








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