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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 tells the faithful, that this is the second Epistle he addressed to them, in which, as well as in the former, he wished to remind them of the truths of faith, predicted by the prophets, and inculcated by the Apostles. He probably refers, in a particular manner, to the doctrine regarding the coming of Christ, in due time, to judge the world—a doctrine questioned by the false teachers (1, 2). In order to put them on their guard, he tells them that such persons would come amongst them, and at all times trouble the Church (3). The principal error of these men will consist in ridiculing the great doctrine of Christ’s coming to judge the world. This is, indeed, the practical teaching of the impious at all times (1).

He refutes the teaching of those men, who probably ridiculed the idea of fire—one of the most active principles or elements of the present world—being made instrumental in its ruin, by showing that an element, which equally entered into the constitution of the present system—viz., water, was employed for its destruction, formerly. He thus refutes their assertion, that things continued in the same way from creation (5, 6). He next refutes their deduction from analogy, that things would continue as they were for ever, by showing, that the world is to be destroyed by fire (7). The scoffs of the impious regarding the tardiness of Christ’s coming, he shows to be groundless; since the measure of time with God is quite different from that adopted by us (8). And, in truth, this delay is intended by God as a judgment of mercy, to give men time for repentance, and to enable the number of the elect to be filled up (9). He again repeats his assertion, that the present system of the world is to be changed and renovated (10). and draws moral conclusions from thence—viz., that we should, by sanctity of life, prepare and fit ourselves for the renovated heavens and earth, the abode of the blessed (11–13), and endeavour to be found, in the presence of our Judge, free from spot (15).

He refers to the Epistle of St. Paul, as inculcating the same things, and observes regarding them, that they are difficult and hard to be understood; to persons not fit to read them, they are like all other inspired scriptures, a source of spiritual ruin (15, 16).

In conclusion, he cautions them against being led astray by the erroneous doctrines of the impious scoffers in question, and exhorts them to endeavour to advance in grace and faith.

Paraphrase

1. Behold, dearly beloved, after having addressed to you a former Epistle, I write to you this second also, in both one and the other of which, I have endeavoured to stir up and stimulate to greater fervour your pure minds, already sincerely imbued with true piety, by reminding you of the truths of our holy faith.

2. That you may be mindful of the words of the holy prophets, which I have mentioned before, or, mindful of the words foretold by the holy prophets, and of the precepts of your Apostles, which are also the precepts of our Lord and Saviour (or, of the precepts given by us, the Apostles of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ).

3. This you should know in the first place, and attend to, as a matter of vital importance, that in this last stage of the world, on which we have entered, there shall come deceitful scoffers, deriding all true religion, seducing and leading astray the unwary; men, who shall freely indulge and follow the lust of their carnal corrupt passions;

4. Asking in a derisive tone, what is become of the promised coming of the Lord to judgment? It is a mere delusion; for, since our fathers have slept—the first according to yourselves, to believe in and announce this, his second coming—all things have gone on in the way that they did from the creation of the world (and no doubt will continue so for ever).

5. For of this they are wilfully and culpably ignorant, viz., that the heavens were first, and then the earth, emerging from the water, and consisting by means of water, which bounds it, circulates freely through it, imparts to it fertility and prevents it from flying off in particles of dust; and both the heavens and the earth owe their form and existence to the word or will of God (and can, therefore, perish by the FIAT of the same omnipotent will).

6. By which, viz., the heavens and the earth—the one opening their cataracts, and the other, the great fountains of its abyss; the then, or antediluvian world, perished, being deluged by water.

7. But the firmament, or regions of the air, and the earth, which now remain in their present deteriorated state after the deluge, are treasured up by the same omnipotent will of God, and preserved to be burned by the fire of conflagration, on the day of general judgment, a day also of eternal destruction to the impious, whom the fire of God’s wrath shall carry with it to the lowest hell.

8. But as for the railleries of these impious scoffers regarding the tardy performance of God’s promises to come and judge the world, they are to be unheeded; for, if the measure of time in the designs of God be considered, there is no room whatever for objection on this point. With him a thousand years and one day are the same; viewed in comparison with eternity, both are a mere point.

9. The Lord does not put off, beyond the determined time, the execution of his promise, as some persons imagine, but he endures patiently and with long-suffering on your account, not willing that any persons should be lost, but that all should return to penance.

10. But the day of the Lord, like the nightly and sudden approach of a thief, shall come unexpectedly; in it the heavens will pass away with a great crash, such as is occasioned by a violent storm of wind or the pealing of thunder, and the elements changing their figure and appearance, shall, all on fire, be dissolved with great heat, and the earth, with all its productions, natural and artificial, as well as the works of mankind shall be burnt up.

11. Since, then, all things, heaven, the elements, and the works that are found in creation, are to be dissolved, and a new and perfect order of things to be introduced, how pure and holy should you not be both in the sanctity of your intercourse with your neighbour and in acts of piety towards God;

12. Firmly hoping for, and hastening on to meet, or anticipating by your diligent preparation, the coming of the day of the Lord, by which the heavens, being set on fire, will be dissolved, and the elements shall melt away with a burning heat?

13. But, although the present system of creation be dissolved, we look for and expect new and renovated heavens, a newly renovated earth, in which perfect justice and immaculate sanctity will dwell.

14. Wherefore, dearly beloved, as you are firmly hoping for this renovated state of things, this new heaven and new earth, exert all your care and diligence to be found by the Lord, at his coming, free from all gross crimes, particularly such as are practised by the deceitful scoffers, and, as far as possible, free from lesser defects, in a state of peace both with God and your neighbour, thus calmly prepared to meet your judge.

15. And look upon the long-suffering of the Lord, in deferring his coming, as solely intended for your salvation, to give you time for repentance and merit; as our most dear brother in the Apostleship, Paul, according to the divine and heavenly wisdom, given him from above, has written to you.

16. As indeed, he has in all his Epistles, referring to the same subjects of which I have been treating, viz., regarding patience under afflictions in the hope of Christ’s coming, steadfastness in resisting the aggressive attacks of the heretics, &c. In which writings of St. Paul, or among which subjects treated of by him, there are some hard to be understood, which, those unacquainted with spiritual things, as well as those who are not firmly grounded in the faith, distort by false interpretations, as indeed they do the other inspired Scriptures, to their own spiritual and eternal ruin.

17. Do you therefore, beloved brethren, admonished beforehand of these things, be on your guard, lest, forced aside from the path of truth, by the erroneous teaching of these men, you fall away from the steadfast profession of Christian faith, and the practice of Christian virtues, in which the grace of God has established you.

18. But (by the zealous performance of good works), endeavour to increase in grace, both actual and habitual, and in the more perfect faith and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be rendered glory both in this life and during the never-ending ages of eternity. Amen.

Commentary

1. “Behold.” For this we have in the Greek, ηο͂η, now; “this second Epistle I write to you.” Hence, this Epistle was addressed, like the former, to the Christians of Asia Minor. “In which.” This word is read in the plural, both in the Greek text εν αἰς, and in the Vulgate, in quibus; and, hence, it refers to both Epistles; I have written this second Epistle after the first, “in which,” that is, both one and the other, “I stir up,” that is stimulate to greater fervour, “by way of admonition,” by reminding you of the truths of faith. (“I will begin to put you always in remembrance of the things;” chap. 1:12). As pastor of souls, he feels it his duty always to instruct his flock, both “in season and out of season.”—(2 Tim. 4:2).

“Your sincere mind;” your mind, sincerely imbued with feelings of religion, pure and undefiled. This he adds to gain their good will, in order to render them more docile to his instructions.

2. “That you may be mindful of those words which I told you.” The Greek, μνησθηναι των προειρηυενων ῥηματων, should properly be rendered thus, and are rendered so by the Vulgate (St. Jude, verse 17):—“That you may be mindful of the words which have been spoken before,” &c. He wishes them to keep in mind the predictions of the prophets, the reading of whose writings he recommended to them (chap. 1:19) particularly, so far as they regard the Divinity, and the glorious coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

“And of your Apostles, of the precepts of the Lord and Saviour.” The common Greek reading runs thus: και της τῶν ἀποστολων ἡμων ἐντολης το͂υ κυρίου καὶ σωτηρος, and of the precepts of us, Apostles of the Lord and Saviour, or, of the precepts of us Apostles (which are also the precepts) of the Lord and Saviour. The sense is the same in either construction; because the precepts of the Apostles of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, are the precepts of Christ himself, “qui vos audit, me audit.” The Codex Vaticanus has ὑμων, for, ἠμων. The precepts to which he refers, are those concerning their perseverance in the faith, originally communicated to them, particularly as regards the promises and glorious coming of our Lord, and the shunning of false teachers.

3. “Knowing this first,” or, as amatter of great importance to their salvation; for, being forewarned of their approach, they will the more easily guard against the snares of the false teachers. “That in the last days.” These words specify no particular time, except that, it is future—to come on hereafter—they most probably refer to the term during which the Christian religion is to last, called the last time, and frequently “the last hour;” because no other form of true religion is to exist, no other dispensation to be promulgated, until the day of judgment. Hence, St. Paul says (1 Cor. 10), “that upon us the ends of the world have come.”

The words may refer to the time preceding the day of judgment; and St. Peter, as supreme pastor of God’s Church, addressing her now in her infancy, wishes also to warn her of the errors which will assail her, in her old age. Men shall arise to delude the people, and persuade them that the doctrine of the coming of Christ to judgment, is a mere chimerical idea; this error will open the way to the apostasy, which St. Paul says, will usher in the day of judgment (2 Thes. 2:3).

“There shall come deceitful scoffers,” men who shall scoff at all religion, particularly the truths regarding Christ’s second coming (verse 4), and will deceitfully insnare the faithful. In some Greek copies, there is no word for “deceitful.” The chief MSS. have the words, ἐν εκπαιμονῃ εμπαῖκται, “scoffers in deceit,” “walking after their own lusts,” indulging without scruple or restraint their corrupt passions. This is a general characteristic of heresy. Those who have made a shipwreck of faith, are always men of loose and dissolute morals.

4. “Saying, where is his promise or his coming?” in Greek, ἡ επαγγελία της παρουσιας the promise of his coming, or his promised coming, what is become of it? This question is equivalent to a denial, that he shall ever come. “For since the time,” or, from the day, “that the fathers slept,” that is, since the death of the patriarchs, who were the first to believe, and proclaim their belief in this truth—and since then a long interval has elapsed—“all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation;” all things continue in their usual course, as from the “beginning of creation.” (The Greek word for “creation,” κτισεως, will also mean, creature), that is, since creation, when creatures began to exist. The apparent immutability and unchangeable course of nature, the same vicissitudes of seasons, alternations of day and night, the orderly courses and revolutions of the heavenly bodies, are put forward by the scoffing heretics in question, as an argument against the second coming of Christ, promised everywhere in the Scriptures, as if things would go on in the same way for ever.

5. “For, this they are wilfully ignorant of.” They are culpably and wilfully ignorant of the following fact, which they might easily ascertain from the books of sacred Scripture, and the great book of nature herself, viz., “that the heavens were before,” or, as in the Greek, εκπαλαι, of old, that is, from the beginning, at first created, “by the word” or, omnipotent will “of God,” “and the earth out of water,” that is standing forth from the water, out of which it emerged, on the third day of creation, when “the waters under the heavens were gathered together into one place, and the dry land appeared.”—Genesis, 1:9. “And through the water,” to which, most likely, the word, “consisting” should be joined. The earth consists “through water,” because it is the water which surrounds the earth, circulating through it, like blood through the veins of a body, that gives it a consistency, preventing it from flying off in particles of dust, and imparting to it fertility and powers of production.

The term “consisting,” as appears from the Greek, regards the earth only, γη συνεστωσα, but, both earth and the heavens exist by “the word” or omnipotent will “of God.”

The Apostle confutes those deceitful scoffers by showing first, that their assertion, to the effect that all things continued in the same way from creation, was false, and that the same alternate course of dying and living did not proceed regularly since creation. In the following part, commencing at verse 7, he shows their conclusion from analogy—viz., that things would go on in the same way for ever, to be equally false.

6. “Whereby;” the Greek words, διʼ ὡν, means, by which, in the plural number, that is, through which heavens and earth, bursting loose their cataracts, and throwing open their great fountains (Genesis, 7:11), “the world that then was,” viz., the antediluvian world, “being overflowed with water, perished.” Not alone had mankind, with all the living creatures on the earth, perished; but, the earth itself and the atmosphere underwent a great change for the worse, in the universal deluge.—St. Augustine (de Civitate Dei, libro 20:11).

7. After having refuted the assertion of the ungodly, that the world had remained always in the same state of alternate dying and living, by referring to the history of the universal deluge, of which these impious scoffers were wilfully ignorant, the Apostle proceeds, in this verse, to refute their conclusion, or rather deduction, from analogy—viz., that things would always continue, as they are and have been. He says, “the heavens that now are,” by which is very probably meant, the firmament or atmosphere surrounding the earth (the space between us and the starry heavens is frequently called “heaven” in the Scripture; thus, we say “volucres cœli”), but not the starry or empyrean, the abode of the blessed; for, the starry heavens will be changed for the better; but not burned by the fire of conflagration. “By the same words are kept in store,” that is, are treasured up in the storehouse of God’s providence, who will execute his decrees in due time, “reserved unto fire,” to be burned by the fire of conflagration.

“Against the day of judgment;” kept waiting for the day of general judgment, “and perdition of the ungodly men,” whom the fire of God’s justice shall carry with it and plunge for ever into the bottomless pit of hell. It is not unlikely, that the impious scoffers in question had asserted the utter impossibility of the earth perishing by fire, one of the principal elements which should conspire with the others for the preservation of the universe. This the Apostle refutes by the example of the destruction of the former earth, by the deluge; for, looking merely to natural principles, what greater repugnance can we have in believing, that the present earth and heavens should be destroyed by the element of fire, than that the former earth, which subsisted by water, and was rendered fertile, and kept compact thereby (verse 5), should be destroyed by the very same element (verse 6) which appeared to insure for it eternal duration.

8. The Apostle now proceeds to point out how devoid of all foundation are the scoffs and railleries of those impious men with regard to the slowness and tardiness of Christ’s coming. With him, who beholds eternity at one glance, the longest and shortest periods of time are all the same; a thousand years as well as a single day compared with eternity are the same, infinitely distant from it; and hence, any delay in the coming of Christ, is, according to their computation of time, but not according to the measure adopted by Him.

9. What men are apt to consider a delay on the part of God to fulfil his promise, is not a delay at all; but rather a gracious judgment of his mercy, an exercise of his long-suffering, wishing to give his people time for repentance; “not willing that anyone should perish, but that all should return to penance;” the meaning of which words is, that, by a sincere, antecedent will, God wishes no one to perish, but that all men should be saved; He also gives all men sufficient means of salvation. The words, “the Lord delayeth not his promise,” admit of this construction also, according to the Greek, ου βραδυνει κυριος επαγγελίας, the Lord of the promise is not slow. “As some imagine,” are thus read in the Greek, ὡς τινες βραδυτητα ηγουνται, as some compute slowness. “For your sake.” In the common Greek, for our sake. The Codex Vaticanus has, εἱς ὑμας, the Alexandrian, διʼ ὑμας. Both support the Vulgate. How calculated is not the serious meditation on these words of the Apostle, “A thousand years with God is but as a single day,” to raise our thoughts to eternal enjoyments, and make us undervalue all the pleasures and riches and honours of this life, which, be it ever so prolonged, when compared with eternity, is but a mere point. “A thousand years in his sight is but as yesterday which is past and gone.” (Psalm 89) With the Psalmist we should frequently, in the day of trial and affliction, “keep in mind the eternal years.” (Psalm 76) Our conversation, our thoughts, should be in heaven, whence we are to expect, in his own good time, a deliverer; and we should rest assured, that if he appear tardy in coming to our relief, it is to give us time for penance, and to enable us to hoard up greater treasures of merit.

10. The day on which the Lord Jesus is to judge the world, will come unexpectedly, “as a thief,” to which, in the common Greek, is added (in the night). These latter words are not found in either the Alexandrian or Vatican manuscripts, and were, most likely, added here and taken from 1 Thess. verse 2, where the day of judgment is described. “In which the heavens shall pass away,” that is, the regions of the air, in Sacred Scriptures often called “heavens,” shall pass away, and, purged of all their present grossness and imperfection, shall be changed into a more perfect and incorruptible form. “With great violence.” The Greek word, ῥοιζηδον, means the hissing or crashing noise caused by a violent storm of wind or thunder. The fire of conflagration will, most probably, precede the coming of the judge, and causing the death of such men as will have survived the other precursory evils of the day of judgment, viz., famine, the sword, &c., shall continue to pass with great noise from hemisphere to hemisphere, and continue during the holding of the judgment, devouring and purging the elements, until, after the sentence of the judge, increasing in ardour and violence, it shall precipitate the impious into hell.

“And the elements shall be melted with heat.” Some understand these of the four elements, viz., fire, air, earth, and water. They shall be melted away, not in such a way, as to be utterly destroyed, but merely changed, just as melted gold loses its dross and form, while its substance remains. Others say, the “elements” refer only to the earth and water; for, the Apostle treated already of the element of air, when saying “the heavens shall pass away,” and as for the element of fire, they say it is hard to conceive how the fire of conflagration can destroy the elementary fire. To this it might, however, be replied, that it will only dissolve it, and depriving it of all grossness and imperfection, purify and render it a fit ingredient of the new creation, which is to be the dwelling place of the glorified children of God.

“And the earth, and the works which are in it.” He again repeats the burning of “the earth,” though contained under the words, “elements shall be destroyed,” because it has this peculiar to itself, that on its surface, men have made the most valuable improvements, and from its bowels come forth these treasures which wordlings prize most. “And the works which are in it,” that is to say, its animal and vegetable productions, as also the works of art, such as, buildings, gold, &c.; very likely he refers also to the moral works of man, which will be consumed by, and afford fuel to, the fire of conflagration.—(1 Cor. 3:15). “If any one’s work burn,” &c.; and the Apostle wishes to stimulate the faithful to perform works which will stand the test of this devouring fire; such is the moral exhortation clearly expressed in the following verses.

11. “What manner of people ought you to be,” that is, how perfectly elevated above all terrestrial ideas and affections should you not be, to fit you for the new and perfect order of things which is to succeed the present; “in holy conversation,” in your several relations with men, “and godliness,” and your piety, acts of faith, hope, love, religion, &c., towards God. “Conversation and godliness,” are read in the plural in the Greek.

12. “Looking for,” that is, by firm hope, looking forward to, “and hastening unto,” or, anticipating, in the fervour and zeal of your preparation, “the coming of the day of the Lord,” acting each day as you would, were the day of the Lord immediately at hand. “By which, that is, either day, or coming of the Lord.” “The heavens being on fire shall be dissolved.” The meaning of this is the same as that of verse 10; here, it is merely added, that the heat by which all things will be dissolved is the heat of fire. “The heavens will be dissolved.” This refers to the lower heavens or regions of the air; although it is most likely that the starry heavens will not be dissolved, it is still very probable, they will be changed or perfected, so as to suit the glorified condition of the children of God. “The powers of heaven (the stars) shall be moved.” and the Church sings in her Office, “quando cœli movendi sunt et terra.” “And the elements shall melt away with a burning heat.” They shall melt away like wax, with the form changed, the substance shall remain. “Transit figura hujus mundi.” (1 Cor. 7)

13. “But we look for new heavens,” that is, heavens renovated and perfected, into which the present heavens shall be changed, including both the lower air, or atmosphere, and the starry heaven For, “the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days.”—(Isaias, 30:26). “And a new earth,” the present earth renovated and changed in its qualities and purified of all the dross and imperfection, which it contracted from the “slavery of corruption.”—(Rom. 8) “According to his promises.” The new heavens, &c., are promised (Isaias, 65:17, 66:22); or, the words may refer to the general promises of eternal happiness, made to the saints. “In which justice dwelleth,” that is, which will be the seat and habitation of the blessed, free from all stains or defilements. “There shall not enter into it anything defiled.”—(Apoc. 21:27).

14. “Wherefore, dearly beloved, seeing that you look for these things,” seeing that you expect a new heaven and a new earth, and a total renovation of all things, at the coming of Christ to judgment, and that you thus turn a deaf ear to the incredulous, and to the scoffing questions of the impious, asking, “where is his promise or his coming?” (verse 4), “be diligent,” exert your utmost care and diligence, “that you may be found undefiled,” that is, free from the grosser crimes, such as the Simonites, Gnostics, and other heretics had fallen into, (“walking after their own lusts,” verse 3); “and undefiled,” free from lesser or venial faults, as far as possible. “To him,” in his presence, “in peace,” by being in peace both with God and your neighbour. Thus you will calmly and peaceably be prepared to meet the judge.

15. “And account the long suffering of our Lord, salvation,” that is to say, regard the long-suffering of God in deferring his coming to judge the world, not in a spirit of captious and deceitful inquiring, “where is his promise or his coming?” (verse 4), but, rather as intended, in the gracious designs of Providence, to secure your salvation, by giving you time for repentance, or for heaping up a treasure of merit. “As also our most dear brother Paul.” By “brother,” is meant, associate in the Apostolical ministry. “According to the wisdom,” that is the heavenly and divine knowledge, “given to him,” from above, “hath written to you.” The Apostle praises the Epistles of St. Paul for the wisdom displayed in them, but in such a way, that the glory of it should be ultimately referred to God, from whom every good gift comes. “Written to you.” It is disputed among Expositors of Sacred Scriptures, what Epistle of St. Paul St. Peter alludes to here—for, that he refers to some particular Epistle, is clear from the words next verse, “as also in all his Epistles.” Some, with Œcumenius, say, it is that to the Romans; others, with Cajetan, the Epistles to the Galatians, Ephesians, and Colossians, addressed to the people of Asia Minor, as is also this Epistle of St. Peter’s. The more probable opinion, however, appears to be, that he alludes to the Epistle to the Hebrews; for, throughout that Epistle, the principal object of the Apostle seems to be, to exhort the Hebrews to patience amidst trials and persecutions, by proposing to them the coming of our Lord, and by placing before them the example of the saints of old (10:35–39; 11 to the end of the Epistle), and he occasionally, in the first part of the Epistle, treats of the same (3, 4, 6). The words, “as also our most dear brother Paul hath written to you.” are to be connected with verse 14, “be diligent,” &c.

16. “As also in all his Epistles.” This shows that in the preceding words, “hath written to you,” he refers to a particular Epistle addressed to them. “Speaking in them of these things,” wherein you have been instructed by me, regarding the necessity of patiently waiting for the coming of the Lord to judgment, of firmly expecting the performance, in due time, of his promise, of resisting the lures and temptations held out by false teachers, and of keeping yourselves pure and immaculate from the world, by the performance of good works. These appear to be the general subjects treated of in the Epistles of St. Paul.

“In which.” These words are of a different gender from “Epistles” in the common Greek, ἐν οἷς. Hence, according to this reading, they mean, in which things treated of by him, or, in which writings. The Vatican and Alexandrian MSS. have ἐν αἷς (i.e.) Epistles. “There are certain things hard to be understood,” that is, absolutely obscure, and, of themselves, difficult for all persons. “Which the unlearned,” men not versed in spiritual things—“The sensual man,” be he ever so well versed in secular knowledge, “perceiveth not the things that are of the spirit of God” (1 Cor. 2:14)—“and unstable,” such as are not firmly grounded in the principles and foundation of religion; “wrest,” distort their meaning by false interpretations; “as they do also the other Scriptures”—hence, the Epistles of St. Paul are divine Scriptures, for, of such, St. Peter speaks—“to their own destruction.”

The Scriptures, therefore, are difficult and hard to be understood, and not only obscure with reference to all persons, but ruinous to some, both “unlearned” and learned. For, “the unstable” may embrace the learned classes also. Hence, the wisdom of the Catholic Church in not permitting the indiscriminate reading of the sacred Scriptures to all classes of persons, without distinction. The Scriptures are not clear and plain to every capacity, as modern heretics pretend. They are, in themselves, really difficult, we are assured here by St. Peter; their reading, far from being attended with profit to all, is ruinous to some; and hence, the Church of Christ, actuated by the same Holy Spirit which inspired St. Peter, restricts the reading of them to such as bring to their perusal the proper dispositions; but particularly, docility to the teachings and interpretations of the Church, to whom alone belongs the duty of explaining God’s holy word. Every one who knows anything of the history of modern heresies, will at once perceive that the assumption of the independent right to read the obscure and difficult oracles of God’s truth, and interpret them, according to each one’s private spirit, or rather, whim or caprice, has been the prolific source of the most monstrous errors and has split up the heretical communities themselves into countless sections, all differing in faith, from one another.

What the passages in the Epistles of St. Paul, containing peculiar difficulties and the source of perdition to some, are, cannot be asserted for certain. It is, however, probable, that he refers to the doctrine of justification by faith, as we are told by St. Augustine (Libro de Fide et Operibus, c. 14). From this, the heretics inferred the sufficiency of faith alone, without good works. We are assured by the same Father, that it was to correct this fundamental error, so fatal to the purity of Christian morality, to which the false interpretation of the words of St. Paul gave rise, the Catholic Epistles of the four Apostles were written (Libro de Fide et Operibus, c. 14)

17. The Apostle concludes this Epistle by cautioning them against being deceived by the erroneous teachings of the false scoffers. “Take heed, lest being led aside,” from the path of truth. The Greek word for “led aside,” συναπαχθεντες, means being carried or forced forward, as if by a crowd. “By the error of the unwise,” in Greek. των ἀθεσμων, of the lawless. He refers to these scoffers who trample on all laws, human and divine. “You fall from your own steadfastness,” both in the profession of faith and its inward belief, and the practice of virtues. Hence, faith is not inamissible. St. Paul assures us also, that Hymeneus and Philetus had fallen away from it (1 Tim. 1:20).

18. “But grow in grace,” that is, by advancing from virtue to virtue, endeavour to acquire an increase of grace, both actual and habitual. “And the knowledge of our Lord,” &c. This he says in opposition to those who, from an affectation of superior knowledge, were called Gnostics, though really ignorant and wandering from truth. The Apostle closes the Epistle with words almost the same as those with which he began it. “Grace to you and peace be accomplished in the knowledge of God, and of Christ Jesus our Lord” (chap. 1:2). “To him be glory both now,” in this world, “and unto the day,” the never-ending moment, “of eternity. Amen.”








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