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

Analysis

The Apostle, having proved in the preceding chapters, that our justification comes from faith and not from the works performed by the sole aid of cither the natural law or the law of Moses, now points out the excellence if this justification from its effects and the fruits which it produces. The first effect is, peace and tranquillity of conscience (verse 1). The second is the adoption of us, as sons of God (2). The third is joy in our afflictions, which subserve as means to bring us to the enjoyment of our eternal inheritance (3, 4, 5). We have two most consoling and certain grounds for this hope, viz., the diffusion of the Holy Ghost in our hearts, and the death if Christ, than which God could not furnish a greater proof of his boundless love (6–10). The fourth effect of our justification is our glorying in God, as our Father, and in Jesus Christ, as our Mediator (11). In order to show the absolute necessity of this reconciliation on the part of Christ, the Apostle traces matters to the very root of all evil, viz., original sin, of which subject he treats in the remainder of the chapter.

Paraphrase

1. Having, therefore, been justified through faith (in Christ resuscitated from the grave to complete our justification, 4:25), let us be at peace with God, by sinning no more; or, by laying aside the terrors of conscience to which we are subject while in the state of sin, having been reconciled through our Lord Jesus Christ.

2. Through whose merits we have had access, by means of faith, to this grace of reconciliation, wherein we are firmly established, and wherein we glory, in the hope of enjoying one day the bliss in store for the sons of God.

3. And not only do we glory in this grace which is the seed of future glory; but, we even rejoice and glory in tribulation, as conducing to bring us to this happy end. Knowing well from the principles of our faith, that tribulation is the matter and occasional cause of patience.

4. Now, the patient endurance of sufferings tries us and shows what we are. And this trial, after passing through the order of tribulations, enlivens and animates our hope of future bliss.

5. But this hope of future bliss shall never cause the shame of disappointment, since, as a pledge of the fulfilment of this hope, the charity and liberality of God is poured forth into our hearts by the Holy Ghost who has been given to us. (After giving us this pledge of our future inheritance, what can God deny to us?)

6. In the next place, why should Christ die for us at the prescribed time, when we were yet impious and languishing uder the infirmity of sin, unless it were to display his charity towards us and confirm our hope?

7. Now, scarcely will you find among men an instance of one man dying for another: even though that other be a just man. I say, scarcely, because, perhaps, for the just man, who may be at the same time a benefactor, one may submit to die.

8, 9. But in this does God display in a conspicuous manner his charity and love for us, that Christ has died in the plenitude of lime for us, while we were yet his enemies and in the state of sin. Having suffered so much for us while in a state of sin, much more shall we be saved and preserved by him from the eternal punishment, with which we will, in his wrath, visit the impious, now that we have been justified at the price of his precious blood.

10. For, if when we were his enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more now that we are reconciled to him, shall he complete this work of our justification by saving us after having entered on his exalted state of glorious and immortal life.

11. But not only do we glory in the hope of future bliss, and in tribulations as conducing thereto; but, we also glory in God, whose adopted sons we have become, not through any merits of our own, but through those of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have been admitted to the grace of reconciliation with God.

12. (Through Christ alone have we been reconciled to God, and we needed him to reconcile us). For, as by one man (Adam) sin entered into this world, and by sin death, thus death has passed into all men, since all sinned in Adam, as the principal and head of the human race. (So also through one man Christ—the principal and head of all who are spiritually regenerated—has justice entered into the world, and through justice, eternal life).

13, 14. And that this sin existed in the world at all times, even before the written law was given to Moses, although before the law, it was not so much attended to by mankind, following the bent of their corrupt passions, and having no positive law to point out the enormity and fix the special punishment of their crimes, is evident from the fact, that death, its consequence, reigned from Adam to Moses even over those (v.g., infants and idiots) who were incapable, by actual transgression, of sinning after the manner of Adam, who, as the head of a sinful race, was, by contraries, a type of the second Adam, Christ, through whom, as the head of a ransomed race, justice and life were to be introduced into this world.

15. We are not, however, to imagine, that the sin of the first Adam has been so detrimental in its effects, as the gift of the second Adam, by which these effects were removed, has been useful. For, if by the sin of the first Adam his many descendants were deprived of spiritual life and rendered subject to eternal death, far more numerous and precious were the gratuitous gifts of God, through the grace of one man Jesus Christ, conferred on the many (for, besides restoring spiritual life, he has bestowed many gifts of the Holy Ghost and immortality itself).

16. There is another point of difference besides; for, it was only for the one sin of Adam, that all have been subject to the sentence of condemnation; whereas, the gratuitous gift effected the justification of all, not only from that sin, but from all others, and so it rescued us from more evils than the sin of Adam had introduced.

17. For, if through the sin of one man (Adam), and as the consequence of his sin, death reigned over the entire human race; with far greater reason should we believe, that those who receive the abundance of divine grace, of justice, and of all supernatural favours, shall reign for endless ages, through the merits of the one man, Jesus Christ, which are boundless and infinite.

18. Therefore, as by the sin of one man, Adam, the entire mass of mankind incurred the guilt through which they were subject to condemnation; so also, by the justice of one man, Christ, have all men born of him, obtained that justice which makes them sharers of eternal life.

19. For, as by the disobedience of one man, Adam, the many descended from him are made sinners; so also, by the obedience of Christ, shall the many, spiritually born of him, be constituted just.

20. In the interval that elapsed between the transgression of the first Adam, and the obedience of the second, the law was introduced; but, so far was it from remedying the evil, that, on account of human depravity, it became the occasion of greater sin. This increase in sin was, however, only the occasion of manifesting the superabundance of God’s grace.

21. So that, as until the time of the dispensation of this superabundant grace, sin reigned over all mankind, bringing death upon all; so, grace also would reign, bestowing upon all, that justice which leads to eternal life, through the merits of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Commentary

1. “By faith,” and not by the cause advanced by the Jews and Gentiles respectively, viz., the works of the moral and Mosaic laws. “Let us have peace.” In the common Greek copies it is, εχομεν, we have peace, i.e., we have God propitious and reconciled to us. The Vulgate reading, εχωμεν, is that of the Alexandrian and Vatican MSS., and followed by many of the Holy Fathers, SS. Chrysostom, Jerome, Augustine, &c. The meaning of both readings differs but little. Beelen prefers the indicative reading, “we have,” which is the reading of the other verses; “we stand,” verse 3; “we glory,” verse 3 etc.

2. “By whom also,” i.e., through whose merits, “we have access,” (in the Greek, την προσαγωγην εσχηκαμεν, we had access,) i.e., we had been admitted to that happy state of grace in which we firmly persevere—sanctifying grace, as a habit, firmly adheres to us—and of which we boast, since it furnishes us with the most assured hope of one day enjoying the glorious inheritance prepared for the sons of God, of which grace is the seed and the sure earnest. The Greek word for “access,” literally means approach, and frequently means, permission to approach great men. Here it is used metaphorically to denote introduction to a state of grace. “Sons” is not in the Greek, which runs thus, “in the hope of the glory of God.” “Through faith.” Christ has given us access through faith, as through a door, to sanctifying grace.

3. And to show how great are our expectations of this future bliss, we glory in the means of obtaining it, be they ever so opposed to flesh and blood, such as tribulations are. “Knowing that tribulation worketh patience,” tribulation being the matter by which patience is exercised.

4. “And patience (worketh) trial.” Because, it is the patient endurance of affliction that alone tries us, and shows what we are, “as gold and silver are tried in the fire, so are acceptable men in the furnace of humiliation.”—(Eccles. 1). St. James would appear to contradict the Apostle here, for he says (chap. 1) “the trying of faith worketh patience.” There is no real contradiction, however; for, by the “trying of faith,” St. James means the tribulation itself; and this worketh patience, as it is said by St. Paul, in the preceding verse; whereas, here, by “trial” the Apostle means the result of patiently enduring tribulation, the proof we give of the extent of our love for God, and of the sterling virtue which we possess; “and trial (worketh) hope,” because it wonderfully animates and enlivens our hope of heavenly bliss to pass unhurt through the furnace of tribulation.

5. “And hope confoundeth not.” The Greek for “confoundeth,” καταισχύνει, means shameth, by which is expressed the shame of disappointment resulting from grounding our hopes on vain, delusive promises; but our hopes in God are most certain and infallible, as is seen from two indubitable proofs which he has given us of the fulfilment of his promises. The first proof is the diffusion of the gift of charity, by which we Gove him through the Holy Ghost, who is given to us, and permanently resides and inheres in our souls by his gifts. The words, “in our hearts” favour this meaning of “charity of God.” “The charity of God” may also refer to the love of God for us manifested by his pouring forth plenteously into our souls the gifts of his Holy Spirit, which permanently reside and inhere in us; and these gifts of sanctifying grace, and the virtues which are inseparable from it, being the seed of future glory, are the surest earnest God could give us of one clay attaining that glory. This latter meaning of “the charity of God,” is rendered probable by verse 8. It may refer to both God’s love for us, and our love for Him. Some Commentators understand the words, “by the Holy Ghost who is given to us,” to refer to a personal union of the Holy Ghost, in a manner peculiar or proper to him, and not common to the Father and Son (see Beelen). From this verse is derived an argument, that sanctifying grace is intrinsic and permanent, as it is “poured forth in our hearts by the Holy Ghost who is given to us,” to reside in us.

6. The second proof of God’s love for us, and a further confirmation of our hope is, the death of Christ for us, “for why did Christ … die for the ungodly?” unless it was by this splendid proof of his love for us to animate and confirm our hope, and give us an assurance, that, one day he would crown his gifts in us. “Why,” is not in the common Greek, which gives the sentence in an affirmative form, ἔτι γὰρ. The ancient MSS. have various readings. The Codex Vaticanus, εἴ γε. Irenæus and other Fathers support the Vulgate; “weak,” i.e., labouring under the infirmity of infidelity and sin, which is more clearly expressed in the word “ungodly.” The first proof of his great charity which God has given us, is the diffusion of the gifts of his Holy Spirit in our hearts. The second is the death of Christ for us. “According to the time,” i.e., at the precise period, pointed out by the prophets, and fixed on by his heavenly Father.

7. The Apostle, in order to render the love of charity displayed by God for us in the death of his Son the more conspicuous, contrasts this great act of love on the part of God, with similar manifestations on the part of mankind to one another. “Scarcely will you find one” to carry his love for another to such a degree, as to die for him, even though that one be “a just man.” It may, however, possibly happen that this rare instance of love may be shown in behalf of a just man, who may be, at the same time, beneficent to us. “A good man,” implies, not only that one is just, rendering to every one what is due, but also beneficent to us; and therefore, having some grounds for demanding a sacrifice from us.

8, 9. But the charity of God surpasses anything ever heard of, or anything even supposed to be possible among men, by His dying for us, when we were neither “just” nor “good,” but when we were “sinners” and enemies The Greek word for “commends,” συνιστησιν, means, to set forth, to display. The words “according to the time,” κατα χαιρον, are not in any Greek copies, and were probably introduced from verse 6. The word “God” is omitted in the Codex Vaticanus, according to which “Christ” is the nominative to “commendeth.” What a lively picture is drawn here by the Apostle of the boundless love of God for man—the Creator dying for us, his wretched creatures, when we were his enemies. How few correspond with this boundless love. How few make a suitable return. Tam amantem quis non redamet? in quantum possumus, amemus, redamemus vulneratum nostrum.—(St. Bernard, de Passione). What wonder that the Apostle should invoke the heaviest malediction on the head of him who loves not our Lord Jesus Christ.—(1 Cor. 16:22.) “Let us therefore love God, because God first hath loved us.”—(1 John, 11:19). How frequently should we not meditate on the different circumstances of God’s love for us, as here set forth by the Apostle.

10. In this verse, he repeats with greater emphasis, founded on the contrast between Christ’s ignominious death and glorified life, the idea conveyed in the preceding one. If Christ, in his weak, possible and humiliated state, had, at the expense of his precious blood, performed the more difficult work of reconciling us with God; is it not much more natural to expect, that he will now, in his glorious state of immortal and impassible life, perform in our behalf the complement of the preceding, without which it would be unavailing, viz., bring us to consummate salvation, and thereby perfect the work of our reconciliation?

11. “And not only so.” Some Commentators, among the rest, Estius, connect these words with the preceding, thus: “and not only have we been reconciled, but we also glory,” &c. The participial form of reconciliati and gloriantes favours this. The connexion in the Paraphrase appears far more probable, and is also well sustained by external authority. The Greek for “we glory” is a participle, καυχωμενοι, glorying, but it is equivalent to the indicative.

12. The Apostle, in order to show the necessity of reconciliation through Christ, traces matters back to the root of all evil, and propounds the mysterious doctrine of original sin. What it is that constitutes this sin, and what the particular mode is of contracting it, which we have inherited from Adam, and which has been transmitted to all who have been, by the natural course of generation, descended from him (the glorious Mother of God, alone, excepted, who, according to the doctrine of faith, “by a singular privilege and grace of Almighty God, has been preserved free from all stain of original sin in the first instant of Her conception, in view of the merits of Christ Jesus, the Saviour of the human race”), no way concerns us to inquire. This much we know and believe as an article of Catholic faith, that this sin has been transmitted to all men, not by imitation, but by carnal generation. “Hoc Adæ peccatum … propagatione non imitatione transfusum omnibus, inest unicuique proprium.”—(Concil. Trid. SS. 5. de Peccato Orig.) And this doctrine has been proved from this passage by several Councils against the Pelagians.

“Wherefore,” δια τουτο, may mean, for, with the connexion in Paraphrase, or it may be thus connected: “Since, then, Christ is the meritorious cause of our salvation, it is meet that we should, therefore, institute the following comparison. “As by one man,” i.e., Adam, who was by God constituted the head and representative of the whole mass of mankind, “sin entered into this world,” i.e., infected the whole human race, which thereby contracted the necessity of dying. By “sin,” is meant the guilt of original sin, and not its effects, death and bodily suffering, as defined by the Council of Trent—(SS. 5, Can. 2). It is opposed to justification, and moreover, if it referred to the effects of sin, it would be identified with “death.” “And so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned.” “In whom,” regards the “one man,” δἰ ἑνὸς ἀνθρώπου, or Adam, as is clear from the Greek, ἐφʼ ᾧ. This is the interpretation of St. Augustine and St. Chrysostom. In this construction, the words intervening between “one man,” and “in whom.” are included in a parenthesis, “wherefore, as by one man (…) in whom all have sinned.” Others understand the words, ἐφʼ ῳ, causatively to mean inasmuch as, or because, and this is preferred by many (see Beelen). Some Commentators say the sense is suspended as far as verse 18—“therefore as by the offence,” &c.—others finish the sense as in Paraphrase. And this is the more probable; for in verse 18, it is a conclusion that is expressed, “therefore,” &c. Others, with Beelen, say the second member of the comparison which should correspond with the words, “as by one man,” &c., and should complete the sentence, is expressed, if not in words, at least in reality, wherein is conveyed the contrast between the first and second Adam, in verse 14, “who is a figure,” &c.

13. In this verse, the Apostle anticipates and solves an objection which might be made against the universality of the preceding doctrine, namely, as sin is the violation of some law, how could there be any violation of a law before it was given? The Apostle says, that even before the law was given to Moses, this sin of Adam, as well in itself as in its effects, viz., actual sins, existed in this world; but these sins were not “imputed,” or attended to by mankind following their corrupt passions; because there was no particular positive enactment clearly to point out their enormity—so that “sin” in this verse embraces not only original but actual sins, of which the corruption we have inherited from Adam is the source and principle. “But sin,” under which are included original sin, and the actual sins flowing from it, superadded by our own wills—“was not imputed.” Some say was not imputed unto punishment, or as a transgression. The interpretation adopted in the Paraphrase is preferable; for, it is very hard to reconcile the other interpretation with the heavy chastisements always visited upon sin, even before the time of Moses; for, even then, death reigned as well as afterwards.

14. But as a proof that this sin existed, even during the interval that elapsed between Adam and Moses, the Apostle adduces the fact that death, the consequence and punishment of sin, reigned over those who could not deserve any such punishment by actual positive guilt of their own. Such, for instance, were infants and idiots, who, unlike Adam, were incapable of actual sin.

“Who is a figure of him who was to come.” Adam was, by contraries, a type of the future or second Adam, Christ, who is the principle of spiritual life, as the first Adam was the principle of spiritual death. Some Commentators, and among them Beelen, are of opinion that the second member of the antithesis between Adam and Christ is insinuated here, although not clearly expressed, as has been done in Paraphrase of verse 12.

This passage had been adduced by St. Augustine and the early Fathers, to establish against the Pelagians the doctrine of original sin. The Apostle says, “all have sinned,” verse 12, and that this is not to be understood of actual sin, he shows in verse 14, since death, the consequence and punishment of sin, had been inflicted upon all, not even excepting those who were incapable of committing actual sin, viz., infants and idiots. Hence, it must be inflicted as a punishment of that sin, which by generation was transmitted to them from Adam, whom, in his infinite wisdom, God had constituted the head of all his descendants; so that his sin would be imputable to them, as would his fidelity have been accounted in their favour, had he persevered in justice.

15. In the preceding verse, the Apostle had asserted, that Adam was a type or figure of him, “who is to come,” i.e., of Christ, who is often in SS. Scripture styled, the last Adam.—(1 Cor. 15:45). He was a figure by contraries, because, as the first Adam was the principle of death and sin, so the last was the principle of justice and of life, in all who were to be spiritually regenerated and born of him. This resemblance was not, in every respect, perfect. “Many died,” in Greek, οἱ πολλοὶ, “the many.” The first point of dissimilitude, even on contrary sides, was that the guilt of the one had only inflicted temporal and eternal death; whereas, “the grace of God and the gift,” i.e., the gratuitous gift of God furnished by the grace and merits of the man-God, Jesus Christ, “hath much more abounded,” not in point of extensive application, but in the comprehensive excellence and abundance of the benefits which it conferred; since it was not merely confined to the removal of the evil effects of the sin of Adam, but it also bestowed the gifts of the Holy Ghost and perseverance in grace, of which the sin of Adam did not deprive us; for, Adam had not these gifts in Paradise.

“Unto many,” or, as in the Greek, εἰς τους πολλους, “unto the many.” Of course, “the many” in this latter member of the sentence is not as extensive as in the former member, “by the offence of one many died;” for, the many in the former are called “all men,” verse 12; while in this latter part, there is question only of the many who are spiritually born or begotten of Christ, in the same way as treating of the descendants of Adam there is question of those carnally descended from him. It is not in the extent of their actual application that the Apostle compares “the gift” and “the sin,” but in their comprehensive or intrinsic effects where they are applied.

16. There is another point of dissimilitude. For, the gift of the last Adam did more than remove the evil effects of which the transgression of the first was productive. For, by the transgression of Adam, all had been subject to the sentence of condemnation for only one sin; whereas, the gratuitous gift of Christ not only justified us from that one general sin, but from all our own actual sins, superadded by depraved and corrupt nature. “And not as it was by one sin,” the Greek is, καὶ ουχ ὡς δἰ ἑνος ἁμαρτησαντος, “and not as by one who sinned.” The Vulgate reading is, however, found in some of the principal Greek manuscripts, and in the Arabic version.

17. The Apostle repeats, with greater emphasis in this verse, the points of similitude and dissimilitude between Christ and Adam, as opposite principles of life and death. He represents life and death introduced by both, as reigning over the human race. Adam introduced the reign of death and sin; Christ, the reign of justice and life. He does not say, as In the preceding member, that “life shall reign,” but “they shall reign in life,” to point out the dignity of the sons of God, to whom the form, “they shall reign in life,” is more honourable than “life shall reign over them,” as is said of death in the preceding; “much more”—i.e., it is much more natural, considering the infinite power and boundless merits of the one man, Jesus Christ, the principle of spiritual and eternal life, to expect that his children shall reign for ever; the word “reign” expresses the height of happiness, together with the exalted honour they shall enjoy. “Abundance of grace” may mean the abundant, transcendant grace; “and of the gift, and of justice,” (in the common Greek, καὶ της δωρεας της δικαιοσυνης, “and of the gift of justice.”). In the Vatican MS. the word “gift” is wanting.

18. In this verse, according to the interpretation adopted by many, the Apostle reverts to the preceding, for the purpose of completing the sense, and of filling up the comparison left incomplete at verse 12. The intervening verses are, according to this connexion, to be read as within a parenthesis, in which the sacred writer is hurried off from the main subject to note some points of similitude or dissimilitude that occurred to him in reference to the subject in question—a thing not at all unusual in the style of the Apostle. Against this connexion, however, it may be fairly objected, that in this verse the Apostle only draws a conclusion from the foregoing, in which the comparison is supposed to have been already instituted, and indeed, according to many (vide Beelen), the points of comparison are carried out in the words of verse 14, “who is a figure of him who was to come;” “Therefore,” i.e., so then, “as by the offence of one unto all men to condemnation,” the word judgment is understood (judgment passed), “unto all men to condemnation,” as in verse 16; “so also by the justice of one,” (grace or justice passed) “unto all men to justification of life;” “all men,” in this latter clause, regarding justification, are to be understood of all spiritually born of Christ, as in the preceding, reference is made to all carnally descended from the principle of death and condemnation—viz., Adam.

19. On account of the great importance of the doctrine, the Apostle repeats in this verse the same thing conveyed in the preceding, “as by the disobedience of the one”—viz., Adam eating the forbidden fruit, “the many,” i.e., all his descendants, who are many (he calls them “all men,” verse 18), “are made sinners;” “so also by the obedience of the one, the many (descended of him) shall be,” &c.; “the many,” in this latter member is not co-extensive with “the many” in the preceding, according to the interpretation now given; or, if we take “the many” who shall be “made just,” to refer to the entire human race, then the words “made just” will not imply that they are actually justified, but only that the grace of justification is intended for all, and it is their own fault if they fail to obtain it; and that all who are rendered just, are made so by the grace of Christ. From this and the preceding verse is derived a convincing argument of the Catholic doctrine of inherent justice, as Beelen well observes. For, according to the teaching of the Apostle, we are constituted just, and even obtain the gift of justice, through the obedience of Christ, as we are constituted sinners through the disobedience of Adam. Now, in the latter case, we were really sinners, “by nature, children of wrath,” (Eph. 2:3) by the guilt of sin inherent in each of us, transmitted by carnal generation from him. Therefore, by the obedience of Christ, all who are spiritually born of him are constituted really just by justice really inherent in them, and not by the imputation of the justice of Christ, as it was not by the imputation of the sin of Adam that all are sinners. For, the spiritual regeneration in Christ corresponds with the carnal descent from Adam, in which guilt is not imputed but really contracted.

20. Lest it might be imagined from what he said (verse 13), that the law could have the effect of abolishing this sin, the Apostle says, that although the law was introduced in the same space of time that intervened between the sin of the first Adam, and the furnishing of a remedy by the second; still, so far was it from remedying the evil, that it was the occasion of its increase, owing to the depravity of man’s nature. In this interpretation the word “that” means the consequence of what happened—a signification in which it is often employed. Some interpret it as expressing the final cause or end of the law. “The law entered in, in order that sin might abound,” and that thus, from a consciousness of their spiritual miseries and disorders, men might look forward with greater ardour to the coming of the remedy, which alone could remove them. If we take “that” to signify the final cause or end of giving the law, then the words are not to be understood as conveying that the immediate and direct end God had in view was the “abounding of sin;” but, the humiliation of man resulting from the increase of sin by occasion of the law. From which it would follow that, conscious of his weakness and sinfulness, he would implore the aid of a deliverer. “Entered in,” παρεισηλθεν, as if by stealth, and only for a time, until the plenitude of grace would be conferred by the Gospel. “And where sin abounded,” &c., not that this happened in every instance—but only where God thought fit to apply it. Some Commentators give “where” the meaning of “when sin abounded,” owing to the introduction of the law, then the superabundant grace of Christ was given to the world. The Greek particle, οὗ, will mean either where or when. The signification of when in this passage is preferable, because the Apostle is treating of different periods of time, and the different degrees of grace and sinfulness during these times.

21. So that as sin extended its dominion far and wide, bringing death upon all men, the reign of divine mercy and grace would also be extended, bestowing life-giving justice on all who are to be saved, through the infinite merits of our Lord Jesus Christ.








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