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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 foregoing chapters, that faith in Christ, as contradistinguished from the works of the Mosaic Law, or the law of nature, was the only means of arriving at justice and salvation, employs this and the two succeeding chapters in showing that the Jews were rejected, because, confiding too much in the external advantages and privileges they enjoyed, they refused to embrace the faith of Christ; while the Gentiles were called to justice, because they embraced this all necessary faith. Before, however, announcing the disagreeable truth regarding the rejection of the Jews, he employs the strongest and most affecting language, and calls God in the most solemn manner, to witness the intensity of his affection for the Jews, whose rejection (and this he by no means expresses, but leaves to he understood) caused him the most intense grief and sorrow of heart (1–5). He then shows, that the rejection and reprobation of the Jews from the justice of the Gospel, was not opposed to the promises of God made to Abraham; since these promises regarded the spiritual sons of Abraham, and not all his carnal descendants. This he shows from the example of Isaac, and of Jacob, the younger son of Isaac (6–14). And although the promises, to which the Apostle refers, primarily regarded temporal benedictions, still, these temporal blessings, which God bestowed on certain sons of Abraham before the others, were types of spiritual benedictions, in the disposal of which God was as free, as he had been in regard to the temporal inheritance. The argument of the Apostle, then, is, that as God had conferred the temporal inheritance of Abraham on Isaac, before all the other sons of Abraham, and on Jacob, before Esau, so is he also free in calling to the spiritual inheritance of Abraham, that is to say, to the grace of the Gospel, the Gentiles, the children of promise, in preference to the Jews, his descendants according to the flesh.

He next solves an objection, to which the preceding doctrine might give rise (14–18). And as his reply to the objection might give rise to a further difficulty regarding the justice of God in punishing sinners, he solves this difficulty also (19–24). He proves, in the next place, that God called to his Church both Jews and Gentiles (24–29); and, finally, he accounts for the vocation of the Gentiles and the rejection of the Jews.

Paraphrase

1. I call Christ to witness the truth of what I speak. I have also for this, the testimony of my own conscience directed and strengthened by the Holy Ghost.

2. I make this most solemn protestation, that I feel great sadness and unceasing excruciating torture of mind (on account of the reprobation and rejection of my brethren).

3. For (notwithstanding my ardent and unchangeable love for Christ—8:35, &c.) I would wish, were it conformable to the divine will, to be eternally separated from the glory of Christ, and thus be devoted as a victim, should it serve for the glory and vocation of my Jewish brethren, who are my kinsmen according to the flesh.

4. Who enjoy so many singular and distinguishing prerogatives; who are descended from the Patriarch on whom God himself, as a title of honour, bestowed the name of Israel; to whom belongs the privilege of being adopted, in preference to all other nations, as the sons of God; in whose behalf God exhibited many glorious manifestations of his special providence; with whom he established his covenant; to whom He himself gave his law through Moses; to whom He prescribed the true mode of divine worship; to whom were made the promises, of which the principal were those that regarded the Messiah.

5. Whose progenitors were the renowned Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, &c., and (which is the chief prerogative of all) from whom is Christ descended according to the flesh, who is over all things, God, worthy of divine benediction and praise for ever and ever. Amen.

6. In thus expressing my intense grief for the rejection of the Jews, I do not wish to express the least apprehension regarding the fulfilment of the divine promises made to Abraham and the patriarchs concerning the multiplication of their seed: for, not all they who are born of Israel are the true Israelites, to whom reference is made in the divine promises.

7. Nor are all who are carnally descended from Abraham, to be, therefore, regarded as the true sons of promise, who are to inherit the blessings These are confined to his descendants through Isaac, according to the express testimony of Scripture (Gen. 21:12): In Isaac (this son born to thee in virtue of the divine promise) shall thy seed be reckoned.

8. That is to say, it is not the children of the flesh as such, or those who are carnally descended from Abraham, that are the sons of God who are to possess the inheritance, but it is only those, who are begot ten in virtue of the promise, that are to be accounted as his seed.

9. For, that Isaac was a child of promise, begotten rather in virtue of the grace and power of God, than of the generative power of man, is clear from the word of promise in Genesis, 18:10, where the angel, on the part of God, promises Abraham, “according to this time,” or, this time twelvemonth, “will I come, and Sara shall have a son,” and this, at a time of life on the part both of Abraham and Sara, when such an event could be brought about by the interposition of the Divine power only.

10. And it is not alone the history of the conception of Sara, and of its circumstances, that furnishes us with a clear proof of the efficacy of the divine promises, and of the superior advantages of spiritual adoption over the claims of mere carnal generation and human arrangements; but of the same, does the conception of Rebecca also, who bore twins, conceived at the same time of our father, Isaac, supply the most striking exemplification.

11. For, before the children were born, being still confined in her womb, and consequently before they had done good or evil (in order that the purpose of God, electing the one and rejecting the other, which purpose was influenced solely by his gratuitous election, irrespective of merit of demerit on either side, whether actual or foreseen, might stand firm).

12, 13. On consulting the Lord (Genesis, 14:23), respecting the nature of the struggle which she felt between the children in her womb, she received an answer, wholly independent of works, and solely the result of the gratuitous call of God to this effect, that she had two nations in her womb, and that the nation descended from the elder, would serve the descendants of the younger. (13)—This prophetic response the Prophet Malachy long after declared to be fulfilled as the result of God’s love and predilection for Jacob on whose posterity he bestowed all kinds of temporal benedictions, leaving to the descendants of Esau, whom he neglected, (“hated,”) for their portion, the barren hills of ldumea, and consigning their inheritance to the dragons of the desert (Mal. 1:13.) (The plain conclusion from all this is, that God is now just as free in rejecting from the spiritual inheritance of justification, and of the Gospel, the Jews—typified by the first born, Esau, and in calling to it the Gentiles—typified by the second-born, Jacob, as he had been in disposing of the temporal inheritance, according to his sole gratuitous choice and election, the one being as perfectly gratuitous a gift, on the part of God, as the other.)

14. If, then, God in now preferring the Gentiles to the Jews, in the bestowal of spiritual blessings, as he formerly preferred the descendants of Jacob before those who sprang from Esau, loving one and neglecting the other, has no regard to their works, does he not act an unjust part? Far from us be so impious a thought.

15. Whether in calling the Gentiles to the spiritual inheritance of justification, or in rejecting the Jews from the same, there is no injustice on the part of God. First, in calling the Gentiles, there is no injustice: for, in the disposal of his free and gratuitous gifts, in having mercy, as in the present instance, God is answerable to no one; he is the free and absolute dispenser of his favours, as he said to Moses: “I will have mercy on whomsoever I will, and I will be clement to whomsoever I please.”

16. Therefore, our call to the grace of justification is not owing to human exertions, either in the way of strong desire or strenuous effort; but it is purely the effect of God’s gratuitous mercy.

17. Secondly, in withholding from the incredulous Jews the grace of justification, and in leaving them in their obstinacy, there is no injustice on the part of God. In this respect also he can act perfectly at will, as happened in the case of Pharaoh, whom God left in his obstinacy, and of whom he said: for this purpose have I set thee up and preserved thee thus long as king, that I might display my power through thee, and announce the glory of my name throughout the entire earth.

18. The conclusion, therefore, from the foregoing is, that whether in bestowing mercy, or in leaving men in their obstinacy of heart, God is perfectly free to act as he pleases, without injuring any one, and consequently, without giving any one cause for complaint.

19. But, you may still object and say: if such be the case, why should God complain of sinners, why punish and accuse them, since it would appear that they are such by his will, and who is able to resist his will?

20. O man (slime of the earth), who art thou that darest to enter into account with God, or dispute his sovereign will? Thinkest thou that the thing formed has any right to call its maker to account for the mode in which it has been formed?

21. As well might the clay, or kneaded dough in the hands of the potter, dispute his rightful power to mould it for whatever purposes he might think proper, whether honourable or dishonourable.

22. What grounds for murmuring, or cause for complaint is there, if God, wishing to display his vindicative justice and power, has endured with patience and forbearance these obstinate and unrepenting sinners, whom he renders not such; for, he merely bears with them, after having of themselves become fitted for, and merited eternal destruction.

23. And having also in view, by the exhibition of the merited and rigorous punishment of the reprobate, to manifest the greatness of his mercy towards his saints, whom, rescued from sin and its punishment, he made, by his grace, fit subjects for glory.

24. By these saints whom he prepared for glory, I understand the Christians, whom he called to the faith, not only from among the Jews, but also from among the Gentiles.

25. As to the vocation of the latter, it had been long since foretold by the prophet Osee (chap. 1, 2), I will call the idolatrous Gentiles, who were not my people, to my faith and true worship; and then, they that were not my people will become my people, and they that were not beloved by me, and obtained not mercy, will now become my well beloved, and receive proofs of my gratuitous mercy.

26. And in the places where it could be truly said, you are not my people, it shall then be said, you are the sons of the living God.

27. But that out of Israel, there shall be some called to the faith (verse 24), Isaias loudly proclaims, although they shall be but very few, when he says: If the number of the children of Israel be ever so great, some shall be saved, but only a remnant of them.

28. For, the Lord shall accomplish what he has said regarding the salvation of the Jews, reducing the Israelites, whom he is to save, to a very small number. This he shall do by justly punishing the greater number or by remunerating the good and faithful by the abundant gifts of his grace, for he shall make a short reckoning of the affair on earth.

29. So that, according to the predictions of the same prophet Isaias, if the Lord of armies had not left us a seed, we would have been utterly destroyed, like Sodom and Gomorrha.

30. What inference, then, are we to deduce from an that has been already urged? It is this: that the Gentiles, who heretofore sought not justice (who performed no works whatever even establishing the appearance of a claim to justice), found true justice, I say, that justice at which we cannot arrive but by faith.

31. While the Jews, who followed after the Mosaic law, which they fancied would confer justice, did not obtain the true justice of sanctifying grace conferred by the Law of Christ.

32. And what is the cause of this difference of dispensation, with regard to Jew and Gentile? The cause is this—that the Jews endeavoured to obtain justice through wrong means, viz., through the works of the law without grace or faith, as if such works could confer it, rejecting the proper means, viz., faith in Christ. They placed, owing to their incredulity, an obstacle to the operation of this essential means for obtaining true justice; and thus Christ became in their regard a stumbling-block, and a rock of offence.

33. And that Christ would become a stumbling-block in their regard was predicted by the Prophet Isaias (28:16, and 8:14). Behold I lay in Sion a stumbling-block and rock of scandal; and whosoever believeth in him, shall not be subjected to the confusion and shame of disappointment.

Commentary

1. Some Expositors interpret this verse in such a way as to make the Apostle swear by three witnesses: viz., Christ, his own conscience, and the Holy Ghost. I call Christ to witness, &c.; I swear by my conscience; and I call the Holy Ghost also to witness, that “I lie not.”

2. “Continual sorrow in my heart.” The Greek word for “sorrow,” ὀδυνη, means, “the throes of childbirth.” He forbears from expressing the cause of his sorrow, until he first convinces the Jews of his affection for them. It is clearly inferred from the following chapter, that it regards the reprobation and rejection of the Jews from the grace of the Gospel.

3. “For, I wished myself,” i.e., I myself, the very same, whom nothing could separate from the love of Jesus Christ (8:35, &c.), “wished to be anathema,” &c. There is a great variety of opinion among Commentators regarding the object and nature of the wish to which the Apostle here gives expression. Some say (as in Paraphrase) that he wished conditionally to be for ever separated from the glory of Christ, ηυχομεν, I would have wished, provided it were allowed; or provided it were the will of God, and served to secure the vocation and salvation of his brethren. I say, from the glory of Christ, because he could not, for an instant, entertain the wish in any sense, of being separated from the grace and love of Christ. Others understand him to mean, that he wished for this separation by an abstract wish, abstracting from the ordination and decrees of God. Although the wish on the part of St. Paul, so far as his sincerity and self-devotedness were concerned, may be regarded as absolute; still, if we look to the object of separation, it could not be absolute. Indeed, it must be said, that the act of wishing on the part of St. Paul could not be absolute; for, he knew well, that no such thing could take place; and he also knew, that his eternal separation from Christ would never promote the salvation of the Jews.

“To be an anathema.” The word “anathema,” ἀνάθεμα, having the penultimate syllable short (with an ε), as it is written here, means a total separation and destruction of a thing as execrable and abominable, and also the thing itself destroyed and utterly abolished. “Anathema” is the word employed by the Septuagint translators for the Hebrew word, cherem, which always refers to something utterly destroyed, as execrable. In this sense, the word “anathematize” is applied in the Old Testament to the Chanaanite nations destroyed by the Jews (Numbers, 21.; Judges, 1:4; 1 Machabees, 5). When the penultimate syllable is long, αναθήμα, (with an ή), the word signifies votive offerings, such as shields, vases, &c., offered to the gods. In this sense, the word is employed only once in the New Testament (Luke, 21:5). If we cannot comprehend this heroical charity of the Apostle, it is, says St. Chrysostom, because we never experience any such feelings of the love of God or of our neighbour.

4. To show his affection for his kindred, and remove from their minds every suspicion of his entertaining the aversion for them, with which he was charged, he dilates on the several prerogatives, wherein the Jews excelled all the other nations of the earth. “Who are Israelites?” Israel was a title of honour given by God himself to Jacob. “The adoption of children.” God had adopted them as his children preferably to all the other nations from whom he segregated them (Exodus, 6). He calls them, “My first-born son, Israel,” “And the glory,” the glorious manifestation of God’s special Providence by miracles (v.g.), the passage of the Red Sea, the pillar of fire, the ark, &c.; and by the prophecies which regarded them. “And the testament,” in the common Greek, διαθῆκαι, “testaments,” might have been used in the plural to designate the repetition of the Old Testament or covenant made repeatedly to the Jews; or, in allusion to the two tables on which the words of the covenant were inscribed. The Codex Vaticanus supports the Vulgate, and has διαθήκη. “The service of God” (ἡ λατρεία), refers to the true religion and pure worship of God established amongst them. “And the promises” made at different times, particularly those regarding the Messiah, to be born of them.

5. “Whose are the fathers,” i.e., whose ancestors are the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? “And of whom is Christ according to the flesh?” This is their greatest prerogative, viz., to have Christ take human nature, the second nature which he assumed in time, of their race.

“Who is over all things God blessed for ever.” These words contain an undoubted proof of the divinity of Christ. The groundless subterfuges to which the impugners of the divinity of our Blessed Lord have recourse, in order to evade the unanswerable argument furnished in this verse, only serve to show the weakness of their cause. They place a colon after the word “flesh,” so that the following words are a mere doxology, “May God who is over all be blessed,” &c. Such a construction is unsupported by the authority of any manuscripts, ancient or modern. It is, moreover, opposed to the common interpretation of the Fathers, and the doxology would render the passage quite unmeaning. “Besides, when εὐλογητὸς, ‘blessed,’ is used by way of predicate, with an optative mood, expressed or understood, it always precedes the noun, according to Hebrew usage. In the text, θεος, precedes.”—(Kenrick).

6. The Apostle here meets an objection which might spring from the foregoing doctrine, regarding the rejection of the Jews. God made a promise to Abraham and to the patriarchs, that in their seed all the nations of the earth would be blessed; that their descendants would equal, in point of numbers, the stars of heaven and the sand on the sea shore. How, then, could these promises be consistent with the doctrine now advanced regarding the rejection, from God’s inheritance, of the same people? The Apostle says, the rejection of the Jews will, by no means, involve the frustration and non-fulfilment of the promises referred to, since it is not all the carnal descendants of Abraham, nor they alone, that these promises regard; for, all who are descended from Israel, “are not Israelites,” in whom are to be fulfiled the divine promises. It is in the spiritual sons of Abraham these promises are to be fulfilled, whether carnally descended from him or not, as happened Isaac, in the one case, and the Gentiles, in the other.

“Not as though the word of God hath miscarried.” “The word of God” regards the promise God made to Abraham respecting the multiplication of his seed, and the benediction to be conferred, through him, on all the nations. The Apostle is, then, treating in this and the following chapters, of the rejection of the Jews from the grace of justification and of Gospel justice, and the vocation of the Gentiles to the same. It does not fall within his scope to treat of eternal reprobation or predestination to glory. For the great object of the Apostle in this Epistle is, to prove, to both Jews and Gentiles, the gratuitousness of the grace of justification, irrespective of merits actual or foreseen, and thus to refute the false claims which both the converted Jews and Gentiles had put forward to prove that they had a right to be called to the Gospel. These claims the Apostle refutes by showing that the vocation of the Gentiles, and the rejection of the Jews, mystically and allegorically signified, by the selection of Isaac before Ismael, and the preference given, in the temporal blessings and rights of primogeniture, to Jacob before Essau, were wholly attributable to the good will and pleasure of God. In truth, in giving or refusing the grace of justification, God is accountable to no one; his own free will is his sole rule of dispensation in this respect: the grace of justification being a strictly gratuitous gift, to which no one can lay claim, and for the deprivation of which, no one has any just right to complain. That it is of the vocation to the grace of justification and rejection from it, the Apostle is treating here, appears also from this, that such rejection alone was the only tangible, palpable evil, which could form the subject of his excessive grief for the great mass of his Jewish brethren. The interpretation, then according to which the Apostle is treating of vocation to, and rejection from the grace of justification—an interpretation perfectly in accordance with every word in this passage—being once admitted, all the difficulties to which the other interpretations, which understand him to refer to rejection from glory, are liable, deprived both from the justice of God, and the exercise of the free will of man, are at once disposed of; since, in this interpretation, as will be seen in the sequel, there is not the remotest ground for any objection on these heads. “For all are not Israelites,” &c. He says, “all” are not, because some of them, who are carnally descended of Israel, are also sons of promise, imitators of his faith; and hence, as such, heirs of the divine promise. In these words, the Apostle shows that the Jews misunderstood the term “Israelite,” the subject of the divine promises.

7. “Neither are all they that are of the seed of Abraham, children.” The Greek reading is, οὐδʼ ὅτι εἰσιν σπερμα Ἁβρααμ, “neither because they are of the seed of Abraham.” The Vulgate has qui for quia (ὅτι), the reading of all the Greek copies There are some copies of the Vulgate in which quia, because, is found. Some of the seed of Abraham were children, viz., such as were also imitators of his faith; and to these were the divine promises restricted. “But in Isaac,” &c. He adduces the testimony of SS. Scripture from Genesis (21:12), to show, that the blessings promised Abraham were confined to his descendants through Isaac. “In Isaac shall thy seed be called.”

8. From which testimony, of SS. Scripture, the Apostle deduces this inference, that it is not such of Abraham’s descendants as are merely children of the flesh, but such as are children of the promise, that are to be the inheritors of his blessings; in other words, that it is more in consequence of being children of promise, as was the case with Isaac (with whom, looking to mere carnal descent, Ismael had equal rights), than in consideration of carnal descent from Abraham, they are to inherit the blessings promised him. It is to be borne in mind that the words of Genesis, as well as the quotations regarding Jacob and Esau, in the sequel, have immediate reference to temporal blessings; but the Apostle, while merely alluding to the primary meaning of the words, grounds his principal conclusion on their mystical and allegorical meaning. His conclusion is, that the economy of God, in bestowing the temporal benedictions on Isaac, in consequence of being the child of promise, before Ismael, was intended to teach us that the spiritual blessings—the grace of justification, of which the temporal benedictions were mere types—are also to be conferred on the children of promise—the Gentiles—who, like Isaac, are children of Abraham by grace and faith, rather than on the incredulous Jews, who are, like Ismael, carnally descended from Abraham, begotten of him more by the generative power of man, than in virtue of the grace and power of God.

9. He shows that the conclusion deduced from the case of Isaac, regarding the preference given to the sons of promise, was not without foundation, so far as Isaac was concerned; for, that Isaac was himself a son of promise is proved from the words of the angel.—(Genesis, 18:20).

10. “And not only she” (“she” is not in the Greek). Lest the Jews might take exception to the reasoning of the Apostle, on the ground that, even humanly speaking, Isaac was the legitimate heir of Abraham’s promise, as being his son by his wife Sara, whereas, the other sons were but children of his servants; the Apostle adduces a case still more in point, in, which the effect of God’s promise, and of divine election, was more unmistakeably perceptible; viz., the case of the election of Jacob, the younger, and the rejection from the temporal inheritance of Isaac, the elder. In this case, God made a distinction not only between the carnal descendants of Abraham, as in the preceding instance, but even between the descendants of the son of promise himself, without having any regard to the merits of either party, as explained next verse. Nay, he set aside the natural claims of the elder, to whom the very circumstance of priority of birth should, it would appear, humanly speaking, give a preference as to the rights attached to primogeniture. There is a slight difference between the Greek and our Vulgate, in the reading of this verse. The Greek runs thus: ου μονον δε. αλλα καὶ ʼΡεβεκκα ἑξ ἕνος κοιτην ἔχουσο, “having conception by one. The Vulgate is, ex uno concubitu habeas. The ancient reading probably was. ex uno concubitum habens, conformably to the Greek.”—(Kenrick). The sense is, however, the same in both. For, “at once,” the Greek is, “by one,” ἑξ ἑνος, referring to conception.

11. In this verse, the Apostle shows that the election of Jacob, and the rejection of Esau, were wholly independent of their personal merits, and solely attributable to the free and gratuitous decree of God (“that the purpose of God according to election might stand.”) “The purpose of God” regards the eternal decree of rejecting Esau from the temporal inheritance, and of calling Jacob to the same, a purpose “according to election,” i.e., resulting solely from God’s gratuitous election, independently of the personal merits or demerits of the parties, whether actual or foreseen. The principal object which the Apostle has in view, as shall be immediately shown, is the typical or allegorical conclusion regarding the gratuitousness of God’s call to the Gospel, and rejection from it, typified by the rejection of Esau, and the calling of Jacob to the temporal inheritance.

12. “Not of works, but of him that calleth.” Some Expositors enclose these words also within the parenthesis, and connect them with the preceding, verse 11, thus: (“that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth,”) as if these latter words were explanatory of the word “election.” This construction will not differ in meaning from our reading. In the Pharaphrase is adopted the meaning supplied by both constructions. “It was said to her.” The history referred to here is given fully (Genesis, 25:23). Rebecca felt the twins struggling in her womb; she consulted the Lord as to what it meant, and received for answer, that “she had two nations in her womb,” &c., “and that the elder should serve the younger.” “The elder shall serve the younger.” It is evident from the quotation already adduced from Genesis, that by the “elder” is meant, the nation descended from the elder brother, and this nation would be subject to the nation descended from the younger. This was literally verified in the time of David. The Idumeans, the descendants of Esau, were subdued by David (2 Kings, 8:14), and they served the Israelites, the descendants of Jacob, for about one hundred and fifty years, until the time of Joram, the son of Josaphat.—(4 Kings, 8:22).

13. “As it is written: Jacob I have loved” &c. These words were written by the Prophet Malachy (chap. 1) long after the event; and hence, they confirm the prophetic testimony, “the elder shall serve,” &c. “But Esau I have hated.” The word “hate” does not, in the language of SS. Scripture, always imply a positive act of hatred, but in many cases, only an act of neglect, slight, or disregard, such as Jacob had in reference to Lia, whom he is said to have hated or “despised,” simply by preferring Rachel to her.—(Genesis, 29:31). And such as our Redeemer recommends, when he tells us “to hate our father and mother,” &c.—(Luke, 14:26). It is to be observed, that in the Scriptural quotations, contained in the preceding verses, there is reference, in the literal sense, to temporal benedictions, but the principal aim of the Apostle is the allegorical inference to be derived from this economy of God in the disposal of the temporal inheritance, irrespective of the merits or demerits of the parties called or rejected. His inference is this: that as God has, in the case quoted, set aside the rights of carnal primogeniture, without being influenced by the personal merits or demerits of the parties in question, whether actual or foreseen; so, also, in the disposal of the spiritual inheritance of justification, he is equally free in passing over the Jews—the first begotten of God, Filius meus primogenitus Israel (Exodus 4.)—and in preferring the Gentiles, without any relation to their good works, actual or foreseen, which, faith tells us, can never influence God in conferring the grace of justification; and, thus, he manifests in their case, who were typified by the second-born, Jacob, his purpose of giving justification gratuitously. The call of Jacob, and the rejection of Esau, had been intended by God to shadow forth the designs of his Providence in calling the Gentile, and slighting the Jew, in the work of justification.

The Apostle, then, is treating of election to grace, of the election of an entire people and nation to be the people and Church of God, and of the rejection of an entire people from the same. He is not treating of election to, or reprobation from, glory, at least, immediately. For, Jacob and Esau are spoken of not individually, but as representing entire nations, springing from them; the circumstance of Esau being older than Jacob, would have no relation whatever to the question of eternal life. And, if there were question of election to, or reprobation from, eternal glory, it would follow that Esau was damned—a thing which, to many, appears very unlikely. It is regarded as probable by many, that after having put aside his feelings of fraternal hatred (Genesis 23), he died in the true religion of his parents and obtained salvation. The opinion, therefore, which best accords with the entire scope of the Apostle is, that even in his principal and allegorical conclusion, he is only treating of election to grace and reprobation from the same. And in this opinion we could give the words, “I have hated Esau,” the sense of positive reprobation; since, in positively reprobating men from grace, God acts wholly independently of personal merits, whether actual or foreseen.

14. “What then?” This is a formula to which the Apostle usually resorts in removing doubts or calumnies resulting from the false and erroneous conception of his words. “Is there injustice with God?” as his rejection of the Jews, and his vocation of the Gentiles, without any regard to the merits of either party, would seem to imply “God forbid,” a brief formula, in which the Apostle at once rejects every blasphemous construction put upon his words.

15. He proceeds to prove that whether in calling one class of men to the faith, or in rejecting others from it, there is not the shadow of injustice in God. The former he proves here; the latter in verse 17. First, in selecting one class, and calling them to the inheritance of justification, there is no injustice on the part of God; because, the bestowal of this grace is as gratuitous as was the selecting of Jacob before Esau for the temporal inheritance—nay, more gratuitous. It is a pure act of mercy; and God is accountable to no one, and gives no one cause for complaint in the gratuitous exercise of mercy, as he said in a similar case to Moses—a testimony which the Jews must respect as found in their own Scriptures. “I will have mercy,” &c. (Exodus, 33:19). These words were addressed by God to Moses after the people had sinned in adoring the golden calf; some of whom he punished; on others he had mercy. They express an epithet by which God wishes to be distinguished, a name by which he wishes to be known—viz., of being supreme and absolute dispenser of his favours, showing mercy as he wills. The call of a man to justification is an act of pure mercy, which God may exercise towards whomsoever he pleases. The words show that the Apostle considers man as infected by sin either original or actual in this decree, since misery is the object of mercy. Hence, the utter falsity of the interpretation given by Estius of this entire passage—an interpretation which, besides being false, is also subject to very great difficulties, derived both from the liberty of man and the attributes of God.

16. In the interpretation adopted in the Paraphrase, there is no ground for objection against the free will of man in the performance of his actions; since, there is not question at all of human actions, but of the decree of God, calling a man to grace, which, faith tells us, is always a pure act of mercy on the part of God, wholly uninfluenced by the merits of man, whether actual or foreseen. Before actually obtaining, however, this grace of justification, certain acts are required on the part of adults, such as faith, hope, &c.; but these are mere dispositions, establishing no claim to justification, which God might not refuse. The actions excluded here by the Apostle are such as, in the minds of the converted Jews and Gentiles, gave them a claim to the grace of the Gospel. “Of him that runneth, nor of him that willeth.” These words, probably, contain an allusion to the eager desires and exertions of Esau to secure his father’s benediction, or, they may in general refer to the inutility of human efforts in this matter.

17. In this verse, the Apostle shows that in rejecting the Jews, as in the case of Esau and leaving them in their obstinacy, there is no injustice on the part of God, which is the second point he wishes to prove. This he shows from the words of SS. Scriptures, addressed to Pharaoh (Exodus, 9:16): “For this purpose have I raised thee up.” In the Septuagint version for “raised thee up,” it is, “I have preserved thee;” so as to mean that God preserved him, and continued his reign amidst the many plagues wherewith he had scourged him. The sense furnished by our reading differs very little from the preceding. It means: For this purpose have I constituted thee king of Egypt, “that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name may be declared throughout, &c.” The primary and principal intention which God had in view in preserving Pharaoh, and raising him to the throne, was, that he might govern his people, according to the laws of justice, and thus promote his own and their salvation; but, this primary object failing, the secondary object was, to make him the instrument whereby to display the divine power, and make his obstinate resistance to the divine commands, the means of rendering God’s name the more illustrious, owing to the signal punishment inflicted on him. Similar is the economy of God’s Providence in reference to all obdurate sinners, whose salvation He intends, in the first place; but, this end failing, He draws good out of evil, and makes their sinfulness the means of displaying the glory of His name, and of manifesting His vindicative justice. There is no injustice in punishing such persons, since they deserve it for their sins.

18. This is the twofold conclusion which he draws from the two preceding examples of mercy in the case of Moses, and of justice in that of Pharaoh: it is a fuller expression of “God forbid,” (verse 14). The words, “he hardeneth,” do not imply a positive act of hardening, or the infusion of hardness of heart, on the part of God. They only imply a negative act, the refusal or withholding of his efficacious graces, leaving man to himself, alter which he will infallibly become as obdurate as it God had positively infused obduracy, “non indurat,” says St. Augustine, “infundendo malitiam, sed non infundendo misericordiam.” “Induratio Dei est, nolle misereri,” says the same Father. And in reference to the obduracy of Pharaoh—the example in question—we find in many parts of SS. Scriptures that, although his heart was softened to let the people go during the continuance of the plagues; yet, still, when the plagues were withdrawn, “he himself hardened his own heart.”—(Exodus, 7:13). God, by withdrawing or withholding the efficacious graces, which were indispensable for softening his heart, left him to himself, and by this abandonment, as well as by furnishing him with what proved merely the occasion of sin (v.g.) riches, power, &c., on the part of God, the obduracy of Pharaoh as infallibly took place, as if God himself had hardened him positively. In this sense only God is said to “harden him.”—(Vide chap. 1:24, of this Epistle, and 2nd Thes. 2:10).

19. The Apostle now proposes an objection which would appear to flow from the preceding doctrine. If God hardens sinners, why blame sinners for this hardness and obduracy, caused by himself; brought about by his own will, since no one can resist his will.

20. At this haughty and blasphemous remark, the Apostle is seized with holy indignation, and at once turns upon the impious, reminding them of the vileness of their origin, of the high and exalted dominion of God over them, and of his indisputable right to treat them as he pleases. The Apostle reserves the direct answer for verses 22, 23. “O man, who art thou,” &c. The words in the Vulgate are more expressive, and the contrast more striking, “O homo” quasi, ab humo, formed from the dust of the earth. “Who art thou?” How dares a creature, so vile and contemptible, question the ordinances and providence of “God?” The contrast is very strong, “man,” mere dust and “God,” the eternal, self-existent, supreme Creator and Lord of all things, “that repliest,” in a disputatious spirit with God. “Shall the thing formed (or, the creature) say to him that formed it, why hast thou?” &c.

21. The Apostle here asserts the high dominion and undisputed right which God has to show mercy, or not to show mercy, just as he pleases, without leaving any ground whatever for creatures to act as censors or judges of his dealings towards them. In the example of the clay and the potter, there is allusion to Isaias (29:16, 45:9), where the same similitude is employed for the like purpose of showing, that men should neither reprehend, nor murmur at the providence of God. “The same lump.” The Greek word, φυραμα, means something kneaded, especially dough. From the entire passage it is clear that the Apostle considers man (“the same lump,” or human nature) as infected and corrupted by sin, since it is in this respect only, he is a fit object for mercy (verse 15), and fit for destruction (verse 22). The parity here, as is observed by St. Chrysostom, should not be urged in every respect. It is a canon or law regulating the application of similitudes, that the things compared are not always to be regarded as similar under every respect, since there are but few things, or none at all, in nature, in every respect strictly similar. The rule, then, for the extent of the comparison, is the scope or object of him who employs it; unless this rule were agreed upon, no writer or speaker could ever attempt to employ comparisons of any kind, From the comparison of man in the hands of God, with clay in the hands of the potter, we are by no means to infer the exclusion of human liberty; for, we might, by urging the parity, as well exclude the existence of a rational soul in man. The object of the Apostle, in employing the comparison, is merely this, viz., that man has no more reason to complain of rejection from grace—a thing perfectly at the free disposal of God—than the clay would have of its destination for dishonourable purposes. From man’s rejection from grace also follows his rejection from glory; but the decree of positive reprobation from glory must be always grounded on the provision of man’s demerits; the contrary is the damnable heresy of Calvin.

Good God! Who, in reading this passage, should not tremble for his salvation! Who can know what is in store for him, whether in the ways of God, he is finally marked out for honourable or dishonourable purposes, for “glory” or perdition! Oh! through the intercession of the Omnipotent and Immaculate Queen of Heaven, grant us the great and crowning gift of final perseverance, which if we obtain, we are saved; if we lose, we are damned. It cannot be merited; but, it may be obtained by prayer—“Suppliciter emereri potest.”—(St. Augustine). We should, therefore, constantly and perseveringly pray for “this great gift of final perseverance unto the end.”—(Concil. Trid. SS. vi. Can. xvi.) “Magnum illud usque in finem perseverantiæ donum.”

22. In this verse, the Apostle gives a direct answer to the objection (verse 19). It is not God that hardens sinners; but it is sinners themselves that do so. They become, of themselves, “fitted for destruction,” (κατηρτισμενα εις απολειαν), and, then, God patiently tolerates them, having had primarily in view their salvation (for, “he wishes all men to be saved,” and “that no one should perish”); but, this end failing, he wishes to manifest his wrath and his power in their punishment, and by this means, to strike others with a salutary fear.

23. And, again, he has in view, by the rigour of his punishment inflicted on the reprobate, which they justly merited (having of themselves become “fitted for destruction,”) to display in the contrast with his elect, the magnitude of his favours in their regard, by preparing and fitting them for glory, and, of course, rescuing them from the punishment of the reprobate, in which they, too, would be infallibly involved, had it not been for his rich and abundant grace. From these verses it is clear that the Apostle considers man corrupted in his nature, and infected with sin. This is clearly the state in which the divine decree regards man. “The same lump,” (verse 21), out of which “the vessels of honour and dishonour” are formed, is evidently supposed to be corrupted, it being an act of mercy towards the vessels of mercy, to rescue them; and the vessels of wrath are supposed to be of themselves “fitted for destruction,” and their punishment, owing to the contrast, more clearly manifest the riches of God’s mercy towards the others.

24. The Apostle adds this to show that the Gentiles are made sharers in the promises of Abraham. The call here referred to is the call to Christianity, and not predestination to glory. How many are called to Christianity that are not predestinated to glory?

25. He first proves the latter part of the foregoing proposition, regarding the call of the Gentiles, from the prophecy of Osee (chap. 1, 2). The words quoted here by the Apostle are in substance read in Osee (chap. 1:6–10, conjointly with chap. 2:23). All Greek copies omit the last clause, “And her that hath not obtained mercy, one that hath obtained mercy;” while St. Jerome omits the middle clause, “And he that was not beloved, beloved.” Hence, it appears likely that the Apostle, in quoting from Osee, wrote only one or the other; and, as both referred to the same thing, it is probable that they were inserted here in order to reconcile the omission of either clause in the several copies. The words of the prophet in their literal sense, refer to the deliverance of Israel from the kings of Syria, after having turned aside to the worship of false gods—in this respect, a most expressive type of the idolatrous Gentiles—but in their mystical sense (a sense oftentimes principally intended by the Holy Ghost, as in the present instance), the Apostle adduces them to prove the vocation of the Gentile;, to whom, in this sense, they refer.

26. “And it will come to pass, in the place where it was said unto them, you are not my people,” (v.g.) in Greece, Italy, Gaul, &c., where God permitted them to walk in their own ways, that they shall now, after their conversion, and after being adopted into the true worship of God, “be called the sons of the living God”—(Osee, 1:10).

27. In this verse, the Apostle is proving the first part of the verse 24, viz., that out of the Jews, some shall be called. If Osee advocates the cause of the Gentiles, we have Isaias loudly proclaiming the vocation of the Jews, who shall be converted, although in a comparatively very small number; and hence, the promises made to Abraham shall be principally fulfilled in the great mass of the Gentiles. Some Commentators, and among the rest, Estius, are of opinion, that the object of the Apostle, in this and the following quotations from Isaias, is, not so much to prove the vocation of some from among the Jews, (verse 24) as the rejection of the Jews, of whom only a remnant shall be converted, as the prophet Isaias has it, and, consequently, the greater portion rejected. This interpretation is rendered probable according to them, by the conclusion at which the Apostle arrives (verse 30), and which, they say, is deduced from this passage; while the supporters of the opinion adopted in the Pharaphrase say, the conclusion drawn (verse 30) is not intended by the Apostle to refer to the passage immediately preceding; it is merely (according to them) a general conclusion from all that the Apostle has been saying in these chapters, regarding the rejection of the Jews and the calling of the Gentiles.

28. “For he shall finish his word,” i.e., accomplish his saying regarding, &c. (vide Pharaphrase), “and cut it short in justice” by reducing to very narrow limits the number of Israelites who are to be saved. “In justice,” by justly punishing the greater number; or, by conferring on the few faithful the abundant gifts of his justice. “Because a short word” &c. This second clause is merely a repetition of the first. There is a difference of reading between the words of the Apostle—which are read according to the Septuagint—and the Vulgate of St. Jerome, on chap. 10, verse 22, of Isaias, from which this verse is quoted. The passage of Isaias literally refers to the deliverance of the small number of the faithful Jews in the days of Ezechias, from the destructive sword of Sennacherib. These were a type of the small number of the Jews who would embrace the gospel. It is only in their mystical sense, the words are applied by the Apostle to the rejection of the greater number from grace, and the call of only a few thereto.

29. From Isaias is adduced a second testimony (1:9), wherein the prophet literally speaks of the small number that were to survive the captivity; the Apostle, however, takes the mystical meaning of the words, and shows from it, the small number that were to be called to the faith. The “seed” refers to the Blessed Virgin, to the Apostles, and the others first called in the infancy of the Church from the Jewish nation.

Mauduit has made the three preceding verses the subject of a very learned and elaborate dissertation, purporting to refute the interpretation given by Estius of this passage. He undertakes to show, in the first place, that the quotations from Isaias are intended by the Apostle to prove the second part of verse 24 (vide Paraphrase), that as Osee was quoted in favour of the Gentiles, so is Isaias in favour of the Jews; but in order to prove this latter part, he adopts a line of interpretation quite different from the one commonly received. He insists that the word, “remnant,” (verse 27), far from expressing a small number of the Jews to be converted at the time of Christ’s coming, on the contrary, refers to the great bulk of the Jews who, at the end of the world, having survived the persecution of Antichrist, shall be converted to the Lord. He says that, in the 10th chapter of Isaias, from which the quotation is taken here, there is question of Antichrist under the figure of the king of Babylon, whose defeat shall be so great and general that a child could easily count the survivors (see Isaias, 10:19). “That the remnant of the house of Israel … shall lean on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, in truth.” i.e., “resting on the truth of his promises,” (Isaias, 10:20); and that “the remnant” or, all that shall remain of the house of Jacob, “shall be converted to the Lord,” (verse 21); and, “that although the people of Israel were as the sand of the sea,” “a remnant of them,” i.e., all that shall remain, or survive the slaughter, “shall be converted; the consumption abridged shall overflow with justice,” (verse 22); i.e., in order to accomplish in a short time their perfection, God shall pour upon them the deluge of his graces and justice. “For the Lord God of hosts shall make a consumption, and an abridgment in the midst of all the land,” (verse 23); i.e., he shall bring about these two wonderful results, consummate virtue, and that, in a very short time. The Jews, then, who shall survive the conquests of Antichrist, may be called a “remnant,” and shall be called so in opposition to the Jews of preceding ages, and of those who died in the reign of Antichrist. Although these survivors should be as numerous as the sand of the sea shore, they shall be converted; and that at once, unlike the Gentiles, to whom the execution of God’s merciful decrees was applied gradually in the course of all preceding ages. Mauduit also explains the second text (verse 29), taken from Isaias, (1:9), in the same sense. The word “seed” is made by him to refer to the carnal descendants of those men referred to by Isaias, which seed have propagated the Jewish race, who are to live at the second coming of the Lord, and then shall be converted. This, he says, is clearly the meaning of the prophet, and the same is the meaning of the Apostle, who, by quoting the words of the prophet in this true meaning, proves most clearly the truth of his assertion (verse 24), that from among the Jews some shall be called to embrace the faith, and these are destined “as vessels of mercy prepared unto glory,” (verse 23).

30. The Apostle here recapitulates all that he had been treating of in this entire chapter. These things being so, what conclusion are we to arrive at? What other but thus, which is really founded on fact, viz., that the Gentiles, who never did anything, establishing even the appearance of a claim to justification, found it through the purest mercy of God—of which justification “the root and foundation is faith.”—(Council of Trent, SS. vi., c. viii.)

31. While the Jews, who sought after and followed the law of Moses, which, in their, opinion, conferred justice, or which really would lead to justice, if properly observed, did not arrive at the justice for which this law would be a preparation. The words, “law of justice” in the words, “following after the law of justice,” refer to the Mosaic law, which prescribed and pointed out justice. In the preposition, “is not come unto the law of justice;” the words “law of justice” mean sanctifying grace, and the law of justification through Christ.

32. Having established the fact of the rejection of the Jews and the vocation of the Gentiles, which is a summary of all that he had already said, the Apostle assigns the reason of this difference of dispensation regarding both. The reason was, because the Gentiles had recourse to the proper means of arriving at true justice, viz., faith; and placed no obstacle to the gratuitous goodness of God, while the Jews had recourse to wrong means, viz., works performed by the aid of the Mosaic law, without grace or faith, “as it were of works,” as if these works could give them justice. Hence, by establishing such a system of justification, they placed a positive obstacle to the operation of divine grace; and thus Christ became to them a stumbling-block.

33. This result was long before foretold by the prophet Isaias. This quotation is in part made up of two different passages of Isaias (8:14, and 28:16), but principally derived from the latter; or, we may say, that it merely contains a reference to both, without professing to be a quotation from either. The latter words, “shall not be confounded” (ου καταισχυνθησεται), are taken from the Septuagint; but instead of them, we have in the Hebrew, according to St. Jerome’s version, “let him not hasten,” which differs but little in sense from the other; since these latter words express that hurry and trepidation consequent on confusion or disappointment in one’s expectations.—(See 1 Peter, 2:6).








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