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

Analysis

The Apostle commences the Epistle with the usual form of Apostolical salutation (verses 1, 2, 3). In the next place, he congratulates the Corinthians upon the manifold spiritual blessings conferred on them, the glory of which is to be referred to God, their bountiful author and dispenser, who will also bring these gifts to a happy issue (4–9). He implores of them to heal the schism, of the existence of which amongst them he had been informed (10–12). He shows the consequences of the notions from which these divisions sprang—divisions to which he himself had given no occasion whatever (13–16). He afterwards traces this schism to its very source, viz.: the undue value set by some of them on the eloquence of their respective teachers; and he justifies, from the very economy and plan of human redemption, the simplicity of his own style of preaching. He wished by this simple style of preaching, to preserve for the cross of Christ its fill efficacy; for, whatever unbelievers might think of it, the faithful know that this cross is the power of God (17, 18). He shows, by a reference to the prophet Isaias, that human wisdom was to be excluded in the work of redemption (19); and he points out the actual fulfilment of this prophecy, by referring to their own experience (20). He shows the congruity of this adorable economy of God in excluding human wisdom (21).

Another reason why the style of preaching should be simple is, that it should be accommodated to the subject; and this subject propounded by the divinely commissioned Apostles, being no other than Christ crucified, though a scandal to the Jew, and folly to the Gentile, is, to the believer, the wisdom and power of God (22–25).

Resuming the argument from experience referred to (22), he points out to them, in the next place, the description of persons whom God first called to the faith, or made instrumental in its propagation. They were devoid of all earthly recommendations (26). But this economy God fixed upon, to remove all grounds on the part of men for glorying in themselves, and to have all the glory of this great masterpiece of his power and wisdom referred as was meet, to himself alone (27–31).

Paraphrase

1. Paul called by a heavenly and divine vocation to be an apostle of Jesus Christ, and Sosthenes, a (Christian) brother,

2. Salute the congregation of the faithful believers, at Corinth, that is to say, to those who have received the gift of sanctifying grace, by being incorporated with Jesus Christ in baptism; who are called to a state and profession of sanctity, as also to all who truly worship our Lord Jesus Christ, that is to say, all Christians in whatever place they may chance to be scattered, all over the globe; since that place is ours also by a communication of spiritual blessings.

3. May you receive the abundance of all spiritual gifts, and the quiet, undisturbed possession of them from their efficient cause, God the Father; and their meritorious cause, Jesus Christ, whose purchased slaves we are become by right of redemption.

4. I always render thanks to God on account of the spiritual gifts abundantly conferred on you by your having become Christians;

5. Because you are enriched with the plenitude of all spiritual gifts through Christ, both as regards the abundance of spiritual knowledge, and the power of expressing and communicating the same.

6. (By means of which gifts the gospel of Christ has received further confirmation amongst you).

7. So that no grace is wanting to you to bring you to your end of consummate glory, which shall be conferred on you, when our Lord Jesus Christ shall appear at his second coming.

8. And this same Jesus Christ, the giver of all these good gifts, will, I firmly hope, bring these graces to a happy issue, and confirm you unto the end without any grievous sin, or any sin deserving of reproach on the day of his second and glorious coming.

9. My hopes in your perseverance are founded on the veracity of God, who has pledged his unerring word that, provided we comply with the necessary conditions, he will grant us final perseverance and eternal glory, of which he has given us a sure earnest by calling us to a partnership with his Son, of whom we are the co-heirs.

10. I beseech you, then, brethren, in the name of Jesus Christ to whom you are indebted for the blessings now enumerated, to have the same sentiments on matters of religion, and to have no divisions amongst you; but to become of one mind, and one determination of acting in concert and harmony.

11. It is not without reason that I urge this request; for, it has been intimated to me by the domestics of Chloe, that there are contentions amongst you.

12. The contentions to which I refer, are owing to this: that some amongst you select Paul for their teacher; others, Apollo; others, Cephas; while others, acting with greater wisdom, attach themselves to Christ.

13. Is Christ, therefore, divided? Are there to be many Christs to serve as heads for each of the contending parties? Was it Paul, or any of the others, that was crucified to redeem and save you? Or, was it into the name of Paul (or any of the others) that you have been baptized?

14, 15. I give God thanks that I have afforded no grounds for any such error regarding myself, since I baptized only Crispus (a chief ruler of the synagogue) and Caius (my host).

16. I also baptized the household of Stephanas, and very few besides.

17. (This I do not say to depreciate the ministry of baptism, or charge myself with neglect); for, the principal end of my mission from God, was not the ministry of baptism, but of preaching the word, and that, in a simple and plain style, devoid of human eloquence and philosophic reasoning—a style such as was alone fitted to manifest the full power and due efficacy of the cross in the great work of man’s redemption.

18. And my reason for endeavouring to preserve for the cross its full efficacy is, that, though the preaching of the cross, or the cross itself, that is to say, the doctrine of a crucified Redeemer, be, to those who perish and embrace not the faith, a subject of folly and ridicule; still, to them on whom God has shown his gracious designs of salvation, by calling them to his faith, that is to say, to us: it is the powerful instrument employed by him for bestowing salvation on man.

19. And that in bringing about the great work of redemption, human eloquence and wisdom were to be discarded, is proved from Isaias (29, verse 14), where, addressing those distinguished for knowledge among the Jews, the Almighty declares, that he will destroy their wisdom, and reprobate and reject their prudence, and hence, give them no share in the work of redemption.

20. And, in point of fact, is not this prophecy literally fulfilled, and may we not, in the language of the same Prophet, Isaias (33:18), ask, where is the Jewish scribe or doctor of the law? Where is the Pagan philosopher? Where is the curious searcher into the secrets of nature (or the man profoundly versed in human reasoning)? Where do we see any of this description brought over to the faith, or made instrumental in its propagation? Does not God, in rejecting all such, show, how contemptible—nay, how utterly foolish he has rendered all human wisdom?

21. And the congruity of this adorable economy, on the part of God, in rejecting all human wisdom, appears from this, that although the wisdom of God shone forth resplendent throughout the visible creation; still, the world with all its wisdom knew him not (at least practically, so as to glorify him); it, therefore, pleased God, as wisdom hath failed, to employ an opposite and contrary means, viz., the folly of the preaching of the cross to save (not the learned or inquisitive), but the believers (who reduced their intellect to captivity).

22. (The language should be suited to the matter treated of). Now, in the economy of redemption, it was not by stupendous signs from heaven, the means of conversion accommodated to the Jew—nor by the force of human eloquence or philosophic reasoning, the instrument of conviction suited to the Gentile or Greek—that God wished to bring man to salvation.

23. But by the preaching of Christ crucified, to the Jew, a subject of horror and aversion, and to the Gentile, a subject of folly and contempt.

24. Yet still to those who have received the precious gift of faith, whether from among the Jews or Gentiles, this same Christ crucified is made the powerful instrument in which are displayed the wisdom and power of God.

25. For, although foolishness in the mind of the Gentile, this cross has brought about ends of wisdom which human knowledge could never attain; and though weakness in the mind of the Jew, it has effected prodigies of power which human strength could never accomplish. (If then the folly of God be so wise—his wisdom itself what must it not be? And if his weakness be so strong, what must not his power be?)

26. (And to return to my argument founded on experience, verse 20). Look, brethren, to the persons called to the faith, or made instrumental in its propagation. Are not those qualities most prized amongst men, viz., wisdom, power, birth, entirely disregarded?—for, not many wise, humanly speaking, nor powerful, nor distinguished by birth, are to be found amongst them.

27. But in bringing about the work of redemption, the Almighty has selected the foolish things of the world (either as objects of his call, or as instruments in calling others) in order to confound the wise, and the weak to confound the strong, whom he has excluded.

28. And the lowly and contemptible things of the world, and those that live in the world without consideration or esteem, as if they were not there at all, has God chosen, to confound those who are held in esteem and consideration among men.

29. That no flesh should glory in his sight.

30. But it is in the gratuitous grace of God alone that you are to glory. Since it is to it you are indebted for being Christians, ingrafted by baptism on the mystic body of Christ, who, by his merits, has became for you the author and source of true wisdom—opposed to the foolish wisdom rejected by God—of justice, sanctification, and redemption from the temporal and eternal liabilities of sin.

31. The object of this adorable economy on the part of God—thus excluding human agency in principally bringing about the end of redemption—was to have all the glory of it referred, as was meet, to himself, its true source.

Commentary

1. “Paul called,” &c.—(See Epistle to Romans, 1:1). “Called;” the Greek word, κλητος, means, “by vocation, an apostle.” For meaning of “Apostle” see Gal. 1:1. “By the will of God,” not self-sent or self-commissioned, “and Sosthenes a brother.” He is generally supposed to have been the same person of whom mention is made (Acts 17). He was ruler of the synagogue at Corinth, and a man, therefore, of some consideration amongst the Corinthians. St. Paul makes mention of him, in order to gain their good will.

2. The word, writes—salutes, or some such, is understood. “To them that are sanctified,” &c. These words are a more ample explanation of what “the Church of God,” means. “Called to be saints.” Hence, every Christian is by his very profession bound to be a saint. How few are there, however, to correspond with the exalted end of their vocation. “With all that invoke,” &c., a circumlocution for all Christians. The words “invoke the name,” express worshipping him, in the most general acceptation of the term, implying faith in him, supreme adoration of him, as God, &c. “In every place of theirs and ours.” These latter words show the union that exists between all the members of the Church; they also show that this Epistle was intended as a circular for the instruction of all Christians. “Theirs and ours,” αὐτῶν και ἡμῶν, are, in the Vulgate, connected with “place;” they may, however, be connected with “our Lord,” as if he said, he is not only our Lord, he is theirs, as well as ours; St. Chrysostom connects them so. Some Expositors confine the words “theirs and ours” to the Province of Achaia, of which Corinth was the capital, as in 2nd Ep. 1:1.

3. The usual form of apostolic salutation.—(See Rom. 1:7).

4. “I give thanks to my God always for you.” As God is the source of all blessings; to him, therefore, all thanks and gratitude are due. “For the grace of God,” &c., i.e., their Christian vocation, and all the blessings flowing from it, which he enumerates, next verse.

5. “In all things you are made rich.” This is spoken in allusion to the commercial wealth of the Corinthians, as if he said, that the converts among them enjoyed riches of a higher order than those so much prized by their countrymen. “In him,” i.e., Christ; “in all utterance and all knowledge.” By “knowlege” is most probably meant the knowledge of all the necessary truths and mysteries of Christian faith; and by “utterance,” the power or faculty of imparting this knowledge of faith to others. “Knowledge” means the spiritual illumination of the intellect; and “utterance,” the power of giving expression to it.

6. “As the testimony of Christ,” &c. This verse is to be included in a parenthesis; and verse 7, immediately connected with verse 5. “As,” i.e., by which gifts of know ledge and eloquence, “the testimony of Christ,” i.e., his gospel, called a “testimony”—because transmitted by witnesses—“was confirmed in you.” The abundant effusion of spiritual gifts (v.g.), of miracles, prophecy, tongues, &c., which accompanied the preaching of the Apostles, and the sacraments of baptism and confirmation, affords an additional proof of the divinity of the Christian religion; and although, in particular individuals, these external gifts might be found without real interior sanctity, as in the case of Balaam (Numbers, 26); still, the same could not be said of a particular society of men. The presence of these gifts would impel others to join in religion with those possessed of them; and hence, God himself would, to a certain extent, be chargeable with leading men into error.

7. This is connected with verse 5. In this verse he asserts that all the gifts necessary to bring them to a happy resurrection, were to be found in the Church of Corinth.

8. “Who will also confirm you,” &c. All this conditional. God will bring them to a happy issue; he will preserve them free from all grievous crimes; or, if they fall, resuscitate them, and confer on them the crowning gift of final perseverance, provided they comply with the necessary conditions. This is evidently implied in the following verse:—“In the day of the coming.” In the Greek, “coming” is wanting; which simply is, ἐν τῇ ἡμερα τοῦ κυριου ἡμων, in the day of our Lord, &c. Some MSS. have the word “coming,” and omit “day.” The Vulgate combines both readings.

9. From this verse it appears, that the Apostle’s hopes are conditional; for it is only on condition that they perform their part, that the veracity of God is pledged to them.

10. After having gained their good will by his conciliatory preface, in which he congratulates them on their manifold spiritual advantages, the Apostle enters on the first object of the Epistle, which is, the correction of abuses. The first abuse was, the existence of divisions and schisms amongst them. He implores of them to have the same sentiments, “speak the same thing,” ἱνα το αυτο λεγητε, which is the same as το αυτο or το ἑν φρονητε, i.e., have perfect concord and unanimity; “be perfect in the same mind,” i.e., in the same opinions, and “in the same judgments,” i.e., in the determination to act in concert together. The Greek for “perfect,” κατηρτισμενοι, conveys a metaphorical allusion to the repairing a broken vessel, or a rent garment; or, according to others, to the setting of a fractured limb, which was very applicable to the schism of the Corinthians, who were, members, of Christ’s mystic body.

11. “Chloe” was probably, some pious and respectable Christian female, whose domestics informed the Apostle of the divisions existing among the Corinthians.

12. The Apostle, in this verse, explains the nature of the contentions to which he refers. It does not appear that these divisions affected the integrity of their faith they were, however, opposed to charity, and they had a tendency to terminate, and might actually terminate, unless seasonably corrected, in a shipwreck of the faith of the Corinthians. “This I say,” what I mean is this: “I am of Paul, and I of Apollo.” The reason for following these is obvious; the one planted the faith amongst them, the other was distinguished for his eloquence. “And I am of Cephas.” This refers to St. Peter. The class who selected St. Peter as head may have been the Judaizantes, who preferred him in consequence of having specially exercised his apostleship among the Jews. According to others, these words refer to a class who, unwilling to join in the particular preference of any party, said—that they would associate themselves only to the visible head of the Church. It is more probable, however, that they refer to a contentious class. “And I of Christ.” This last class are commended for their religious ideas and conduct. They had no connexion with the other parties, but proclaimed themselves as followers of Christ, of whom the different preachers were only the servants and ministers.

13. The Apostle points out the monstrously blasphemous consequences that would flow from their line of conduct. Their mode of acting would imply a division in Christ; for, as the different parties require him—each for head—there should be many Christs to serve as heads for so many parties. “Was Paul, then, crucified?” They ought to follow him alone who ransomed and redeemed them; which, of course, neither Paul, nor any of the others, to whom they attached themselves as leaders, could have done. “Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” In Greek, εἰς το ὀνομα, &c., “into the name,” &c.; which may either mean, by the authority of Paul, or, more probably (as in Paraphrase), into the name of Paul; so that, instead of being called Christian, from your baptism, you would be called Paulinians, Apollonians, &c., as would be implied in your saying, “I am of Paul,” &c. Of course, the questions here proposed, regarding Paul, equally apply to the leaders of the other parties, so that he could say, “Has Peter been crucified for you, or Apollo?” &c. He speaks of himself, however, because it was not complimentary.

14. He gives God thanks for having providentially arranged it, that he baptized but very few amongst them.

15. And thus he gave no occasion for the error in question, “that you were baptized in my name.” In the common Greek, that I had baptized into my name. The Vulgate reading (εβαπτισθητε), is found in the best copies, and in the Alexandrian and Vatican MSS.

16. This Stephanas who, it appears, was a man of consideration amongst the Corinthians, was, together with Fortunatus and Achaicus, the bearer of this Epistle. From this verse is deduced an argument against the Anabaptists in favour of infant baptism; for, it is extremely probable, that in the family of Stephanas, as well as in that of the gaoler (Acts 16), there were infants on whom the Apostle conferred baptism. “And I know not whether,” &c., does not imply ignorance on the part of the Apostle: the words mean, that there were but very few besides.

17. The Apostle now traces the divisions, of which he has been treating, to their proper source. The real cause of these divisions was an undue value attached by the Corinthian converts to the eloquence and reasoning powers displayed by some of their teachers, while preaching the humility of the cross. Upon this important point, the Apostle dwells at full length in this and the following chapters; and he says here, that in discharging the ministry of preaching the gospel, for which he was principally sent by God, he avoided setting forth the truths of redemption in a high-flowing strain of human eloquence, or in the abstruse and profound reasonings of philosophy. “Not in the wisdom of speech,” because such a mode of preaching would only have the effect of stripping the cross of all its power; for, then, men would be apt to attribute their faith to human agencies, to the eloquence of the orator, or to the reasoning of the philosopher, rather than to its true cause, viz., the all-powerful grace of God purchased on the cross; and it was through the instrumentality of the cross that God wishes to convert our souls; for, it was by the same that they were redeemed.

18. In this verse, the Apostle shows why he wishes to adopt a mode of preaching in which he shall consult for the full power and efficacy of the cross; for, whatever opinion may be formed of the cross of Christ by unbelievers—and their opinion is not of much weight—we who have been enlightened by God himself, know, that the preaching of the cross, or the cross itself (if we make verbum cruris the same as res crucis), in other words, the preaching of salvation through a crucified Redeemer, is the instrument which the power of God employs in bringing man to salvation.

19. The Apostle proves, from the Prophet Isaias (chap. 29, verse 14), that in bringing about the salvation of man, human wisdom is to be rejected. “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,” &c. In these words, Isaias directly refers to the wisdom of the learned among the Jews, or, according to some, to the evil counsellors of Ezechias, whose counsels God here threatens to defeat; St. Paul here extends this knowledge to all kinds of secular wisdom; for, in the fulfilment of the prophecy (verse 20), he asks, “Where is the wise?” referring to the Gentile philosopher—as well as “Where is the scribe?” or Jewish doctor of the law. These words are taken from the 29th chapter of Isaias, according to the Septuagint version, with one single change. In the Septuagint, for the words, “I will reject,” we have, “I will conceal or hide.” The sense is, however, the same. In the Vulgate version of St. Jerome, the words are read passively thus: “Wisdom shall perish from their wise men, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.”—(Chap. 29, verse 14).

20. The Apostle now applies the preceding passage of Isaias to the present case, and asks, is not the prophecy of Isaias now literally fulfilled in the work of Redemption? Is not all human wisdom, both of Jew and Gentile, excluded? Are not the learned amongst them excluded from all participation in the work of converting souls, or in the grace of the gospel? “Where is the wise?” i.e., the Pagan philosopher. “Where is the scribe?” i.e., the Jewish doctor. “Where is the disputer of the world?” i.e., the man who curiously searches into the hidden truths of nature, or, the man deeply versed in human reasoning, by which—be he Jew or Gentile—he would regulate all the principles of faith. These different classes are excluded in the work of Redemption. Some Expositors of Scripture say, that the words of this verse are taken from another passage of the same Prophet (Isaias, 33:18): “Where is he that pondereth on the words of the law? Where is the teacher of the little ones?” It should, perhaps, be said, with others, that the Apostle rather alludes to this passage than quotes from it. “Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?” The Apostle concludes, from the negative reply which each of the preceding questions involved, that the Lord “made foolish,” i.e., showed all human wisdom to be foolish and contemptible, and leaves it to be inferred by us how utterly foolish they prove themselves to be, who resort to human wisdom in bringing about a work founded on the absolute and total rejection of such human means.

21. In this verse, the Apostle justifies the adorable economy of divine wisdom in employing what to the world appears folly, viz., the preaching of the cross in the work of man’s redemption. “In the wisdom of God,” i.e., notwithstanding that the wisdom of God shone forth resplendent in the works of the visible creation, “the world,” i.e., the men of the world puffed up with worldly wisdom, “by wisdom knew not God,” i.e., with all their wisdom, they knew him not practically, so as to glorify him or give him thanks. Similarly is the idea, (Romans, 1:19, 20, 21). A few among the philosophers knew God, but only speculatively, while the great bulk of the people were grossly ignorant even of his primary perfections. Hence, wisdom having failed to renovate the earth, or rather having been instrumental in blighting the beauty of the first creation, it was congruous that God should adopt the opposite and contrary means, viz., of folly, in the work of redemption, the second and more perfect creation, by which he renovated the face of the earth.

22, 23. “Require signs.” In Greek, σημεῖον, a sign. Several MS. versions and Fathers σημεία, signs. According to the arrangement adopted in the Paraphrase, this verse contains an additional reason why he should not preach “in the wisdom of speech,” (verse 17). It may be also connected with the preceding verse in this way—it pleased God by folly to save the believers; for, while the means of conversion suited to the character of the Jew would be signs from heaven, and the Gentile would seek conviction through philosophical deduction and human reasoning; the subject which we, the divinely commissioned Apostles, are sent to preach, is, Christ crucified, which is a scandal and “a stumbling-block to the Jews,” who expected in the Messiah a powerful conqueror; and hence they regard the cross with aversion; “and foolishness to the Gentiles”—(“Ἕλλησι, to the Greeks,” in the common Greek text. Among the Gentiles, the Greeks were the most polished and distinguished; many ancient MSS., among the rest, the Vatican, have, εθνεσιν, “the Gentiles,”) and hence, as we, Apostles, have acted according to the will of God, it evidently is his will to bring men to salvation by the folly of preaching.

24. Christ crucified is “the power of God,” because by bringing about through means, in a human point of view, absolutely weak, ends of power, which the united strength of mankind could never accomplish, God commends his power: and by bringing about ends of wisdom through means foolish and inadequate, God has most clearly manifested the workings of his wisdom. He calls Christ crucified, “the power of God,” in allusion to the scandal of the Jews, who, along with signs from heaven, expected that their Messiah would appear clothed with great power and majesty; and hence, his crucifixion was to them a stone of offence and a rock of scandal. And “wisdom,” in allusion to Gentiles or Greeks (verse 22).

25. He proves that “Christ (crucified) is the wisdom and power of God.” “The foolishness of God,” i.e., what appears foolish in him, according to the ideas of the Gentile, “is wiser than men,” i.e., has brought about ends of wisdom which man could never attain. What ends of wisdom would his wisdom, therefore, not bring about, if his very folly be so wise? “And the weakness,” &c. The very disproportion and inadequacy of the means (humanly speaking) for the end attained, show the working of God’s power and wisdom; since if God had selected means adequate and proportioned to the end, the work of redemption might be ascribed to human agency; but when human wisdom and power are discarded, then it is that his glorious attributes of power and wisdom shine forth resplendent.

26. The connexion of this verse with the preceding appears to be this:—the Apostle having referred (verse 19) to the testimony of the Prophet Isaias, to prove the utter rejection of human wisdom, in bringing about the great work of redemption, refers, in verse 20, to another passage, or rather to the substance of another passage of the same Prophet, which would appear to be an argument founded on experience. Having discontinued this argument from experience, and turned aside (verse 21), to point out the congruity of such economy on the part of God, he resumes it here: “see your vocation,” i.e., the persons first called, and also the instruments employed in calling others by preaching the gospel. “Vocation,” probably, includes both.

29. If the Almighty had made the rich, the wise, and the powerful of this world, the ministers of his gospel, or the objects of his first call to the faith, “your vocation,” they might naturally attribute this gratuitous goodness of God to their own deserts, and glory in themselves; and the conversion of the world, like the generality of earthly changes, might then be regarded as the natural effect of human power and wisdom, while religion would be embraced by others, as a matter of fashion. But it is only when all earthly recommendations are discarded, that the sphere of action is placed beyond the reach of human agency, and the finger of God becomes visible, to whose glory, therefore, all should redound.

30. This verse furnishes no argument in favour of the erroneous doctrine of imputative justice; for, it is clear, that the effect is here put for the cause in the blessings enumerated. Christ is said to be the blessings of which he is the cause. Moreover, he is said to be our “justice” in the same way as he is our “redemption” or “wisdom.” Now, in the case of wisdom, it is certainly intrinsic: for, by what propriety of language, could a fool be said to possess wisdom, because another man is wise? So, in like manner, Christ’s having become justice for us does not imply, that we are not ourselves inferiorly justified; it rather implies the very reverse.

31. The object of all this economy on the part of God, in excluding human wisdom from the work of redemption, was, to deprive men of all grounds for glorying in themselves, and to have all glory referred to himself. “That, as it is written: He that glorieth,” &c. These words are taken from Jeremias (chap. 9, verses 23, 24). The quotation from the Prophet is abbreviated. Without giving his exact words, the Apostle fully conveys the sense of the passage.








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