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


In this chapter, the Apostle exhorts the Ephesians to love one another after the example of God (4:32), and also after the example of Christ, who sacrificed himself for us (1, 2). He exhorts them to shun all impurity both in word and deed, because wholly unsuited to the exalted state of sanctity to which they were called, and because it provokes the punishment of exclusion from God’s eternal inheritance (4, 5). He cautions them against listening to the false teachings of some men on this head (6). He dissuades them from all participation whatsoever, in the wicked conduct of their Pagan neighbours. He, on the contrary, adduces several motives of persuasion, to encourage them to set forth, by the pure and bright contrast of their holy lives, in darker and more hideous colours, the wicked deeds of the others (7–15).

He exhorts them to act with wise caution and circumspection in their intercourse with the Pagans, considering the perilous nature of the days upon which they had fallen (15–18). He cautions them against excessive indulgence in wine, and exhorts them to seek consolation from a different source—viz., the Spirit of God; and he points out how, in their different meetings, they are to express their joy in the Holy Ghost, by singing psalms, and other spiritual songs, and by expressing their thankfulness to God (19, 20).

He next lays down a general principle of Christian policy, relative to the duties of subjection and subordination, in the different states of life (21). Descending to particulars, he devotes the remainder of this chapter to the instruction of those engaged in the marriage state, as to the duties they mutually owe each other. In this state, the woman is the party on whom the duty of obedience devolves. He shows the relation of subjection which she bears her husband, to be similar to that which the Church bears to Christ; and hence, she should be subject to him, as the Church is to Christ (22–24), He, on the other hand, adduces the same analogy of relation, as a reason why husbands should love their wives. They hold in their regard a relation of headship, similar to that which Christ holds in regard to the Church (25–27). Another reason for this love is founded on the nature of the conjugal union between man and wife (28, 29). He, next, points out the ground of the comparison of the man and wife with Christ and his Church, by showing that the Church is a part of Christ, and for this purpose he quotes in a mystical sense, the passage in Genesis, where reference is made to the creation of the woman (30). He quotes more largely from the passage in Genesis, in order to develop more fully the motive referred to (in verse 28), and shows the union between man and wife to be a type of the indissoluble and mystic union between Christ and his Church (31, 32). He applies to the Ephesians the motives already adduced, and calls upon husbands and wives to attend to them (33).


1. Since, therefore, God hath pardoned you in Christ, be ye imitators of God, as children are wont to imitate the parents, by whom they are most tenderly loved.

2. And exercise the duty of fraternal charity in all its parts, both in pardoning injuries and doing good so far as to sacrifice your lives, if necessary, for the good of our neighbour, after the example of Christ, who delivered himself up for our redemption, a most perfect victim—corresponding with all the ends, and comprising within itself all the properties, of the ancient offerings—and most acceptable with God.

3. But let neither fornication nor uncleanness of any sort, nor avarice be so much as named, much less practised amongst you, as becomes persons called to such an exalted state of sanctity, and whose very words should, therefore, be holy.

4. Nor obscene, nor foolish, unmeaning language, nor ill-directed pleasantry or buffoonery, which are unsuited to the gravity and sanctity of the Christian profession. But let the language in use amongst you rather be the language of thanksgiving, of edification and instruction.

5. For, be assured of this, and understand it well as a thing of the greatest importance, no matter what you may be told to the contrary, that no person guilty of fornication or other uncleanness, or who is the slave of avarice, which is the worship of idols, shall have a share in the inheritance of the kingdom of God and of Christ.

6. Let no one seduce you on this point by idle and fallacious reasonings. For, it is on account of the foregoing crimes that the heavy anger and vengeance of God is in store for the unbelievers, who neither have faith nor obey God, prohibiting such things.

7. Be not, therefore, partakers of their crimes, lest you be involved in their punishment.

8. Such a partnership in crime is wholly at variance with your present calling. You were formerly, indeed, among the children of error and unbelief, but now you are enlightened in the principles of Christian faith and morality. Lead, therefore, the lives of men instructed in Christian virtue, and taught to hold in abhorrence the hideous crime of Paganism.

9. (For the fruits of Christian grace and faith are the works of goodness and benevolence, of justice and truth).

10. Live, like children of light, diligently examining what is the will of God, and faithfully complying with it.

11. And hold no communication cither by act, approval, or consent, with the unfruitful works of darkness; but, on the contrary, reprove such works, and those who do them, by the contrast of your own bright example, and manifest by every means, your utter abhorrence of them.

12. Hold no communication with such persons; for, the things that they do in secret, are too disgraceful to be uttered.

13. Pursuing an opposite line of conduct, by the light of your good example, you should reprove them; for all the things that are brought forth to public gaze and reproved by the contrast, are made manifest by the light—it being the nature of light to enlighten—and it is the peculiar property of light—nothing else can do it—for, everything that manifests, is light.

14. Hence, because it is the peculiar property of light to enlighten, the Scripture says:—Arise thou that sleepest (in sin), and arise from the dead: and Christ shall enlighten thee.

15. As, therefore, you are bound to reprove by the bright contrast of your lives, the evil deeds of the wicked and unbelievers; see that you live circumspectly, not as foolish persons, who desert the path of virtue.

16. But as wise men, who tread the path of rectitude, making good use of the present opportunity, which you have, of manifesting and bringing to light the evil deeds of others, to the edification of our holy faith, which condemns such enormities; for, the days of this life are uncertain, and hence, the present should be turned to good account.

17. Wherefore, be not incautious in your conduct, but see what it is God wishes from you.

18. And be not drunk with wine, in which drunken ness, or wine (if taken to excess), there is a tendency to profligacy and dissoluteness. But be filled with the Holy Ghost, the principal and source of grace and spiritual joy.

19. Reciting and singing among yourselves, whether in your public or private meetings, psalms, hymns, and spiritual canticles; singing and chanting them, not only with your tongues, but also from your hearts, unto the honour of the Lord.

20. Always giving thanks for all the blessings and graces bestowed on us, to God the Father, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom alone our thanksgiving can be acceptable with God, and through whom we have received the graces necessary for salvation.

21. Be subject one to another, the inferior exhibiting obedience to the superior, and the superior reciprocally accommodating himself to the wants of the inferior; and this, from the motive of the reverential fear of Christ.

22. Let women be subject to their husbands, as to Christ our Lord himself, whose place the husbands hold in their regard.

23. Because, as Christ is the head of the Church, the Guardian and Saviour of his mystic body; so is the husband the moral head of the wife, given her for a protector and guardian.

24. (From this parity of relations, should follow a parity or similarity of duties) as the Church is obedient to Christ, because he is her head; for the same reason, ought the wife be subject to her husband, in all the things, to which his power and superiority lawfully extend.

25. (Hence also the parity of reciprocal duties); husbands love your wives, as Christ loved the Church of which he is the head and spouse, from the impulse of which love, he delivered himself up to death for her.

26. In order to sanctify her, cleansing from all stain of sin, in the water of Baptism, received with the necessary disposition of faith in the revealed word, which disposes to spiritual life.

27. In order also to present her to himself a glorious Church, gifted with glory and beauty, perfectly exempt from the stain of sin, or wrinkle of age, or any other such deformity; so that she should be holy and free from guilt.

28. Another motive also, besides the example of Christ in loving his Church, for men to love their wives, is, that the wife and husband are but one flesh: hence, the husbands should love their wives, as their own bodies, for, he that loves his wife, loves himself, since he is one with her.

29. This motive is conformable to the dictates of right reason; for no one following the dictates of right reason, ever hates his flesh; on the contrary, such a person has a proper love for it—he nourishes and cherishes it; so should the husband treat his wife, as Christ nourishes and cherishes his Church.

30. For, we who form the Church are members of his body—we were spiritually formed from his flesh and bones, when sleeping on the cross, as Eve was formed from the side of Adam.

31. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they shall be two in one flesh.

32. In the foregoing words, is contained a mystical allusion to some great event, which I understand of the mystic and indissoluble union of Christ with his Church.

33. But although the words, in their mystical signification, principally regard Christ and his Church, do you fulfil them literally; let each husband love his wife as himself, and let the wife reverence her husband, as the Church reverences Christ.


1. “Be ye, therefore, followers of God.” In Greek, μιμηται, “imitators of God.” These words are immediately connected with the last verse of the preceding chapter. “As most dear children,” i.e., as children greatly beloved by God.

2. “And walk in love.” This is a point in which we are called upon to imitate God. There are many other things in which we cannot imitate him, but only admire and adore him. “As Christ also hath loved us and delivered himself for us.” The Apostle proposes the example of our Redeemer as a second motive to exercise fraternal charity; and he leaves it to be inferred, that we also, like him, should love one another, Even at the sacrifice of life, if necessary; for, he died for us when we were his enemies by sin. “Since he hath laid down his life for us, so should we also lay down our live for our brethren.”—(1 John, chap 3)

“And delivered himself for us.” Every word has force. Who delivered himself?—God. For whom? For us, his creatures and enemies by sin. To what did he deliver himself? To a death of unparalleled ignominy and tortures. “Ut servum redimeres, Filium tradidisti?”

“An oblation and a sacrifice.” These words mean that he offered himself as a most perfect victim, comprising all the qualities of victims, bloody or unbloody, and corresponding to all the ends of the ancient sacrifices, whether holocaust, peace offering, sin offering, &c.

“For an odour of sweetness,” or, most sweet odour, denotes its acceptance with God. The phrase is frequently employed in reference to the acceptability of the ancient sacrifices, as in Genesis, and elsewhere.

3. “Covetousness,” πλεονεξια, means, in general, an excessive greediness for an object, such as riches, honours, &c. Here, according to some, it denotes an excessive greediness for gratifying carnal pleasures; because, of the love of money—the usual meaning of the word—it could hardly be said, “let it not be named” since the mention of the love of wealth bears no opposition to sanctity. It is better, however to understand the word as denoting a love of wealth—its usual meaning—and then, “named,” is used to express their total abhorrence of the practice of such vices.

4. “Scurrility,” denotes excessive facetiousness, having for object merely to excite laughter, probably mixed up with improper allusions, a thing by no means unusual with professed wits, even among Christians. The Greek word, ευτραπελια, means also urbanity, and may be taken in a good sense, to denote lawful conversational amusement, conducive to health and cheerfulness; but here the word is taken in a bad sense involving obscene ribaldry. “But rather the giving of thanks.” Hence, the ancient mode of salutation in use among Christians, thanks be to God, as we are informed by St. Augustine (Epistle 77). “Which is to no purpose.” The ordinary Greek is, τα ουκ ανηκοντα, which are not convenient, an expression for indecency. The Alexandrian and Vatican MSS. have the perfect tense, ἅ ουκ ἀνῆκεν.

5. “Unclean,” refers to the private sins of impurity. “Or covetous,” πλεονέκτης. There is the same diversity of opinion regarding this word, as there is regarding “covetousness” (verse 3). It more probably denotes the passion, or insatiable desire of unjustly and rapaciously accumu aung riches, and this passion may justly be termed “idolatry,” because the miser’s God is his money, and avarice in particular causes its wretched slave to place all his hopes and ultimate end, to concentrate all his thoughts and cares in his wretched hoard; the more he acquires, the more greedy and insatiable does he become—even age, which weakens the other passions, serves to increase and strengthen this. “Of Christ and of God,” τοῦ Χριστοῦ και θεοῦ, “of the Christ, and of God,” i.e., of Christ, who is God.

6. “Let no man deceive you.” He alludes particularly to the followers of Simon Magus, who asserted, that the sovereign rulers of the universe were honoured by the hateful practices here referred to by the Apostle. “Let no one,” be he philosopher or heretic, “deceive you,” by bland words.

“Cometh the anger of God.” The verb “cometh” has a future reference, and means, “the anger of God is in store for, and at future day shall be poured out upon, “the children,” i.e., men of “unbelief,” of obstinate impersuasibility. The Greek word for “unbelief,” ἀπειθεία, means, contumacious, unreasoning rejection of a thing, without admitting a rational persuasion.

9. And that as children of light, they should perform works altogether different from those which they practised in Paganism, is clear from the circumstance, that the works of light, or of grace and Christian faith, are opposed to the works of darkness or Paganism. The fruit of grace and faith consists in works of “goodness” and benevolence towards our neighbour—opposed to the spirit of anger and ill will, denounced in the preceding chapter. “Of justice,” opposed to the thefts and injustices there referred to (verse 28). “And of truth,” i.e., works done in candour and openness—opposed to the lies referred to in the last chapter. “The fruit of the light.” In the common Greek, it is, καρπος τοῦ πνεῦματος, the fruit of the spirit. The Vulgate reading, is, however, best supported by the authority of the chief MSS. and Versions.

10. The preceding verse is to be enclosed in a parenthesis (as in Paraphrase), and this verse to be immediately connected with verse 8. The first care of a Christian should be to discover the holy and adorable will of God; and the next, to endeavour to fulfil it. “Thy holy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” “To God.” In Greek, τῳκυρίω, to the Lord.

11. “Unfruitful works of darkness.” They are called “unfruitful,” because, far from bringing any advantage, they may cause evil to the man who performs them—“Stipendium peccati, mors.”—Romans, 6:23.

12. He gives a reason for his injunction in the first part of verse 11, to hold no communication with these deeds or the perpetrators of them. “It is a shame to speak of.” He probably refers to the disgraceful deeds of the followers of Simon Magus, whose doctrines and deeds of lust were intolerable, and too shameful to mention.

13. In this verse he assigns a reason for the latter part of verse 11. “But rather reprove them.” Why? Because, it is the nature of light to enlighten. “All things that are reproved, are manifested by the light,” and nothing else can do it; for, this power to enlighten is the peculiar property of light, “for all that manifests is light.” In this interpretation, the verb, “that is made manifest,” which, in the Greek, is a participle, in the middle voice, φανερουμενον, admitting of either an active or passive signification, is taken actively to mean, that manifests; for, it is not easy to see, how it is universally true to say, that everything “that is manifested is light.” Are not sins oftentimes manifested?—and do they, by being made manifest, become light? Moreover, the Apostle is here condemning that against which he cautions them, with the view of inducing them to avoid it altogether. Now, he could not so zealously exhort them to avoid it, if it became light. Nor can it be said, that by being made manifest, sins shall be abandoned and commuted in the light of the gospel; for, in all probability, many of those referred to here by the Apostle never were converted.

14. Whence are these words taken? Some, with St. Jerome, think they were taken from some Apocryphal book; or, that the Apostle himself, under the influence of a prophetic spirit, now expresses them in the name of the Holy Ghost, as the prophets of old used to say—“hæc dicit Dominus.” Others, with St. Thomas (and this is the more probable opinion), refer them to the 60th chapter of Isaias, in which, addressing the mystic Jerusalem, or the Church, he says—“Surge, illuminare Jerusalem” &c., which is applied by St. Paul, with some change in the words, to his present subject, as they refer almost to the same subject of which he here treats. In this verse, is pointed out the concurrence of man’s free will with the preventing graces of God. These graces find a man in an absolute inability to rouse himself to supernatural acts; they rouse him from this spiritual lethargy; and, if he correspond with them, he shall receive further graces, co-operating graces, &c.

16. “But as wise,” following the path of virtue, which is true wisdom. “Redeeming the time,” which may mean (as in Paraphrase), making good use of the present opportunity, which is given you to reprove, by the contrast of your lives, and manifest the evil deeds of others, &c. In this interpretation, “the time” means opportunity, a signification which the Greek word, καιρον, admits. According to others, “time” refers to the time past, and the sentence means; redouble your exertions during the time that remains for you, and by parting with pleasures, and, in many instances, foregoing an increase of temporal blessings in your zealous exertions for religion, you shall pay for and purchase back the time that has been uselessly squandered. “Because the days are evil.” These words, if connected with “redeeming the time,” mean, because the time of the present life is uncertain, and, therefore, to be turned to good account; if with the words, “walk circumspectly,” they mean, because the times are dangerous to faith and morals, replete with trials and persecutions. How many squander away this precious treasure of time, this priceless pearl, upon the good use of which depends a happy eternity. Let us interrogate the damned in Hell, or the suffering in Purgatory, or the blessed in Heaven, and they shall give an idea of the priceless value of this time, which we squander. Should we not be as avaricious of this priceless treasure of time, as the miser is of his hoard, for every moment of which we shall one day be called upon to account? How careful should we be to work while the day lasts, to lay up a treasure of merit against that dreary, never-ending night of eternity, in which no one can work. Knowing that there cannot be too much security when eternity is at stake, and that the most important of all concerns—the only necessary end of our being—cannot be left to mere chance, how careful should we be to have our lamps trimmed, and be ever ready for the coming of our heavenly Bridegroom, that when he shall come in the middle of the night—the time he may least be expected—we may, after having wisely “redeemed the time,” be found worth, with the wise Virgins, to be admitted to that marriage feast, in which his friends shall join without fear of its ever terminating for all eterinty. How frequently should we ponder, in the heart, on those dreadful words: EVER; NEVER. EVER to continue NEVER to end. Oh! precious moment of time, on which depends an Eternity whether of happiness or woe.

17. It is probable that the Apostle here refers to their intercourse with the heathens, for it is to them he alludes (chap. 4 verse 5) of his Epistle to the Colossians, where he uses a similar expression: “Walk with wisdom towards them that are without redeeming the time.” The Greek word for “unwise,” αφρονες, means, out of their mind. It probably contains an allusion to the drunken orgies of the Pagans practised on the festivals of Bacchus. To this the Apostle appears to allude, next verse, in the caution he gives against drunkenness.

18. “Wherein,” ἐν ᾦ, may refer either to “wine,” or to the phrase, “drunk with wine,” “is luxury.” This is literally true of drunkenness, and of wine, if taken to excess. It is hard to suppose that a drunkard can be chaste. It would appear to be here revealed, at least by implication, that he cannot.—“Venter æstuans unno spumat in libidinem.”—St. Jerome. Would that those strong drinkers of wine weighed well this truth, of which a sad experience must have convinced them. “Woe to you that are mighty to drink wine, and stout men at drunkenness.”—(Isaias, 5:22). Total abstinence is, undoubtedly, most meritorious in the sight of God, and to be encouraged by all means. “Filled with the Holy Spirit.” The word “Holy,” is not in the Greek; it simply is, εν πνευματι, with the Spirit.

19. The Apostle, after opposing the Spirit of God to the mad inspiration of wine, and cautioning the Ephesians against seeking joy in drunkenness, like the Pagans, wishes them to seek consolation from the Holy Ghost, and he shows how this is to be done. If they assemble for purposes of joy, either in the sacred temples to celebrate the Agapes, which, in the infancy of the Church, were preparatory to the celebration of the Holy Eucharist—(1st Corinthians, chapter 11), or, in their private houses, instead of imitacing the dissolute songs of their Pagan neighbours, they should give expression to their inward joy in “psalms, hymns, and spiritual canticles.” Music and song were among the favourite enjoyments of both Jews and Gentiles, as the inspired writers inform us regarding the former, and profane writers regarding the latter. Amorous and dissolute songs were those in use, at Pagan entertainments. Hence, the Apostle, to prevent this inconvenience among the Christians, and actuated by the spirit of divine wisdom, which at all times directs the Church to accommodate herself, as far as possible, to the pre-existing practices of the converted Gentiles, or, at least, to give them a religious turn, wishes they should convert this usage to good account, by expressing their joy of soul in the praises of God. This advice regarding the singing of “psalms,” &c., had been carried out in the early Church, and was then necessary: the practice commended has also continued with us, so far as religious meetings in the Church are concerned; but as to private entertainments, it has passed away and fallen into disuse, like many other usages of the primitive Church (v.g.), the Agapes, or love feasts, &c. It is no longer necessary, as we have an abundance of other songs of a praiseworthy kind, besides sacred songs—nor is there any danger of our adopting the dissolute songs of the Pagans. So that now, such is the universal usage, the singing of sacred songs could not be resorted to with propriety at private entertainments. It is not easy to see the difference between “psalms,” “hymns,” and “spiritual songs.” “Psalm,” in general, means a song, particularly a song accompanied with the harp. It here refers to sacred pieces, executed on musical instruments, including not only the Psalms of David, but also the inspired compositions of those, who received this gift in the infancy of the Church.—(1st Corinthians, 14:26). “Hymns,” are songs in which are proclaimed the attributes and praises of God. They were composed in rhythmical measures. “Spiritual songs”—sacred poems, usually recited, or sung without the aid of musical accompaniments. “In your hearts.” The Greek is, τῇ καρδία ὑμῶν, “in jour heart.” The plural is found in MSS. generally.

20. “Always giving thanks,” i.e., by performing actions at all times good, and referrible to God; for, it is impossible to be always engaged in acts of thanksgiving. “In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;” because it is owing to his grace that the natural advantages we have—viz., our life, &c., should tend to our salvation; and, secondly, because it is through him alone, they are worthy of acceptance.

21. In this verse, the Apostle lays down a general principle of Christian polity; he inculcates the duty of obedience and subordination, in the different relations of life. Of course, from the very nature of the precept, it is issued to the inferior only, or, to such as are subject to others. At the same time, he inculcates the reciprocal duties, which the relation of superior requires, as may be seen from the examples which he adduces. “Of Christ.” In the common Greek text, of God. The Vulgate reading, “of Christ,” is that of the chief MSS., and the one commonly adopted.

22. He particularizes the instances in which obedience is due, commencing with the marriage state, in which the woman is the party on whom the duty of obedience devolves, “As the Lord,” ως τῷ κυρίω, which some interpret, as your masters. This is evidently incorrect, since the text runs thus—“Be subject to their husbands, as to the Lord.” It should have been written as Lords, in the other interpretation. In the common Greek text, for “let women be subject to their husbands,” it is, αἱ γυναῖκες τοῖς ἰδιοις ανδρασιν υποτασσεσθε, “Women, be ye subject to your own husbands.” The Vulgate is the reading of the Alexandrian MSS. In the Codex Vaticanus, the words “be subject,” or “let them be subject,” is altogether wanting. St. Jerome did not find the verse, in either form, in the Greek copies.

23. He points out the relation which the husband bears with regard to the wife. The headship of Christ is principally under the relation of being the guardian and deliverer of his Church, as is clear from the words, “he is the Saviour of his body;” under which relation only, can his headship be compared with that of the husband. In the common Greek, the words run thus—καὶ αὐτὸς ἐστι σωτηρ τοῦ σώματος, and he is the Saviour of the body. And, is generally rejected by critics. It is wanting in the Codex Vaticanus. The Greek interpreters understand the words of the husband and wife. It is, however, more probable, that they refer to Christ in quality of Saviour of his mystic body, the Church, as the Latins understand them.

26. “By the laver of water in the word of life.” All are agreed that the words, “laver of water,” refer to the Sacrament of Baptism. But it is disputed, what the words, “in the word of life,” or, as in the Greek, simply, ἐν ρηματι, in the word, mean. Some refer them to the form of Baptism,—I baptize thee in the name of the Father, &c., the matter of the sacrament having been expressed in the words, “laver of water.” Others understand them of the word of the gospel as believed by faith, which is the first disposition for cleansing from sin, and for justification in an adult. According to this opinion, the Apostle assigns the efficient and disposing causes of our justification. And in the Epistle of St. James (chap. 1:18), we find that “the word of truth,” is principally referred to, as the cause of our regeneration, which may mean, either the word of the sacrament, or the word believed by faith—faith being the first disposition for justification in an adult. Without faith, Baptism could not profit an adult endowed with reason. This latter opinion seems preferable.

27. “That he might present it.” “It,” is wanting in the chief MSS., which support the Vulgate, “ut exhiberet sibi gloriosam Ecclesiam” &c. When is the Church to be thus “glorious?” Some understand it of the Church after the Resurrection; others, of her even in this life; and then all this exemption from sin and imperfection is to be understood of her in the same sense, in which sanctity is applied to her by Divines, as one of the distinctive notes or marks of her divine commission—viz., in her head, doctrine, sacraments, and the multitude of her children in every age. This latter opinion is rendered probable by the allusion, which the Apostle appears to make to the marriage engagement, when the husband takes care that the spouse be freed from these imperfections from which Christ freed His Church, before His espousal with her; and, it is more consistent with our ideas, that the espousals of Christ with His Church have already taken place, although it is only at the Resurrection, on the last day, that these espousals shall be consummated.

28. In the Vulgate version, this verse would appear to contain not so much a new motive for men to love their wives, as an application of the former one, contained in verse 25, viz., that as Christ loved his Church, as being a part of him, so, in like manner, ought men love their wives for the same reason. The common Greek reading omits the word “also,” (although it is found in the chief MSS.), and it would appear to contain a new motive for loving their wives, which seems more probable from what follows. For, in the motive referred to, verse 25, Christ is represented more in the light of a head and benefactor to his Church—in which respect, he is the model of the good husband—than as forming part of the mystic body. The new motive adduced here is grounded on the nature of the conjugal union, in the consummation of which man and wife are made one flesh. Hence, by loving his wife, a man loves himself; and the Apostle, in the following verses, undertakes to show that the Church is a part of Christ, thereby showing the propriety of the comparison of the man and wife with Christ and his Church, under this respect.

29. The act of suicide is not opposed to this; because here, there is question of men who act conformably to the dictates of right reason. Nor is voluntary mortification opposed to it, for the same reason; since the love which reason and religion dictate to us towards our bodies, prescribes mortification and austerities.

30. Having asserted that a man ought to love his wife as forming a part of him, as Christ loved his Church, the Apostle proceeds to show in this verse, the grounds of the comparison, so far as Christ and his Church are concerned—that is to say, he wishes to show that the Church is a part of Christ. The words of this verse contain an allusion to the words of Moses in the Book of Genesis, relative to the creation of the first woman, upon beholding whom, Adam cried out, under the influence of inspiration—Genesis, chapter 2 verse 23—“This now is bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh.” St. Paul in this verse makes allusion to that passage, as if to show us, that the union between us and Christ is as intimate, as that between the first man and woman.

But, should it not rather be said, that Christ is of our flesh and our bones; since, it was He that assumed our nature, and not we, His?

It is to be borne in mind, that when there is question of Christ and his Church, there is question of merely a mystical body; and Christ being the great source of the spiritual life and animation of that body, is, therefore, said to be its head, as also because he governs and protects it. And we are said to be His members, and of His flesh, because we derive our spiritual life, and the privilege of being members of the Church, from Him. Again, the assertion is verified in the opinion of the Holy Fathers, who say that the Church was formed out of the side of Christ on the cross, as Eve was out of the side of Adam sunk in profound sleep.

31. Having indirectly alluded to the passage of Genesis, or perhaps quoted in a mystical signification, the Apostle proceeds to quote expressly and more largely from the same passage (Genesis, 2:24)—“For this cause,” &c. These are the words of Moses, or of Adam, under the influence of inspiration. In either case, they are the words of God. Some Commentators say, that in this verse is contained a new reason for men to love their wives, grounded on the authority of Scripture, in which a man is commanded to love his wife in preference to father or mother, &c. This is the interpretation of Piconio, in his TRIPLEX EXPOSITIO. It seems, however, more probable, that this verse does not contain a new motive for men to love their wives; that the object of the Apostle, in quoting at full length this text from the book of Genesis is rather, to develope and explain more fully the motive proposed (verse 28) by showing, as he does, in the next verse—

32. That the union between man and wife directly referred to in Genesis, was a type of the mystic and indissoluble union between Christ and his Church; for, not only are the words, “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh,” alluded to in verse 30, mystically verified in the union of Christ with his Church; but the following words also, “for this cause shall a man,” &c., have a typical reference to Christ and his Church. As man leaves his father and mother, and adheres to his wife; so, Christ left his Father’s kingdom, and his mother, the Synagogue, and espoused the Church. Of course, the words, “leaving his Father and mother” in reference to Christ, are spoken in allusion to human ideas, in the same way, as we say of him, that he descended from heaven, although he remained there continually. “This is a great sacrament.” (In Greek, τὸ μυστὴριον τοῦτο μέγα ἐστὶν, this mystery is great.) “But I speak in Christ and in the Church.” (In the Greek, Χριστον και τὴν ἐκκλησίαν, unto Christ and the Church). In the interpretation now given, this passage by no means furnishes a proof, that Matrimony is one of the seven sacraments of the New Law, which we know it to be, from the unerring principles of the Catholic faith.—Concil. Trid. SS. xxiv., Can. 1. Because, this verse does not convey any new reason why men should love their wives; it only expresses an observation which the Apostle makes, corroborative of his reasoning in the preceding verses, to the effect, that the words of verse 31, besides their original reference to marriage, contain a typical meaning, which the Apostle refers to Christ and his Church. Moreover, the words of his text would prove equally that all marriages from the beginning of the world were sacraments of the New Law; because the words, “This is a great sacrament,” have reference to “a man’s leaving father and mother, and cleaving to his wife,” on account of her being “bone of his bone,” &c.; but, it was equally true of all marriages from creation, that the wife was “bone of his bones,” &c. Nor is there any restriction made in the words, “in Christ and in the Church,” to Christian marriages; for, the Greek clearly shows that these words only mean, that Christ and his Church were merely the term of this mysterious type, expressed in all marriages since creation. Nor is there any force in the observation of some—viz., that grace is required for this love between husbands and wives, as it must be supernatural, to resemble the love of Christ for his Church.—ESTO. But must that grace be sacramental grace? Does not the servant want grace to obey his master, and the child to obey his parents? Is not grace necessary for the several duties here inculcated?—(chapter 6). And is such grace to come from a peculiar sacramental rite? Since, then, we have another vehicle of divine revelation through which truths of faith are transmitted to us with as much certainty, as they are through the SS. Scriptures—viz., Tradition, why adduce a dubious passage, at best, like the present, in proof of a dogma of faith, which is clearly proved, without doubt or cavil, from Tradition?

33. From this verse, it is clear, that the preceding words are to be understood mystically; for, the Apostle says, that be the mystic inference drawn from the preceding words what it may, still, the husbands should love their wives as themselves, and literally fulfil the words of God in the book of Genesis: “For this cause a man shall leave … and cleave to his wife,” &c. Or, it might be said, that the Apostle, after having referred to the book of Genesis, and deduced a mystical inference from the words which he quotes from it, now resumes the reason for loving their wives, introduced in verse 28, and applies it to the Ephesians.

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