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

Analysis

The Apostle, having before established the unerring authority of the Church, in guarding the deposit of revealed truth against the encroachments and insidious attacks of error now asserts in this chapter, that certain destructive errors shall soon spring up (1–5), Against these he admonishes Timothy, to guard the flock confided to his charge, by instructing them in sound doctrine (6). He exhorts him to works of piety (8); by the gravity of his conduct to merit public respect (12); and by keeping in mind the exalted gift conferred on him (14), to live in such a way as to insure his own salvation and that of his people (16).

Paraphrase

1. Now, the Holy Ghost openly and clearly reveals to me, that in the times immediately approaching some will apostatize from the faith, giving heed and attention to erring, deluded men, and to diabolical doctrines advanced by them.

2. Men who, putting on the appearance of sanctity, propound false doctrines, which appear to be holy, whose consciences are callous to every feeling of remorse or compunction, in the commission of deeds of iniquity,

3. Prohibiting marriage and (commanding) men to abstain from certain kinds of food, which God created for the purpose of being used with thanksgiving by the faithful and by those who have known the truth.

4. For, it is a certain truth, which they should know, that, of its own intrinsic nature, everything created by God is good; and, therefore, that nothing deserves to be rejected as evil of itself; but that every gift of God should rather be used and received with thanksgiving.

5. Moreover, the use of it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.

6. By expounding these things to your brethren, you will prove yourself to be a good minister of Christ, and you will show how well educated and nurtured you have been in the faith and in sound doctrine, which you have perfectly learned and followed up.

7. But avoid and despise foolish and old woman’s stories, but exercise yourself in solid piety, attending to these actions of morality, that advance the worship of God which faith alone points out to us.

8. For the corporal exercise of the gymnasium profits only in a trifling degree and but for a short time; whereas, piety, or the exercise of the spiritual gymnasium, is useful for securing all sorts of blessings, having annexed to it the promise of present and future goods.

9. This assertion regarding the good effects of piety is a true saying, worthy of entire, unqualified acceptance.

10. For, we willingly submit to the labours and miseries of this life, and we patiently bear the reproaches and persecutions of men on this account, because we hope in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, especially of the faithful.

11. Teach all these things with the authority of a bishop.

12. In order that no one shall despise thee on account of thy youth, be the model of the faithful in the gravity and prudence of your words, in the sweetness and amiability of your external intercourse with them, in the expression of ardent charity, of lively faith, and in the purity of morals, particularly in chastity.

13. Until I come to you, diligently attend to reading the SS. Scriptures, to exhorting the faithful to continue in the practice of the virtues which they already know, and to the instruction of the ignorant in the duties and truths of religion.

14. Do not suffer the grace to lie dormant, which had been conferred on thee, when, in accordance with the revelation of God, the priests (of the first order) imposed hands on thee.

15. Make these things the subject of repeated meditation. Be constantly engaged in them, so that your advancement, both in piety and knowledge, may be clearly seen by all men.

16. Attend to your own sanctification, and to the instruction of your flock; persevere in these two things: for, thus, you will save both yourself and those who hear you.

Commentary

1. “In the last times.” The word “last,” as it appears from the Greek, ὑστεροις, means times immediately approaching: the Apostle, in speaking thus, wishes to intimate to Timothy, that he will himself have to encounter these errors, and, therefore, must use the utmost diligence. “Will depart.” In Greek, ἀποστήσονται, will apostatize. “Spirits of error.” A Hebrew form of expression for erring spirits; “doctrines of devils,” by a similar idiom means, devilish, or diabolical doctrines—doctrines of which the devil is the author and suggester.

2. “Speaking lies in hypocrisy.” This is connected with the preceding verse; attending to diabolical doctrines advanced by men, speaking lies, &c. “In hypocrisy,” may either affect the doctrines which have the appearance of holy doctrines, viz., the prohibition to marry, has the appearance of recommending chastity; and abstinence from meat, the appearance of temperance; or, the men who, while they publicly pretend to lead lives of sanctity, in private, indulge in every species of immorality. “And having their conscience seared.” In the word “seared”—the Greek of which, κεκαυτηριασμενων, means, cauterized—there may be an illusion to a brand of infamy stamped on criminals. In that case, the words mean, that, notwithstanding their external profession of sanctity, their souls contain the certain seeds, the undoubted marks of corruption, arising from their bad habits. As a bodily sore is the source of bodily corruption; so, is their former immorality the source of fresh deeds of sin; or, the allusion contained in the word “seared,” may refer to the cauterizing of mortified flesh, sometimes resorted to by surgeons. In this case, the meaning is that given in the Paraphrase—that their consciences are steeled against every feeling of remorse or compunction, in the commission of iniquity.

3. He instances one or two of their diabolical doctrines, prohibiting marriage (commanding), to abstain from certain kinds of food. The word, commanding, is evidenly understood to fill up the sentence. “Which God hath created to be received,” &c. The Apostle passes by the first error, as too patent to need refutation; and the second error regarding abstinence from certain sorts of food, as of themselves evil, he refutes, first, from the intention of God in creating them, which was, that “the faithful,” or “those who have known the truth,” would use them with thankfulness. God has destined these kinds of food for the use of unbelievers also; but they deprive themselves of the legitimate use of them frequently, as in the present instance, from false and superstitious notions. It is only the faithful that use them properly; and it is for the faithful in a particular way, that all things were destined by God.

4. And among the truths which all the faithful should know is, this proposed by Moses in Genesis, that “God saw, that all things which he created were good,” and hence it follows, that no food deserves to be rejected, of its own nature, (such is the force of the Greek word, αποβλητον, corresponding with “to be rejected,”) but that all kinds of food should be received and used with thanksgiving. The second argument, then, is derived from the authority of God asserting that all things created by him were good.

5. Again, he says, that any injurious tendency which might be attached to food, owing to the power which, after man’s transgression, “Satan obtained over earthly things,” is removed, and this power, counteracted by the “word of God;” which either means the words taken from SS. Scripture, employed in the blessing of food; or faith, which comes from the word of God, and is the word believed. “And prayer,” which we offer to God to remove all injurious tendency from food. Hence, the custom of grace at meals so early as the day the Apostle, as also of exorcisms and benedictions of bread, wine, &c., to repress the power, which the demon has, of effecting evil, by means of material things.

In this entire passage there is no ground whatever for argument against the celibacy of the clergy, or the fasts of the Catholic Church. Surely, the Apostle does not mean to assert, that it is “the doctrine of devils,” to forbid marriage in certain instances, (v.g.) when the parties are bound by vows, or in case of other impediments; if so, he was himself the first to practise the doctrine of devils (chap. 5:2) Nor can he call the precept of abstaining from certain kinds of food, in some cases, the doctrine of demons; for so, would not God himself, in forbidding Adam to eat the fruit in Paradise, be guilty of sanctioning such a doctrine?

To what then does the Apostle refer? He refers to the errors broached by the ancient heretics, Ebion, Saturninus, the Encraticæ, the Marcionites, the Manichees, and the whole tribe of the early illuminati or Gnostics, who forbade marriage, and the use of certain food, wine, &c., as in se evil, and proceeding from an evil principle. That such doctrines were held by the heretics in question we have the authority of the ancient Fathers. This is asserted by St. Ignatius in his Epistle to the Philadelphians regarding the Ebionites; by St. Iræneus (Lib i. c. 22), and by Theodoret regarding Saturninus; by St. Chrysostom regarding the Encraticæ and Marcionites; by St. Augustine, St. Jerome, and St. Epiphanius regarding the Manichees. Such were the doctrines denounced by the Apostle as “the doctrines of devils.” The same is clear from the line of argument adopted by the Apostle in refutation of them. He maintains that every creature of God is in se good, and that nothing of itself deserves to be rejected (verse 4). The heretics, to whom he refers, must, therefore, have maintained the opposite. Do Catholics prohibit marriage as evil in itself? Certainly not. They maintain it to be, of itself, good, even one of the Seven Sacraments of the New Law. But, this would not warrant marriage in every case. The heretics themselves, who assail the Catholic discipline, would not allow marriage between persons within the prohibited degrees of kindred, nor between two persons, one of whom was already married; until lately, marriage was interdicted by them to the Fellows of Trinity College, and at this very moment, it is interdicted to policemen, until after certain terms of service; and still they would not have it said, that they are acting against the doctrine of the Apostle. How absurd and inconsistent, therefore, is their charge against the Church of God, on this score? Do Catholics, in forbidding certain meats on fast days, forbid them, as evil of themselves? Certainly not. It might as well be made a charge against a physician, who prohibits the use of certain meats to his patients, that he acts against the doctrine of the Apostle, as charge it upon the Catholic Church. She enjoins abstinence from certain meats and certain quantities of food, for spiritual reasons, as spiritual efficacious medicines, to cure the maladies of the soul; for, “there are certain devils, which can be cast out only by prayer and fasting.”

6. By expounding these things to your brethren, and cautioning them against the opposite errors, you will prove yourself a good minister of Christ, and show how well nurtured you had formerly been in “faith and doctrine,” i.e., in the knowledge of your practical duties. “Nourished,” may also mean, being nourished and supported by the constant reflection on faith, &c. (ver. 15). “Meditate on these things, &c.” The word “nourished,” εντρεφόμενος, being, in the Greek, a middle verb, may also have an active signification, thus: “bringing them up and forming them in the summary of your faith,” &c. The Greek word for “minister,” διάκονος, literally means, a deacon.

7. He probably alludes to the stories of the heretics, particularly of the Simonians, who, as we are informed by St. Epiphanius and Augustine, forged long and foolish tales, regarding the good and evil principles, the fight of the angels, &c.

8. Having alluded in the words, “exercise thyself,” to the athletic exercises of the gymnasium, so common among the Greeks, he shows the advantages of the spiritual gymnasium over the corporal, so much prized and practised amongst them. The corporal exercise has but a trifling temporary result; it produced bodily health and vigour, and gamed a mere corruptible crown, which lasted but a short time (1 Cor. 9); whereas, the spiritual gymnasium, i.e., piety, is useful for all things, for obtaining all sorts of blessings, temporal and spiritual, having annexed to it the promise of the goods of this life and of the life to come. “Seek first the kingdom of God and his justice, and all these things will be added unto you.”—(Matt. 6:33). And although men the most holy are, oftentimes, in this life visited with afflictions, they shall be fully compensated with a higher order of goods, (v.g.) patience, spiritual joy, &c., in this life, and eternal glory in the life to come.

9. He adds this on account of the importance of our keeping in mind the rewards attached to the service of God, as a stimulus for us to attend to our religious duties. We may fairly attribute our indifference and spiritual indolence to our forgetfulness of these exalted rewards.

10. In this verse, is found an argument similar to that in favour of the resurrection (1 Cor. 15) derived from the labours, perils and bad treatment which the Apostles endured. They submitted to all, because they hoped in the living God, who is Saviour of all men, whom he furnishes with the necessary means of salvation, but chiefly of the faithful, whom he furnishes with still more special and efficacious helps, and whose temporal wants he will not neglect, so far as they conduce to the great end of their eternal salvation. “We labour,” &c. In Greek, κα κοπιῶμεν καὶ ὀνειδιζόμεθα, we both labour and are reviled. Both, is wanting in the chief manuscripts.

11. He tells Timothy, to teach these things, regarding “the great mystery” (3:16), heresies, piety, &c., with the authority of a bishop; for, although young, he was still a bishop, and, therefore, vested with authority.

12. Timothy was a young prelate; hence, to conciliate the respect due to his station, the Apostle tells him to supply, by the gravity of his manners and the maturity of Episcopal virtue, what was wanting to his years. “Be an example of the faithful in word.” Let your words be grave and prudent. The words, “in conversation,” refer to his conduct and external intercourse with the people, which should be marked by sweetness and amiability. “In charity.” In the manifestation of your love of God and your neighbour. In the Greek are added here, the words, in the spirit, expressive of the fervour of God’s spirit working in him. These words are not in the chief Manuscripts, nor in the Fathers generally. “In faith,” … “in chastity.” Hence, Timothy must have led a single life; otherwise, how could he be the model of chastity to others? and the Greek word, ἁγνείᾳ, expresses chastity of the highest order, virginal chastity.

13. “Attend unto reading.” He refers to reading the SS. Scriptures, which St. Ambrose calls, Liber Sacerdotalis, and from which the Pastor of souls will derive matter for “exhortation and doctrine,” that is for private (“exhortation”) and public instruction. (“Doctrine.”)

14. “Neglect not the grace that is in thee,” &c. What this “grace” refers to is much controverted. Some, adhering to the meaning of the Greek word, γαρισμα, which means, a gratia gratis data, or a gratuitous gift, given for the benefit of others, and not necessarily supposing the sanctification of the subject on whom it is conferred, understand it of the Episcopal order conferred on him, and enabling him to exercise certain functions. Others understand it, of the gratuitous gift necessary for discharging the pastoral duties conferred on him at ordination, viz., the gift of teaching, exhorting, &c., which, although possessed by Timothy before his ordination, was still confirmed and increased at his consecration, when he also received sanctifying grace; and this is the gift which St. Paul tells Timothy to reduce to practice, by exhorting and teaching. It seems very likely, that “grace” means also, sanctifying grace of a specific kind, which, together with a right to actual graces, when necessary in due time, for the discharge of certain specific duties and the exercise of certain functions, is conferred in the sacraments. This sanctifying grace, joined to the actual graces referred to, is, what Divines call, sacramental grace, and to this St. Paul here refers; for, the Greek word in many places denotes, sanctifying grace, (v.g.) Rom. 5:15, 6:23. Sacramental grace, as it is called, is not, as a habit, really distinct from sanctifying grace in general. It is only a new intrinsic permanent modification, a special vigour superadded to sanctifying grace, which is also the principle of actual graces, to be conferred in due time and circumstances.—Billuart. “Which was given thee by prophecy, with the imposition,” &c., i.e., which was given thee, when, by divine revelation, the bishops, or priests of the first order, imposed hands on thee. That he refers to the bishops, is clear, because he says (2 Ep. 1:6), that he himself imposed hands on him, being the principal person employed in his consecration. The only ceremony which he refers to in the ordination of Timothy is the “imposition of hands;” because this was a ceremony common to many other things, and served to conceal the knowledge of the sacred mysteries and the arcana of the faith from the infidels.

16. “Attend to thyself and to doctrine.” A most useful exhortation for such as are engaged in the exalted duties of saving the souls of their brethren. While ministering to others, they may neglect their own sanctification, and while saving thousands of others, they should take care to escape damnation by attending to themselves. This all important work of self-sanctification, the Pastor of souls will promote most effectually by constant meditation on the great truths of eternity. In such meditation, the fire of divine charity, and a burning thirst for his own perfection, will spring forth. In truth, it is not too much to say, that without a proper attention to this holy exercise of mental prayer in some form, the salvation of a Pastor of souls is morally impossible; in other words, he will scarcely be saved without it. He will also promote his sanctification by securing for himself, through a filial devotion to the glorious Queen of Heaven, the powerful protection of this Most Chaste Virgin and Mother, in whom no one ever confided and was confounded. Memorare, O piissima Virgo Maria, &c. A Pastor desirous of his own sanctification, and that of his people, should never fail to recommend himself and them to the powerful protection of St. Joseph also. In all his necessities, he should have recourse to St. Joseph. “Ite ad Joseph.”—(Genesis, 41:55).

“Be earnest in them.” This is the one thing necessary for a Pastor of souls—his own sanctification and that of his people. This alone will form the subject matter of his judgment when he shall stand before the tribunal of Jesus Christ. He shall have to render a most rigorous account of the means he employed for securing the faith and piety of his people. The more exalted his station, the heavier, the judgment of neglect, judicium durissimum his qui præsunt. Woe to the Pastor of souls, if embarking in affairs that do not concern either the temporal preservation, or, the sanctification and salvation of his people, he selfishly becomes wholly engrossed in personal, secular matters, at variance with the perfection of his state and opposed to his sublime calling!








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