3 The apostle encourageth them against troubles, by the comforts and deliverances which God had given him, as in all his afflictions, 8 so particularly in his late danger in Asia. 12 And calling both his own conscience and theirs to witness of his sincere manner of preaching the immutable truth of the gospel, 15 he excuseth his not coming to them, as proceeding not of lightness, but of his lenity towards them.
AUL, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, unto the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints which are in all Achaia:
7 And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.
8 For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life:
Douay Rheims Version
He speaks of his troubles in Asia. His not coming to them was not out of levity. The constancy and sincerity of his doctrine.
AUL, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother: to the church of God that is at Corinth, with all the saints that are in all Achaia:
He consoles the Corinthians, whom in the First Epistle he had sharply rebuked, and absolves the excommunicated fornicator, who was now penitent. He then proceeds to treat of true repentence, of the dignity of the ministers of the New Testament, of the duty of avoiding the company of unbelievers, of patience, of almsgiving for the poor saints at Jerusalem, of the duty of rejecting the false Apostles who set themselves up as rivals to S. Paul among the Corinthians, and depreciated him, and rendered it necessary for him to sing his own praises in self-defence. Then he threatens some of the Corinthians who still refused to submit to his apostolic authority. The whole Epistle may be said to be a defence and laudation of his apostleship. The Greek MSS., the Syriac, and the Latin Complutensian have a note at the end that it was written at Philippi in Macedonia, and sent by Titus and Luke. Baronius, however, thinks that it was written at Nicopolis, A.D. 58, when the Apostle, after being forced to leave Ephesus, where he wrote his First Epistle, after the uproar raised by Demetrius, left Timothy as Bishop of Ephesus, and came to Troas; then, not finding Titus there, he proceeded into Macedonia, and from thence into Greece; thence he sailed by the Ægean Sea and touched at Crete, where he left Titus. At length he came to Greece again, to Nicopolis, where he had determined to winter (Tit. iii. 12). Cf. Baronius, vol. i. p. 575. It is likely that he wrote this Epistle there in quietness, but the point cannot be decided certainly; for S. Paul, while travelling up and down through Asia, might have gone to and returned from Philippi, and might have stayed there long enough to write it. S. Luke, as is well known, does not record all the stoppages or all the journeyings of the Apostle. Cf. Acts xx.
i. Paul shows, in order that he might console others, from what great tribulations in Asia the Lord had delivered him.
ii. He commends himself to the Corinthians (ver. 12), by a declaration of the sincerity of his heart and of his doctrine.
iii. He clears himself (ver. 17) from the charge of lightness and inconstancy induced by his not coming to them as he had promised, and at the same time affirms the sure and constant truth of his preaching.
Ver. 1.—Timothy our brother. That is our co-Apostle; so the Pope calls Bishops his brethren, a Bishop his canons, an abbot his monks.
Ver. 3.—The Father of mercies. A Hebraism for “most merciful.” See note to Rom. xv. 5.
S. Bernard says learnedly and piously (Serm. 5 de Natali.Dom.): “He is rightly called the Father of mercies, not the Father of judgments or vengeances, not only because it is more the nature of a father to pity than to be angry, even as a father pitieth his children that fear him, but rather because it is from Himself that He draws the cause and origin of His mercy, but from us, that is, from our sins, draws the cause and origin of His judgment and vengeance. But if it is because of this that He is the Father of mercy, why is He called the Father of mercies? The Apostle in one Word, in one Son, brings before us a double mercy in the words ‘Father of mercies,’ not merely Father of a single mercy, in speaking of the God not of comfort merely, but ‘of all comfort,’ who comforteth us, not in this or that tribulation, but in all. ‘Many are one mercies of the Lord,’ say a certain person, meaning that many are the tribulations of the righteous, and the Lord will deliver them out of all. There is one Son of God, one Word; but our manifold misery calls for, not only great pity, but a multitude of mercies. Perhaps, however, because of the double substance which is to be found in our human nature, both of which are miserable, the misery of man may not unsuitably be said to be twofold, although in both it be of manifold forms. Truly the tribulations of our body and soul are increased exceedingly, but He who saves man wholly rescues him from the troubles of both.”
Notice that S. Bernard seems to refer the phrase “Father of mercies” to the Son, and rightly enough, but it is not the intention of the Apostle to do so. S. Paul plainly means the same Person by “the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Father of mercies.”
Ver. 5.—For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth in Christ. “The sufferings of Christ” are, (1.) as S. Ambrose takes it, those which we suffer for Christ; (2.) such as Christ suffered; (3.) those which Christ regards as His own, in accordance with S. Matt. xxv. 40 and Acts ix. 4, as Œcumenius understands the words. Theophylact adds that the word “abound” is used to point to the fact that Christ suffered more in His members than in Himself. This is true by way of extension, but not in the way of intension. In S. Laurence Christ suffered the fire, in S. Stephen the stones, in Ignatius the wild beasts; but His suffering and sorrow in Himself were greater and more intense than what all these suffered. The meaning, therefore, is this, according to Theophylact: Do not be downcast whoever of you suffers from afflictions and various ills, because, however great your sufferings may be, so great is your consolation.
But here observe, (1.) as Theophylact does, that S. Paul does not merely say that the comfort equals the sufferings, but that it abounds and is greater than they are; and, therefore, whoever is afflicted may bear his troubles patiently, nay joyfully and gladly, and so may gain the victory over them. (2.) The sufferings of Christ have this characteristic, that Christ gives consolation in proportion to them, and the greater the suffering the greater the comfort. On the other hand the sufferings of the world are vinegar without honey, and as they increase, so do desolation and mourning and woe. (3.) It follows from this that the suffering of the Cross is not to be fled from but embraced, as the mother of so much Divine comfort and joy. So S. Andrew, Ignatius, Xavier embraced it, and prayed daily for the Cross, and would not be set free from it unless God would give them a heavier one.
Ver. 6—And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation. We suffer tribulations that we may consol and save you, and may animate you, by our patience and hope in God and His comfort, to bravely bear, as we do, afflictions on behalf of the faith. So Ambrose. Cf. Chrysostom (Hom. 1 de Spe et Fort. in Tentat. Serv.).
Which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings. This salvation, as the wished for end, produces patience. Others, as Theophylact, take it, “Salvation is wrought in patience.” Ambrose takes it to mean that patience is the meritorious cause of salvation, and that salvation, therefore, produces patience as its final cause, for the efficient and final causes have a mutual relation. Salvation, as the final cause, orders and works patience, and in turn patience, as the efficient cause, works out salvation. The meaning, then, is that your consolation and salvation alike effectually produce patience, our exhortation animates you to hope for salvation, and to bear bravely on its behalf whatever sufferings arise from obedience to the faith. My exhortation or consolation, therefore, works effectually endurance by stirring, you up to it; the salvation thence hoped for works endurance objectively. Just so the resolution to attain some end makes us lay hold of and employ means.
Ver. 8.—Which came to us in Asia. From the tumult raised by Demetrius, recorded in Acts xix. 29. So S. Thomas understands this passage, as do all other interpreters except Cajetan, who thinks that there is a reference here to some persecution not mentioned in Scripture.
We were pressed out of measure, above strength. Above the strength of nature, not of grace—more than the body could bear, not the mind; for by the help of grace Paul bore this tribulation undauntedly and overcame it. “God is faithful,” he says, in 1 Cor. x. 13, “who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able” to bear by the help of grace. Moreover, he does not say that he was tempted, but pressed or afflicted above his strength, inasmuch as the body is a heavy burden, though the soul preserve her fortitude, and fortitude overcome temptation.
Insomuch that we despaired even of life. Nature would have preferred death to suffering such afflictions. But there was no despair when the charity and grace of God were considered, by which Paul was enabled to bear any afflictions whatever in God’s service. This despair or weariness was felt by many saints. Cf. Job x. 1 and 1 Kings xix. 4. The Greek word denotes also anxiety and perplexity. Hence Chrysostom renders it, “We were in doubt,” and Vatablus as in the text. Hence follows (ver. 9), “But we had the answer of death in ourselves.” The Latin version gives tædium, or weariness.
Ver. 9.—But we had the sentence of death in ourselves. “But,” here, has the meaning of “moreover.” Nature and inclination presaged and expected nothing but death; and when I thought of the state of my life, my mind answered that I must die if God did not lend miraculous aid. So Ambrose and Theophylact.
The Greek word here rendered “sentence” means, (1.) answer. (2.) According to Photius, it denotes the crisis of an illness. The meaning, then, would be: We were so afflicted that our life was despaired of by nature and by experienced men, who, looking at our case as doctors might, judged it beyond recovery. (3.) It denotes sentence, as in the text. We seemed to have received our sentence, and to be destined accordingly to inevitable death.
Ver. 10.—Who delivered us from so great a death. “From so great dangers,” according to the Latin. The meaning is the same. Ambrose reads “from so great deaths.” The Hebrews are wont to apply the name of death to great dangers, violent persecutions, grief, and agony that are akin to death, and that seem to threaten a speedy death. So Chrysostom. Cf. Ps. xviii. 5, and 2 Cor xi. 23.
Ver. 11.—That by the means of many persons. Primasius reads this, “By a company of many persons,” that is, children, youths, and old men. S. Paul’s meaning is, that through many people in a great concourse of men, thanks may be publicly given to God for S. Paul’s deliverance and safe return, as the common father and Apostle of all.
For the gift bestowed upon us. That thanks may be given, says Vatablus, by many, on our behalf, for the gift of grace that was given to us. As gratitude demands that thanks be given, in proportion to the benefit bestowed, to the great Giver for our creation, redemption, justification, education, and growth, so also should thanks be given for the gift of deliverance.
Ver. 12.—For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience. “For” introduces the reason why the Corinthians should give thanks and pray for Paul. It is because he was their Apostle, who, with great grace and efficacy, preached to them the Gospel and converted them; and in proof of this he calls upon his own conscience and theirs.
Observe here the force and quiet that come from a good conscience. “No theatre,” says Cicero, “for virtue is so great as that of conscience.” Juvenal, too (Sat. xiii.), says. “The summit of happiness is to have a mind conscious of its own integrity.” S. Augustine again (contra Secund. Manich. c. i.) says: “Think of Augustine what you like, my conscience shall not be my accuser in the presence of God.” See notes to 1 Tim. i. 5.
Not with fleshly wisdom. I have not preached with human philosophy or eloquence, but with grace, zeal, efficacy, and the Holy Spirit.
Ver. 14.—We are your rejoicing, even as ye also are ours. We are the object of your rejoicing as your teachers; ye, as good disciples, are the object of our rejoicing; and this rejoicing will chiefly be seen in the day when the Lord will come to judge all men.
Ver. 15.—I was minded to come unto you before, that ye might have a second benefit. The first benefit was that of his First Epistle; his second would have been his visit to them in person. So Theophylact. Or else the first benefit was his first visit, when he converted them; his second would be his second visit, to confirm them in the faith.
Ver. 16.—And to pass by you into Macedonia. To pay them a flying visit, and then return from Macedonia to them again, so as to stay longer with them. This is what he means in 1 Cor. xvi. 5, where he says that he would come to them after he had passed through Macedonia. Here he adds further to this that he also wished to see them on his way to Macedonia. So the Greek Fathers harmonise the passages; but Lyranus and S. Thomas reconcile them differently, but not so probably.
Ver. 17.—When I therefore was thus minded, did I use lightness? That is, when I proposed to come to you and did not. The Greek word for lightness is derived from the word for a stag. In a like way we speak of the wisdom of the serpent, the innocence of the dove, the stubbornness of the ass, the headiness of the elephant.
Or the things that I purpose, do I purpose according to the flesh? S. Paul did not form his determinations relying on human prudence and lightness, which readily change men’s designs, through worldly advantage or convenience, or the influence of superiors, nay, through the mere fickleness and changeability of natural inclination. So Ambrose.
That with me there should be yea yea, and nay nay. I was not so unstable and purposeless as at one time to promise to come and at another to refuse, as boys often do. So Anselm.
Ver. 18.—But as God is true, our word toward you was not yea and nay. I call the true God to witness, who is a faithful and true witness, that in teaching you I did not deceive you, and, therefore, that it was not my intention to fail you when I promised to come to you.
This teaches the preacher to beware of lightness and fickleness of life, lest the people infer from it that the truth which he preaches is equally unfixed and uncertain.
Ver. 19.—For the Son of God . . . was not yea and nay, but in Him was yea. My preaching and teaching about Christ was not variable, inconstant, and contradictory, but was a constant, uniform statement, for I always said and taught the same of Christ.
Ver. 20.—For all the promises of God in Him are yea. All the promises of God in the Old Testament relating to the Messiah were constant and true, and have been fulfilled in Him.
1 The yea yea here, and in S. Matt. v. 47, have a threefold signification: (1.) constant asseveration, as opposed to inconstancy and deceit; (2.) truth or reality, as opposed to falsity or unreality; (3.) simple affirmation, as opposed to an oath. Cf. S. James v. 12.
And in Him Amen. “And therefore we say, Amen” is the Latin rendering; that is, we affirm that those promises were true. So Chrysostom and Ambrose. For further notes on “Amen,” see 1 Cor. xiv. 16.
Add to this that Amen is usually an adverb denoting truly, firmly, faithfully, and thence came to be the name of the abstract qualities of truth, firmness, and faithfulness. Cf. Isa. lxv. 16; Jer. xi 5; Isa. xxv. 1; Rev. iii. 14, vii. 12. The meaning, therefore, here is: Through Him, Christ, the Amen, i.e., truth, faithfulness, and constancy, we give glory to God, saying: All that God promised concerning Christ is Amen, i.e., most true, and has been most truly fulfilled by God.
Ver. 21.—Now He which stablished us. Some think that this is an ellipse, and we must understand the meaning to be, He which stablisheth us prevented, the execution of my purpose. But it is far better to refer these words, as others do, to what immediately precedes them. The promises of God have been fulfilled in Christ; but He who by His power and authority fulfils them is God Himself: as He promised, so in fact does He stablish us, anoint us, and seal us in Christ. In the third place, it would not be amiss to refer these words to what was said in ver. 18, “Our word toward you was not yea and nay.” In other words—I am not fickle and inconstant in my speech, my preaching, and promises. It is God who gives me this constancy, and therefore let no one think that I am arrogant enough to ascribe it to my own strength and fortitude, since I profess that I have it, not from myself but from God. As God in Himself and in His promises is yea, that is, is ever constant, firm, and unchangeable, so does He strengthen us, and make us firm and constant in the faith and in what we promise.
And hath anointed us in God, who also hath sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts. This seal, says Calvin, is that special Divine faith by which each has a certain knowledge that he is predestinated. But this seal is uncertain and unreliable, and this faith is false and foolish presumption. For the Apostle, who had as great faith as possible, fears reprobation in 1 Cor. iv. 27. His Divine faith, therefore, did not give him certain assurance of his predestination. Moreover, he frequently impresses on all the faithful that they carefully work out their own salvation with fear and trembling, and by so doing he takes from them all ground for assurance of their salvation. Add to this that no one is certain that he has this Divine faith, or that he will always have it; nay, many have fallen away from this faith of Calvin’s who before believed with him that they were of the number of the predestinate.
I say, then, 1. that God hath sealed means, He has confirmed His promises as though He had stamped them with His seal, by giving, according to them, as a pledge of our future inheritance, His grace, by which He has sealed and anointed us to be the sons of God, separated from the sons of the devil. So Chrysostom, Theodoret, Œcumenius. This seal is altogether certainly known to God, but to us is only a matter of probability. This establishing, anointing and sealing take place through one and the self-same grace. Similarly, in Eph. 1. 13 he says that we have been sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.
2. This passage may be referred to baptism; for (a) in baptism God anointed us with the oil of His grace; (b) He gave the earnest of the Spirit in the testimony of a good conscience; (c) He sealed us with the ‘character’ of baptism. Cf. Bellarmine (de Effectu. Sacr. lib. ii. c. 20). The exposition of Theophylact and Chrysostom is to be referred to this. They say: “He hath anointed us and sealed us to be prophets, priests, and kings.” Cf. Chrysostom (Hom. 3) on these words, who points out how Christians who govern their passions are kings anointed by God.
3. It is the best explanation which refers these words to the sacrament of Confirmation, which, in olden times, was received by all the faithful to strengthen them against persecution. S. Paul has expressly distinguished, “He hath established us,” “He hath given the earnest of the Spirit,“. “hath anointed us,” “hath sealed us.” But these four things cannot be distinguished anywhere save in the sacrament of Confirmation.
These words point to four effects of the sacrament of Confirmation: (1.) The gift of faith, by which we are strengthened in Christ. Hence, as was said in ver. 18, S. Paul’s faithful preaching of Christ was firm and constant, because God had strengthened him for it in Christ by means of the sacrament of Confirmation, i.e., through Christ and His merits. (2.) The second effect is the grace of charity, with which we are abundantly anointed, as with a spiritual chrism. The Greek, indeed, for anointed is the very word whence come “Christ” and “Christians,” so that “Christians” are “the anointed ones.” Hence S. Augustine (Serm. 342) says: “The word ‘Christ’ is from chrism, i.e., anointing. Every Christian, therefore, is sanctified, in order that he may understand that he not only is made a partaker of the priestly and royal dignity, but also an adversary of the devil.” (3.) The third fruit is the earnest of the Spirit, which is the testimony of a good conscience given by the Holy Spirit, and which is as the earnest of the future glory promised, and to be given by the Holy Spirit. For the sense in which the Holy Spirit is the pledge or earnest, see notes to Eph. i. 14. (4.) The fourth fruit is the seal and sign of the Cross on the forehead, signifying the “character” imprinted on the soul, by which we are sealed as His servants, or rather His soldiers and leaders. Cf. Ambrose (de his qui Mysteriis Initiantur, c. vii.), Suarez (pt. iii. qu. 63, art. 1 and 4).
Ver. 23.—Moreover, I call God for a record upon my soul. From this it is lawful for a Christian to take an oath, says S. Augustine (qu. 5, inter. 83); for the Apostle here takes an oath, and that one of execration. If I lie, he says, may God be my judge and condemn my soul.
That to spare you I came not as yet unto Corinth. Lest I should be forced to exert my apostolic authority against the vices of the offenders among you: it was to spare you from being grieved by my coming to correct you. So Anselm. Cf. also chap. ii. 1. S. Paul here gives the real reason why he had not kept his promise, or his purpose of visiting Corinth, which was that the Corinthians had not yet given up the vices of which he had admonished them in his First Epistle, and deserved therefore to be rebuked still more sharply and punished. But he deals gently with them, and by his absence he wished tacitly, and by his Epistle openly to remind them once more of their duty, and so correct them with gentleness.
Let prelates learn from this not to be ever chiding and rebuking those under them for their faults, lest they make them hard and callous. And more than this, the faults of some people, especially those that are more high-minded and sensitive, are more effectually corrected if they are pointed out patiently and indirectly than if they are rebuked openly, or actually visited with punishment. Cf. S. Gregory (Pastor. pt, iii. c. 8 and 9).
As yet. That is, after his first visit, or after the First Epistle.
Ver. 24.—Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy. This is a well-known rhetorical figure of speech, by which he tones down what had been said before of his power. He means: I said that 1 was unwilling to punish, and wished you of your own accord to correct yourselves; but I said this not from love of power, or as though I wished to act arbitrarily, but to improve you, that when you were so corrected you might rejoice both on earth and in heaven. This rebuke of mine, therefore, is not so much a rebuke as a support and help to your joy. So Anselm.
For by faith ye stand. “Which,” says S. Anselm, “works by love and is not forced by dominion.” In your faith I have nothing to correct, but only in your actions; and, since you are of the faithful, I will not imperiously scold you, but gently admonish you by this letter, that so you may all rejoice with me. Since you are of the faith, I have little doubt but that you will at once listen to my admonitions.
1 Having showed the reason why he came not to them, 6 he requireth them to forgive and to comfort that excommunicated person, 10 even as himself also upon his true repentance had forgiven him, 12 declaring withal why he departed from Troas to Macedonia, 14 and the happy success which God gave k his preaching in all places.
UT I determined this with myself, that I would not come again to you in heaviness.
Douay Rheims Version
He grants a pardon to the incestuous man upon his doing penance.
UT I determined this with myself, to come to you again in sorrow.
i. He declares that he had not come to them through fear of causing sadness to himself and to them.
ii. He exhorts them (ver. 6) to re-admit the fornicator, on his repentance, who had been excommunicated by him (1 Cor. v.), and (ver. 10) he absolves him from the sentence of excommunication and from his penance.
iii. He tells them (ver. 14) that he sheds everywhere a good odour of Christ, which is life to the good and faithful, and death to the evil and unbelieving.
Ver. 1.—But I determined this with myself. I determined not to come to you from a desire to spare you. Cf. chap. 1. 23.
Ver. 2.—For if I make you sorry. Although I made you sorry by rebuking you in my First Epistle, yet I am now made glad with you in seeing the repentance and sorrow, both of yourselves and the fornicator. The “for if” is not causal but explanatory.
Who is he then that maketh me glad, but the same which is made sorry by me? He who is grieved and made penitent by my reproof is the one who most makes me glad, i.e., the incestuous person whom I excommunicated (1 Cor. i. 5).
Ver. 3.—Lest when I came I should have sorrow. I wished by sending you a letter first to rebuke and correct your evil ways, lest I should be forced to do so in person, which would be very painful to me.
Having confidence in you all. I had complete confidence that you would at once take away whatever might displease me, because you regard my joy as yours, and my grief therefore as yours also. I knew, therefore, that what displeased me would displease you. S. Paul says ail this to prepare the Corinthians for his arrival, and to induce them to amend themselves, lest he should be deeply grieved at seeing them not yet amended.
Ver. 5.—He hath not grieved me. The fornicator did not grieve me only.
But in part. He grieved, says Anselm, many other good men as well as me; those, viz., who banished from their society with ignominy the man that I had already excommunicated.
That I may not overcharge you all. Overcharge you by putting on you the suspicion that there are not many who are grieved on account of the incestuous person. In the First Epistle (v. 2) he seems to have charged them all with consenting to, or with treating lightly, the sin of incest.
Ver. 6.—Sufficient to such a man is this punishment. The public separation and shame of excommunication. Hence it follows that the man repented after his excommunication, and is here absolved by the Apostle.
Ver. 7.—So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him. Forgive him the rest of his term of penance by admitting him to your fellowship again. Cf. ver. 10.
Ver.8.—That ye would confirm your love toward him. By declaring in public assembly of the Church that you once more embrace him as a brother. There is an allusion in the Greek verb to the fixed days of assembly for legal trials or elections, and the Apostle therefore alludes to the fixed days of assembly in the Church, and bids the Corinthians confirm their love then toward the incestuous person by re-admitting him.
Ver. 9.—For to this end also did I write. Viz., this Epistle, to the end that I might induce you to confirm your love toward him.
That I might know the proof of you. A proof of your obedience.
Ver. 10.—To whom ye forgive anything, I forgive also. You have asked through Titus that he may be forgiven, and I make the same request of you. So Theodoret explains these words. Cf. also chap. vii. 7. It is clear from ver. 7 that this forgiveness had not yet taken place, and the meaning therefore is: As, when you were gathered together and my spirit I excommunicated him (1 Cor. v.), so now do I join with you in forgiving him, as you will forgive him at my exhortation.
Observe against Luther that this Epistle was written to the rulers of the Church, or rather to the Church itself, that it might exercise this power of absolving, not corporately, but by the prelates. Yet out of courtesy he wishes even the laity to co-operate in the absolution, and by their consent, prayers, desire, and compassion to forgive this scandal which had been given to them and the Church, and to remit the due canonical penance or punishment. Cf. 1 Cor. v. 4. Hence he goes on to say, “For your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ.” S. Paul here asserts that he forgave in the exercise of his power and jurisdiction as the vicar of Christ; and he orders his sentence to be publicly proclaimed in the Corinthian Church, by the bishop or some other officer, and implies that the Corinthians forgave merely through their prayers, consent, and execution of the sentence of absolution. S. Chrysostom lays this down clearly when he says: “As when he ordered the man to be cut off he did not allow that with them was any authority to forgive, since he said, ‘I have judged to deliver such an one to Satan,’ so again did he admit them into partnership with him when he said, ‘When ye are gathered together to deliver him.’ He was aiming at two ends, one that the sentence might be passed, and the other that it should not be carried out without them, lest he should seem to do them an injury by so acting. Neither does he pass sentence alone, lest the Apostle should seem to be isolated and to despise them.”
If I forgave anything, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ. I forgave it, i.e., I determined to forgive it (ver. 7), and now by this letter and by the bearer, whether Titus or some other, I forgive it. This is a Hebraism, by which the past is put for the present.
It may be asked, What was it that the Apostle forgave? I reply 1. that this forgiveness consisted in giving absolution from excommunication, and at the same time, or rather still more, in giving full indulgence for the incest, i.e., remission of all the penalty due because of it. It is evident from 1 Cor. v. that the punishment inflicted was excommunication, and with it the penalty of ignominious exclusion from the Church, and the handing over of his body to be afflicted by Satan. Here, however, he absolves him from every chain by which he had been bound.
2. To forgive, properly speaking, refers to guilt or punishment. Of excommunication alone is it strictly said, “I absolve.”
3. He re-admits him to grace, both on account of the zeal of the Corinthians and the contrition of the incestuous person, and relaxes his punishment and shame and rebuke, lest from too much sorrow he should despair. This indulgence is referred to by the word anything. Whatever part of the punishment you have asked may be forgiven him, I forgive him.
4. He remits the punishment not merely, as Calvin thinks, before the Church, but in God’s judgment: this is expressed by the phrase in the person of Christ, otherwise there would not have been any indulgence or mercy shown here to the fornicator. It is better to be visited on earth with infamy and corporal punishment than before he tribunal of God to be handed over to the fire, either of purgatory of hell.
Hence S. Thomas and others rightly lay down that the Apostle and the Church give indulgences. So, in olden times, martyrs, when in prison, sent to the Bishops men who had lapsed, praying them to relax their punishment, as appears from Tertullian (ad Martyr. c. 1), Cyprian (Epp. 11, 21, 22); and the Council of Nice (c. xi. and xii.) grants to those that have lapsed that, according to the willingness with which they bore the punishment inflicted on them, might the Bishop give indulgence. Cf. Baronius, vol. i. p. 592. Observe that the reason for giving indulgence was the fear that the penitent might despair. Hence, formerly, indulgence was not given unless a good part of the penalty had been paid, and that lest the vigour of discipline and of satisfaction, which is the third part of repentance, should be relaxed. Cf. S. Cyprian (ad Martyr. lib. iii. Epp. 6). The Council Trent (sess. xxv.), in its decree on indulgences, orders that moderation should be shown in giving indulgences, according to the ancient practice of the Church, lest ecclesiastical discipline should, by excessive leniency, be rendered lax.
If I forgave anything. He speaks modestly of his generosity. Hence he adds that he did it in the Person of Christ.
In the person of Christ. This may be understood (1.) in the presence of Christ. So Theodoret and Vatablus. This rendering is eagerly adopted by Calvin and Beza, and read as if it meant, I forgive him ex animo, really and not feignedly. (2.) Properly it means, “I forgive him by the authority of Christ entrusted to me, who said, ‘Whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.’” So Theophylact renders it: “I forgive him just as if Christ had forgiven him: just as a regent acts with the authority of a king, and orders, passes laws, and pardons in his stead.” As S. Paul, in 1 Cor. v., had excommunicated the fornicator in the name of Christ, so here, by the same authority, he sets him free, just as any one who might have been condemned by the regent could not be pardoned but by the regent himself.
Ver. 11.—Lest Satan should get an advantage over us. Lest we be deceived, and lest that fornicator be, by excessive severity, driven by Satan to despair. The Greek verb means, lest we be seized unjustly, and taken possession of by Satan, just as misers, usurers, and tyrants defraud, and rob, and oppress. Hence Ambrose renders it, “Lest we be possessed by Satan.” For, as Theophylact says, when Satan catches and deceives souls, he does not seize what is his own but what is ours and Christ’s. Hence Tertullian (de Pudicit. c. xiii.) reads for the following clause: “We are not ignorant of his devices,” “We are not ignorant of his robberies.”
For we are not ignorant of his devices. Plutarch relates an excellent saying of Chabrias, that “he is the best commander who knows intimately the plans of the enemy.” In like manner he is the best Christian soldier and captain who knows thoroughly the devices and machinations of Satan. He transforms himself into an angel of light, that that which is a suggestion of our enemy the devil may seem to be the counsel of a friendly angel. We often experience suggestions of evil surmisings, bitterness of soul, anger, moroseness, cowardice, and we think that we are moved by some good cause and by reason, and that these things come forth from our own minds, when all the time they proceed from the devil, who suggests them to our ruin. The Christian, therefore, should, in such cases, reflect whether these suggestions are in accordance with charity, humility, patience, grace, and the law of Christ, and if he finds them to be opposed, let him be sure that they are of the devil: if he is in doubt, let him take counsel with his confessor, his superior, or some prudent man. S. Anthony, by long experience, learnt this and taught it: he was in the habit of constantly laying bare and explaining to his disciples, the arts and devices of the devil, and of pointing out the way to defeat them, as we read in the life of him by Athanasius. S. Francis, too, frequently did the same thing, and so freed many of his followers from the devil’s temptations, as S. Bonaventura relates (Visa, lib. i. c. 11).
In this way, then, Satan was instigating the leaders of the Corinthian Church to show anger and indignation against this fornicator for having so foully stained the first purity of his Church, to the end that, being deprived of all comfort and hope, he might lose all heart and become desperate. Paul saw through this intent of Satan, and here exposes it, and bids them receive the fornicator once more into grace, and give him, on his penitence, pardon and remission.
Vers. 12, 13.—Furthermore, when I came to Troas . . . I had no rest in my spirit, because I found not Titus my brother. S. Jerome (ad Hedibiam) says that Titus was S. Paul’s interpreter, and explained the sublime truths taught by him in Greek worthy of the subject. There was, too, another reason why Paul went to Troas to meet Titus, viz., that he was anxious to hear from Titus, whom he had sent to Corinth, the state of the Church there, before he himself fulfilled his promise of returning thither. Hence, in chap. vii. 6, he says that he had been comforted in Macedonia by the arrival of Titus, who brought him word of the sorrow of the Corinthians and of their desire to see him. Titus, however, seems to have reported to Paul that the time was not yet ripe for his return to Corinth. Paul, therefore, postponed his visit to Corinth, and sent on this letter to pave the way for him, to and correct the failings of the Corinthians.
Ver. 14.—Now thanks be unto God which always causeth us to triumph in Christ. The Syriac and Theophylact render this “triumphs in us,” i.e., makes us conspicuous to all. A triumph is the procession of a victorious commander through the midst of the city with his trophies and other signs of victory. But those things which seem to us to be suffering and shame are our glory and triumph, says Theophylact. Secondly, Anselm understands it of God triumphing over the devil in us or through us. Cf. Col. ii. 15.
The Apostle seems to have had to bear sharp persecution in Macedonia, and, indeed, in vii. 5 he says that he had suffered there every kind of tribulation: without were fightings, within were fears; but God’s grace gloriously and triumphantly overcame them all. S. Jerome (Ep. 150 ad Hedibiam, qu. xi.) says beautifully that the Apostle here gives thanks to God for counting him worthy to be the subject of the triumph of His Son over so many persecutions and evils, which he underwent in his task of converting the Gentiles to Christ. “For the triumph of God,” says S. Jerome, “is the suffering of the martyrs for the name of Christ, the shedding of their blood, and their joy in the midst of torture. For when anyone saw the martyrs stand firm, and so perseveringly endure tortures, and glory in their sufferings, the odour of the Knowledge of Christ was shed abroad among the Gentiles, and the half unconscious thought would arise that if the Gospel were not true it would never be proof against death.” The preaching of the Gospel therefore triumphs in the Apostles, inasmuch as in it faith overcomes unbelief, truth falsehood, the love of Christ the hatred of the scornful, patience every kind of suffering and persecution, and even death itself.
Ver.15.—We are unto God a sweet savour of Christ. Or, according to the Latin, a sweet odour. We scatter by word and example a good report of Christ to the honour of God. A good odour is exhaled from special kinds of herbs and such things as sweet spices. Such was the fame of the Apostles and of their preaching, such was the glory and honour that sprang from their virtues and was due to their merits. Hence the bride, i.e., the Church, in Cant. vii. 1, compares herself to a garden of sweet spices in which there is to be seen the beauty, pleasantness, and fair order of the growing herbs and sweetly scented flowers which exhale their delicious fragrance. This is what Christ orders in S. Matt. v. i6, where by another metaphor glory and good name are called the splendour that flows forth from the light of good works.
S. Bernard (Serm. xii. in Cantic.) says excellently: “Paul was a chosen vessel, truly a sweet-smelling vessel, filled with pleasant odours and with every fair colour for the painter, for he was a good odour of Christ in every place. Truly, far and wide was the fragrance of his abundant sweetness scattered from that breast which so anxiously and for all the Churches. For see what spices and aromas he had stored up within: ‘I die daily,’ he says, ‘for your glory,’ and, ‘Who is weak and am I not weak?’”
Observe again that, as the more spices are crushed the greater is the fragrance they exhale, so is it with Christ, His Apostles and Martyrs, and all the Saints: the greater the persecutions and tribulations that pressed them and, as it were, crushed them, the sweeter was the odour that their virtue gave forth.
Cf. Ambrose and Anselm, and S. Bernard (Serm. 71 in Cantic.), who discourses of the spiritual colour and odour of virtues from the text, “I am the Rose of Sharon and the Lily of the valley.” He says: “The character has its colours and its odours; odour in the good report it bears, colour in the conscience within. The good intention of your heart gives its colour to your work; the example of your modesty and virtue gives it its odour. The righteous is in himself a fair lily, to his neighbour he is full of sweet odours. To our neighbour we owe it that we maintain a good reputation, to ourselves that we are careful to have a conscience void of offence.” S. Jerome also, alluding to the same passage, says: “The life and conversation of a Bishop, pastor, or teacher ought to be such that all his goings out and comings in, and all his works should be redolent of heavenly grace.”
Heathen writers also employ this image of odour in rebuking evil livers. Martial, e.g., says that “he smells not sweet who always smells sweet,” implying that that man’s chastity was to be suspected who was always endeavouring to overwhelm the foulness of his own shameful disease by some artificial scent. Certainly we read of the virgin Catherine of Sienna, that she was wont to close her nostrils when she met any one that was impure, as though the smell of his wickedness was grievous to her, God giving this most chaste virgin perception of such things. S. Basil (Ep. 175) relates that some bird-catchers were wont to dip the wings of tame doves in some sweet liquid which was pleasant to other doves, so as to allure them and catch them. So must the Christian do: by the sweet odour of his virtues he must allure the lost and bring them to Christ. So did the virgin Cecilia win to Christ her spouse Valerianus, by causing him, on the first night of their marriage life, to smell the most fragrant odour of her chastity, as though it were the scent of spring roses.
Ver. 16.—To the one we are the savour of death unto death, and to the other the savour of life unto life.” “We are,” says Theophylact, “a royal censer, and wherever we go we carry with us the odour of the spiritual ointment, i.e., in every place we scatter the good fumes of the knowledge of God.” Again says Œcumenius: “As the fragrance of ointment nourishes the dove and destroys the beetle, and as the light of the sun gladdens the eyes that are healthy and hurts those that are weak, as fire purifies gold and destroys straw, so is Christ ruin to the evil, resurrection to the good.” Observe the Hebraism, an odour of death unto death, i.e., a deadly odour bringing death. The fragrance of the fame of the life, preaching, and conversion of the Apostles breathed life into the good, death into the evil; for the wicked, unable to bear the splendour of such holiness, hardened themselves the more in their wickedness, envy, or hatred. But Clement of Alexandria (Pæd. lib. ii.) reads, “odour from death” and “odour from life,” which means: The preaching of the Cross and death of Christ is an odour to the unbelievers arising from the death of Christ, and tends to the ruin of those who regard that death merely as a death, and find it accordingly foolishness or a stumbling-block: but to them that believe it is an odour from life, inasmuch as they embrace the life offered to them in this death. For the death of Christ was the cause of his resurrection to a glorious life, and in us it is the cause of our resurrection to the life of grace in this world, and the life of glory in the world to come.
And who is sufficient for these things? The ministers, says Ambrose, who are in every place a good odour of Christ are as few as they are insufficient.
Ver. 17.—For we are not as many which corrupt the word of God. The particle for denotes that Paul, with the few other Apostles, was by God’s grace a fitting minister of Christ, and scattered wherever he went the good odour of the Gospel, while many others were unfitting preachers of the Gospel, of evil odour and of bad report
The Latin for corrupt is “adulterate,” which, Salmeron says, denotes the act of one who has connection with a woman that is not his wife; so does he who mingles truth and falsehood adulterate the word of God. S. Gregory (Morals, lib. xxii. c. 12) says: ‘To adulterate the word of God is either to think of it otherwise than it is, or to seek from it, not spiritual fruit but the corrupt offspring of human praise. To speak in sincerity is to say nothing but what one ought, i.e., to seek always the glory of the Creator.” Again (Morals, lib. xvi. c. 2 5) he says: “An adulterer seeks not offspring but carnal delight; and whoever perversely serves vain-glory is rightly said to adulterate the word of God, because it is not his aim to beget children to God by sacred eloquence but to display his own knowledge. Whosoever therefore is drawn to speak by the desire of vain-glory spends his labour rather on pleasure than generation.”
But the Greek word used here is not the word for committing adultery, but one that denotes to traffic as an inn-keeper, and S. Paul contrasts with this sincere dealing. They make the word of God a matter of traffic, who, like inn-keepers, preach the Gospel for gain, and look at it entirely from the point of view of their own profit. Still the Latin accurately translates the passage, because, as inn-keepers often adulterate the wine that they sell to increase their profits, so do greedy and false preachers of the Gospel mingle with it their own gain, and so adulterate that Gospel which should be pure, and be purely referred to God’s glory. “War is not a matter of traffic,” said King Pyrrhus, “but of fighting.” Cowardly captains, from dread of battle, stave it off by payment of money; others sell the loyalty they owe to their leader, and, like inn-keepers, arrange with the enemy the price of the cities and fortresses entrusted to their charge.
Again, these same false preachers, in order to add to their gain and to win the applause of men, often teach and preach what they see is pleasing to great men or to the people, and tickle their ears, and so corrupt the Gospel with false and empty doctrines. The Apostle seems to be here censuring incidentally his enemies the false Apostles, who were adulterating Christianity with Judaism, and who are severely reproved by him in chaps. x. and xi. Hence, in chap. iv. 2, he explains “corrupt” to mean “handle the word of God deceitfully,” and he contrasts himself and other sincere teachers of the Gospel with these deceitful dealers in chap. iii.
But as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ. I am not an inn-keeper, as are the false apostles, but a sincere preacher of the word of God, preaching nothing but what I have learned from God and have received at His mouth as His ambassador. I know too, and constantly keep in mind and reflect that I stand and preach in the presence of God, and that all that I do or say is noted by Him and will have to be accounted for by me in the hour of death.
In Christ, says S. Jerome (ad Hedibiam), is the same as for Christ; or it may mean “of Christ and His religion.” The sense then is: I preach the doctrine of Christ alone, I spread the honour and glory of Christ alone. Or in Christ may again be taken to mean that he speaks and preaches in the truth, faithfulness, and sincerity of Christ. S. Chrysostom once more takes it to mean through Christ and His grace.
1 Lest their false teachers should charge him with vainglory, he sheweth the faith and graces of the Corinthians to be a sufficient commendation of his ministry. 6 Whereupon entering a comparison between the ministers of the law and of the gospel, 12 he proveth that his ministry is so far the more excellent, as the gospel of life and Liberty is more glorious than the law of commendation.
O we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you?
Douay Rheims Version
He needs no commendatory letters. The glory of the ministry of the New Testament.
O we begin again to commend ourselves? Or do we need (as some do) epistles of commendation to you, or from you?
13. And not as Moses put a veil upon his face, that the children of Israel might not steadfastly look on the face of that which is made void.
14. But their senses were made dull. For, until this present day, the selfsame veil, in the reading of the old testament, remaineth not taken away (because in Christ it is made void).
i. Paul asserts that he does not seek or need the praise of men, as the Judaising false apostles sought it: the fruit of his preaching is, he says, sufficient commendation.
ii. He states (ver. 6) the cause of this to be that the Apostles and other ministers of the New Testament and of the Spirit were adorned by more honour and glory than were Moses and the other ministers of the Old Testament and of the letter.
iii. He points out (ver. 13) that the Jews have still a veil over their heart in reading the Old Testament, and so do not see Christ in it; but that they will see Him when this veil shall be taken away by Christ at end of the world.
Ver. 1.—Do we begin again to commend ourselves? At the end of the Apostle had seemed to praise himself and seek the favour of the Corinthians, hence he meets here any suspicion of vain glory.
Or need we . . . epistles of commendation to you . . . or from you? ie., written by you to commend me to others.
Ver. 2.—Ye are our epistle. You, 0 Corinthians, converted by my efforts, are to me like an epistle of commendation read and understood by all, which I can show as my credentials to whom I like. As the work recommends the workman, and the seal faithfully is represented by its image, so do you commend me as though you were a commendatory letter, sealed by yourselves. For all know what you were before your conversion—drunken, gluttonous, given up to impurity and other evil lusts. Corinth was then an emporium, as famous for its vices as its wares. But now all men see that you have been completely changed, through my preaching, into different men—temperate, chaste, meek, humble, devout, liberal. This your conversion, therefore, is my commendatory letter, i.e., the public testimony of my preaching before all people.
Written in our hearts. You have been converted by me, and indelibly written and engraven on my heart. This “epistle” was twice written by S. Paul. (1.) He wrote it actually when he instilled into the mind of the Corinthians the faith and Spirit of Christ. (2.) He wrote it and imprinted it on his own heart by his care and love of them. (3.) Christ again was inscribed on their hearts by Paul’s ministry, as if by a pen; and Christ, Himself, by Paul’s preaching, imprinted on them his faith, hope, charity, and other graces, not with ink, but by the inspiration of the Spirit of the living God, who filled their hearts with charity and all virtues.
Ver. 3.—In fleshy tables of the heart. Not in hard stone, as was the law of Moses, but in a heart tender, soft, and teachable. There is an allusion to Jer. xxxi. 33. The Apostle, we should notice, makes a distinction between σάρκινος, used here, and οαρκικός: the first denotes the natural condition of flesh—its softness, &c.; the other that which has the vices and corruptions of flesh. Cf. Rom. vii. 14 and 1 Cor. iii. 3. Other writers, however, do not observe this distinction. Nazianzen, e.g., applies the latter of these terms to the incarnation and manhood of Christ.
Ver. 4.—And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward. The Greek word used here, denotes that confident conviction which makes the mind strive to attain some difficult end that it longs for, as though it were certain of success. Such is the confidence which is inspired into the Saints by the Holy Spirit enabling them to work miracles or other heroic works of virtue. This confidence God is wont to demand as a fitting disposition, and to give beforehand, both in him who performs and in him who receives the benefit of the miracle or other Divine gift, in order that the soul may, by this gift, expand and exalt itself, and become capable of receiving Divine power. S. Paul says in effect. “This confident persuasion that you are our epistle, written by the Spirit of the living God, we have before God through the grace of Christ; we have hope and sure confidence in God that, as He has begun, so will He finish this epistle by His Spirit.” In the second place this trust is the confidence S. Paul had before God, which enabled him to glory confidently in God of this epistle of his and of God, and of the dignity of his ministry, and of its fruit, when compared with the ministry of Moses and of other Old Testament ministers.
Ver. 5.—Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves. To think anything that is good and is ordained to faith, grace, merit, and eternal salvation, so as to make a man an able minister of the New Testament. But if no one is able to think any such thing, he is still less able to do it. Cf. Council of Arausica (can. 7) and S. Augustine (de Prædest. Sanct. c. ii.).
1. From this passage S. Augustine lays down, in opposition to the semi-Pelagians, in which he is followed by the Schoolmen, that the will to believe and the beginning of faith and salvation, and every desire for it, come, not from free-will but from prevenient grace. Hence Beza wrongly charges the Schoolmen with teaching that the beginning of good is from ourselves, though weakly and insufficiently; for they all alike teach that the beginning of a good and holy life, of good thoughts and actions, and salvation in general is supernatural, and has its origin in the grace of God, not in nature or the goodness of our will.
2. Calvin is mistaken in inferring from this passage that there is no power in free-will which may be exerted in the works of grace, but that the whole strength and every attempt and act spring from grace. The Apostle says only that free-will is in itself insufficient, not that it has no power whatever. Just as an infirm man has a certain amount of strength, but not enough for walking, and has enough for walking if any one else help him, and give him a start and support, so too free-will is of itself insufficient for good works, but is sufficient if it be urged on, strengthened, and helped by prevenient grace.
It may be said that the sufficiency Paul speaks of here may be, as Theophylact and the Syriac render it, power, strength, or might. I answer that this is true; for the power and strength of free-will for a supernatural work, and of grace, which makes it supernatural, pleasing, to God, and worthy and meritorious of eternal life, are not from free-will, but from exciting and co-operating grace. When free-will has this, it is sufficiently able to believe freely, to love, and to work any supernatural work whatever. For free-will has for every work natural strength able to produce a free work; therefore these two causes concur here in the same work, one natural, viz., free-will, the other supernatural, viz., grace. Each, too, has its corresponding effect: the effect of grace is that it is a supernatural work, of free-will that it is free and the work of man. In the same way an infirm man is not only not strong enough, but wholly unable to walk, because it is a task beyond his strength; but he becomes able if he is given strength by a friend, or from some other source, and then he unites his own strength, however little it be, with that lent to him, and is able to walk. Still the strength that comes from without has to start him and begin his walking, and the whole force and energy with which he walks is to be found in the strength that is given him. That he tries to walk beyond his strength is not from himself but from without; but when it is once given, he puts forth his own strength and co-operates with it, and produces an effect commensurate to his efforts. In the same way free-will co-operates with exciting grace, and acts as a companion to it in every super- natural work in such way as its strength enables it.
We learn from this passage to recognise in every good work our own weakness, and to ascribe to Christ’s grace all the goodness and worth of what we do. S. Gregory (Morals, lib. xxii. c. 19), says: “Let no one think himself to have any virtue, even when he can do anything successfully; for if he be abandoned by the strength that cometh from above he will be suddenly overthrown helplessly on the very ground where he was boasting of his firm standing.” S. Augustine (contra Julian, lib. ii. c. 8) commends the refutation of the Pelagians by S. Cyprian in the words: “They trust in their strength and exclaim that the perfection of their virtue is from themselves; but you, 0 Cyprian, reply that no one in his own strength is strong, but is safe only under the merciful indulgence of God.” The Psalmist, too, says the same thing (Ps. lix. 9): “My strength will I guard unto Thee,” meaning that he would lay it up in safety under his ward, hoping to over-come his enemies in God’s strength and not in his own, because God is the Fount of all virtue and strength. Cf. Ezek. xxix. 3, 5, where Pharaoh is forewarned of his fate for ascribing his power and success to himself.
Again, this passage teaches us to pray to God constantly that He would direct our thoughts, and inspire us with heavenly thoughts and desires, for such are the fount and beginning of all good works. This is beautifully expressed in the Collect for the Ninth Sunday after Trinity. S.Bernard (Serm. 32 in Cantic.) says learnedly and piously: “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything good as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God. When, therefore, we find evil thoughts in our heart, they are our own; if we find a good thought, it is the word of God: Our heart utters the former and hears the latter. ‘I will hear,’ it says, ‘what the Lord God will say in me, for He shall speak peace to His people.’ So, then, he speaks in us peace, righteousness, godliness; we do not think such things of ourselves, but we hear them within ourselves; but murders, adulteties, thefts, blasphemies, and such things proceed from the heart: we do not hear them, we say them,” or at all events they are suggested to us by the devil.
Ver. 6.—Not of the letter but of the spirit. Not of the law, but of grace. I am a minister of the New Testament, but not in such a way that I bring tables of the law and of the covenant and its words, as did Moses in the Old Testament, but so that God may by my words inspire into you heavenly thoughts and desires. Cf. Augustine. (de Spirit. et Lit. c. iii.).
For the letter killeth. (1.) Chrysostom, Ambrose, Augustine (de Doctr. Christ. lib. iii. c. 4) explain this to be that the letter of the law convicts and condemns them to death who do not obey this letter, i.e., the precepts of the law relating to righteousness and charity. For this letter of the law enacts that whosoever breaketh the law is to die the death. (2.) S. Augustine gives another explanation. If you abuse the literal meaning, and neglect the sense of Scripture, and fall into error, as Jews and heretics do, then the letter killeth. (3.) When metaphorical sayings are taken literally (S. Augustine, ibid. c. v., vi.). (4.) When types of the new law contained in the old are understood to be still binding in their literal meaning (ibid. Cf. also Origen, contra Celsum, lib. iii.; Didymus, de Spirit. Sanct. lib. iii.). The Fathers in general frequently say that the letter, i.e., the literal meaning of the law killeth, but the spirit, i.e., the spiritual and allegorical meaning, giveth life. This is because it is not now lawful to Christians to observe the ceremonies and ritual precepts of the old law literally under penalty of death; but they are bound to do what those ceremonies allegorically signified if they wish to attain the life of grace and glory. (5.) S. Augustine again in the same place says that the letter, both of the old and new law, killeth if separated from the spirit; but that this passage refers to the old law alone, because Moses, when he gave the law, gave only the letter, but Christ gave the spirit and the letter, and from this he lays down that the law cannot be fulfilled by the strength of nature alone, but requires the grace of Christ. (6.) S. Augustine once more and Anselm say that the letter killeth by giving occasion to sin; for the law is the occasion by which concupiscence is kindled and sin produced which kills the soul. This sense and the first are the most literal.
But the Spirit giveth life. (1.) The Spirit gives to the soul the supernatural life of grace and charity. (2.) He gives motives and strength for good works and for fulfilling the law. (3.) He guides us towards that eternal life promised by the law to them that keep it. Of this life and Spirit the Apostles were sent by Christ as ministers.
Ver. 7.—If the ministration of death . . . was glorious. If the ministration and promulgation of the old law, which threatened and brought death and condemnation, were glorious, i.e., accompanied by thundering and the sound of the heavenly trumpet, by an earth-quake and the splendour of Moses’ countenance: if the old law, engraven on tables of stone, was so gloriously promulgated, how much more glorious is the Gospel?
Paul here calls the old law the attendant and lictor of death, because it could indeed slay them that broke it but not give life to them that kept it. From this we may gather that S. Paul is writing against the false apostles, and that they were Jews who were endeavouring to blend the old and the new law. He therefore silences the Jews by depreciating the old law as the law of condemnation, and by extolling himself and his fellow-apostles as the ministers of the evangelical law of righteousness and the life of the Spirit. Cf. in this connection chaps. x. and xi.
Ver. 8.—How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious? This glory of the evangelical law of righteousness was seen in the mighty wind and the different tongues of fire which, when the new law was promulgated, glorified the Apostles before all nations. It was seen too in the gifts of tongues, of prophecy, &c., which used to descend visibly on Christians, as appears from 1 Cor. xiv. 26; even as now the graces, gifts and virtues of the Holy Spirit are received invisibly.
So that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance. God as a sun so brilliantly shone on the face of Moses on the mount that his face shone as a second sun. The Vulgate rendering of Exod. xxxiv. 29 is that “he wist not that his face was horned while He talked with him,” where the “horns” of course refer to the appearance of rays of light.
Which glory was to be done away. This bright glory left Moses when he was dying, to signify that the old law would fade away with its glory when the new came.
Ver. 10.—For even that which was made glorious, &c. For, by a common Hebraism, is here assertive, not causal. The glory of Moses cannot be called glory when compared with that of the Apostolic office, which far excels it. “As,” says Theodoret, “the light of a lantern shines at night, but is at noonday overpowered by the sun, so was the glory of Moses overshadowed by Christ.” This is the bearing of the phrase “by reason of the glory that excelleth.”
Ver. 12.—Seeing then that we have such hope. Since the Lord diffuses the spirit of grace by us His Apostles, we have hope that He will hereafter give us glory far beyond that of Moses.
We use great plainness of speech. We preach the Gospel boldly, freely, frankly, openly.
Ver. 13.—And not as Moses, which put a vail over his face. Moses veiled his face, but we do not veil the face of Christ, but with great freedom bid all gaze upon it. From Exod. xxxiv. 33 we gather that Moses in his first interview with the people spoke to them with unveiled face because of the reverence due to the majesty of the law, but that he afterwards veiled his face that he might with the greater freedom speak to them. But when he entered the tabernacle (Exod. xxxiii. 8), to converse with God, he took away the veil. In this and the next three verses, S. Paul gives the allegorical meaning of this veiling; for to the Jews the Old Testament is covered with a veil, so that they do not see the light of the New Testament, and Christ contained in it. From us, however, Christ has taken away the veil, and will take it away from the Jews when they are converted at the end of the world.
S. Gregory (Pastor. pt. iii. c. 5) says tropologically: “The preacher should, like Moses, suit himself to his hearers: what is deep ought to be concealed from many that hear, and be opened out to very few.”
That the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end. This is the reading of the Greek MSS., the Syriac, and the older Latin authors, as Ambrose, but the Latin reads to the face. The end is Christ, mystically signified by the unveiled brightness of the face of Moses, as Ambrose and Theodoret say. Others take it more literally: they could not look on the perfect splendour of the face of Moses, or again, they could not look on the extremity of the surface of his face. Theophylact again explains it: “The ignorant Israelites could not see that the law was to have an end and be abolished.” But this is a mystical meaning; the second is the literal meaning.
Which is abolished. The splendour of Moses was to be abolished, or the brightness of his face. These words may refer either to the face or to the veil, but it is better to understand them of the veil, especially as the following verses refer to the removal of the veil of Moses by the light of the law of the New Testament.
Theodoret observes that the sun-like splendour of the face of Moses typified the glorious brightness of the law of Christ, while the veil typified the shadow under which the dumb ceremonies of Moses lay. The Jews have not even yet been able to see the face of Moses without the veil, because they unbelievingly insist on the reality of their shadowy ceremonies, and have no eyes for the light of the Gospel.
Ver. 14.—But their minds were blinded. They were blinded by the brightness of the face of Moses, and, allegorically, blinded by the Gospel light. As this clause is the antithesis to the preceding both meanings are included.
Until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the Old Testament. The Apostle is still continuing the allegorical sense. Moses and the Old Testament till to-day are veiled to the Jews, so that they cannot see that Christ is signified by so many figures, prophecies, ceremonies, and sacrifices. Again, the Old Testament is veiled to them, because they read it but do not understand its meaning nor see its end and intent, its light and splendour, which is Christ: the eyes of their mind are dull and heavy, as formerly were the eyes of their body when they could not gaze on the shining face of Moses.
Which vail is done away in Christ. This veil, by the grace and faith of Christ is removed, so that we can clearly see Christ foreshadowed in the Old Testament.
Ver. 15.—The vail is upon their heart. This veil is the foolish pertinacity with which the Jews still stubbornly cling to the carnal sacrifices and rites of the Old Law, and so are blinded that they cannot see Christ typified by them
Ver. 17.—Now the Lord is that Spirit. (1.) The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not body but spirit. Spirit in this explanation is taken essentially for what is common to the Three Persons. So S. Ambrose. (2.) Spirit here way stand for the Holy Spirit: the Greek MSS. have the definite article, and Roman Bibles and others spell it with a capital; for the Jews acknowledge one Lord and God, but deny that there is a plurality of Persons, and that the Holy Spirit is God. When the Jews shall have the veil taken away and shall be converted to the Lord and to belief in the Blessed Trinity then will they serve the Lord their God, not in the letter, with dumb corporeal ceremonies, but in the spirit. The God to whom they shall be converted is Spirit, and the Holy Spirit will give them the law of the Spirit of liberty, that with the eyes of their spirit they may see Christ veiled, under the law, and may worship Him in spirit and in truth. Cf. S. John iv. 23. S. Augustine (ad Serapion) thus explains this last passage: “We must worship the Father in truth, i.e., in the Son and Holy Spirit. We must worship the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” But this is the mystical meaning.
Literally, Christ said this against the Samaritans and Jews, for the Samaritans worshipped God with worship that was false and devised by themselves, and so worshipped God together with idols; consequently the God of their worship was not the true God, but a created god of their imaginations, and the companion of idols. The Jews worshipped the true God indeed, but under fixed corporeal signs, which were shadows of things to come. To both of these Christ opposes Christians, who worship God in spirit and not in corporeal signs, and in truth instead of in shadows, falsehood, and ignorance. God is an incorporeal and pure Spirit. Spirit, therefore, in this passage denotes the spiritual worship of faith, hope, charity, and other virtues, by which God is worshipped in truth, i.e., most truly, rightly, and properly, and not by shadows. Wherefore the sacraments and ceremonies of the New Law, since they are not shadows of the Old Law, but ornaments and helps of the Spirit, belong to the Spirit. Theophylact, Theodoret, Chrysostom thus explain the passage, and prove from it against Macedonius that the Holy Spirit is God.
It may be said that the same Spirit is afterwards called “the Spirit of the Lord.” How, then, is He the Lord? The answer is: He is “the Lord” because He is God; He is “of the Lord” because He proceeds from the Father and the Son.
And where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. Liberty denotes a spontaneous, frank, free, and clearly illuminated will. Now that the veil of Moses has been taken away, we can, with clear and spontaneous will, walk according to the law of God. So Theophylact.
Notice that liberty is not here opposed to the obligation of law, Divine or human, as heretics think, but both to the veil of Moses, or the obscurity of the Old Law, and to the letter, or to the servile compulsion, fear, and deadness of the law. This liberty, therefore, is twofold. See notes to ver. 6.
1. Liberty is, says Chrysostom, an understanding, and clear knowledge of the mystery of the Trinity, of the incarnation, and other things that are obscure to the Jews. It is also a knowledge of true religion and of Divine worship, which the Jews supposed to consist in the sacrifice of bulls and goats, though God wills to be worshipped in spirit and in truth. Just as heaviness, dulness, perplexity, and ignorance of the understanding, which hold the mind as it were fast bound in chains, are rightly called slavery, so on the other hand illumination of the intellect and clear knowledge are rightly called liberty, because the mind, set free from ignorance, error, and crass conceptions, is able to freely devote itself to truth, to God, to things spiritual and Divine. Hence Aristotle, Plutarch, Seneca, and others used to say that the wise man alone was free.
2. Liberty, as S. Augustine says, is to be found in the affections and in the love of righteousness, in freedom from fear of punishment, in the spontaneous fulfilling of the law from love of virtue, and not from fear of punishment. This free spirit of Christian love is contrasted with the slavery of Jewish fear. This is evident from the context. The Begardi, three hundred years ago, and the Suencfeldiani and Libertines of the present day, are therefore as impious, as ignorant, and foolish (a) in rejecting, on the supposed authority of ver. 6, the written word of God, as though it were a sun that had set, and in holding that the light within is sufficient for our guidance; (b) in teaching that a holy and perfect man is set free from the law and does not sin, even if he commit fornication. (c) They are followed by many others, who deduce the invalidity of all human laws. Cf. Bellarmine (de Justific. lib. iv. c. 3 and 4), and Belliolanus, in the fifteen books he wrote on Christian Liberty. S. Augustine (de Continentia, c. iii.) says excellently: “We are not under a law which orders good and does not give it, but we are under grace, which makes us love what the law orders, and which can, therefore, give orders to free men.” Cf. the same Father (de Spirit. et Lit. c. x., and de Natura et Grat. c. 57).
Ver. 18.—But we all with open face. The open face is that of Christ incarnate or of the mysteries of the faith. We, looking on them, see the glorious Godhead of the Lord and His grace, and the work of our redemption foreshadowed in Moses and the Old Testament.
Beholding as in a glass. “Seeing as in a mirror, not beholding as from a watch-tower,” says S. Augustine (de Trin. lib. xv. c. 8); but Erasmus renders the passage, “representing in a mirror,” because he says this is the image of the glory of God. But the Greek verb is clearly to see, not represent in a mirror, and besides the representation is spoken of in the next phrase, “are changed into the same image.” Since we see the glory of God in Christ and His Gospel, as though in a mirror, we are by this transformed into the same image of God, and we represent in ourselves this glory. This mirror, therefore, is the cause of the image, not the image itself.
The Apostle here means by mirror the Word clothed in flesh, and made visible, and whatever is put before our eyes in the Gospel and in the Church, and he contrasts all this with Moses veiled. Hence, in the next chapter, he speaks of the image of God; for Christ as God is the Word and image of the Father, as Man He is the mirror of the Deity and His grace and glory; consequently the Gospel of Christ is nothing but a most clearly polished mirror of the glory of God. Hence S. Augustine calls his “Sentences” a mirror.
“Mirror” may also be taken here to mean the faith through which, as through a mirror darkly, we behold God and the things of God. Cf. notes to 1 Cor. xiii. 12.
Are changed into the same image. Not essentially, as though our essence were changed into the Divine Essence, or into its archetypal being, which it had in God from eternity before it was created, of which S. John speaks when he says, “That which was made was in Him life.” This is the error of Almaric and other fanatics, which is refuted by Gerson in his two epistles written against Ruisbroch, and of Ruisbroch himself (de Vera Contembl.). But we are changed per accidens, i.e., by the rays of the light of Christ being reflected on us as from a mirror, we become bright with the light of the faith and grace of Christ, and so we become like mirrors flashing out the light of heaven, and like suns illuminating others, as Chrysostom and Theophylact say. Nay, we become as gods, sharing in the Divine Nature, as S. Peter says. “God foreknew and predestinated us to be conformed to the image of His Son,” says S. Paul. He alludes to Moses, who, beholding God and conversing with Him, received the rays of light reflected from God, as was said in the note to ver. 7. Moses did not see God Himself, but in a glorious, assumed body which acted as a mirror. Tertullian (contra Marcion, lib. v.) reads here, we are transfigured, as though Paul was alluding to the transfiguration of Christ on Mount Tabor, when Christ, brilliant with the light of His glory, shed it over Moses and Elias and the Apostles, and as it were transfigured them. In the same way, by the Gospel and the grace and faith of Christ, we are transformed and transfigured, inasmuch as we are made partaker of the truth, brightness, and glory of God, so that we are able to communicate them to others, and at last we reflect them on God Himself, from whom they first came.
“The whole life of Christ,” says S. Augustine, “which was spent as man on earth, was a mirror giving us a pattern of good living.” How wise are they who gaze constantly into this mirror, and do all they can to conform their lives to it, and so are transformed into different men, into heavenly, angelic, and Divine beings!
From glory to glory. (1.) From the glory of Christ into our own glory, so that we become clear and bright with grace and wisdom, even as Christ. (2.) From the brightness of faith into the brightness of sight. (3.) From the brightness of creation into the brightness of justification, according to Anselm. (4.) Daily growing more and more glorious, till we come to the glory of the Beatific Vision. Cf. notes to Rom. i. 17. Maldonatus (Nota mss.) gives a further explanation. “Progressing from the glory of the 0ldTestament to the glory of the New.” So it is said in Rom. 1. 17, “from faith to faith.”
Even as by the Spirit of the Lord. This change is through the Spirit of the Lord. Even as denotes the cause that is suitable to, and worthy of, so great a change, such, i.e., as it becomes the Holy Spirit to work. S. Basil and Chrysostom argue from these words against Macedonius that the Holy Spirit is God, and that it is He that taketh away the veil and gives understanding of the Scriptures. Tertullian finally (contra Marcion, lib. v. c. 11) reads here: “Even as by the Lord of Spirits.”