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Lapide's Great Biblical Commentary Lapide's Commentary
2 Corinthians 4
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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Lapide, Cornelius. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 4". The Great Biblical Commentary of Cornelius a Lapide. https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ clc/ 2-corinthians-4.html. 1890.
Lapide, Cornelius. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 4". The Great Biblical Commentary of Cornelius a Lapide. https://www.studylight.org/
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SYNOPSIS OF THE CHAPTER
i. From what was said in the last chapter of the glory and honour belonging to the office of a preacher of the Gospel, S. Paul proceeds to assert that he discharges that office holily, sincerely, and blamelessly . He declares this to be a fact plainly known to all except to those whose minds were blinded.
ii. He declares (ver. 7) that he and the other Apostles undergo many sufferings on behalf of the Gospel without flinching, and that they with fortitude always bear about in their bodies the mortification of Jesus, on account of the hope of resurrection to a better life.
iii. He points out (ver. 17) that this our tribulation is but light and short lived, and works an eternal weight of glory. Ver. 1. Therefore seeing we have this ministry. The ministry of the New Testament, the excellency of which has been dwelt on in the preceding chapter. To this God in His mercy has called us, His unworthy Apostles.
We faint not. We do not yield, are not daunted by dangers and difficulties, are not wearied, as Erasmus turns it. Ver. 2. But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty . All hidden and disgraceful wickedness. What is vile loves darkness, and those who seek for what is impure have ever in their mouth, "If not chastely, yet cautiously." S. Paul means: I do nothing, not even in secret, with which fault can he found: I am no hypocrite, like many false apostles. S. Ambrose ( Offic . lib. ii. c. 3), alluding to the ring of Gyges, which enabled him to see all and be seen by none, and so led him to deflower the queen and slay the king, and get possession of the throne of Lydia, says beautifully. " Give this ring to a wise man, that by its power he way be hid from the eyes of all if he does wrong: he will none the less flee from the stain of sin, though he be seen by none. The wise man's hiding-place is not to be found in fear of punishment, but in hope of keeping innocency. Law is not laid down for the righteous, but for the unrighteous; for the righteous man is a law to himself in the uprightness of his heart, and has his rule of righteousness within ." To the same effect is the golden sentence of Seneca: " Even if I were sure that no man would know, and that God would forgive, yet the hatefulness of sin would prevent me from sinning ." Add to this that even if we escape the notice of men when we sin, yet we cannot escape from the all-seeing eye of God, who will judge and punish. Therefore let every one renounce with S. Paul the hidden things of dishonesty, and live chastely, and keep his heart pure, just as if he were standing in the presence of God.
Not walking in craftiness. Professing to be one thing and secretly doing another. The words are aimed at the lust of the false apostles, and their secret evil-living. Cf. Ephesians 5:12 .
Nor handling the word of God deceitfully. As the false apostles do, who mix it up with the law of Moses, or fashion their teaching after the needs of time, place, and persons. These three were excellently performed by Luther. (1.) He falsified Romans 3:28 , "We conclude that a man is justified by faith," by adding the word "only" to faith; and also 2 Pet. i. 10: "Give diligence by good works to make your calling and election sure," by omitting the words "by good works." (2.) He wrested the word of God to his own lusts when he tried to persuade a certain woman that it was lawful for her to lie with him whilst her husband was asleep, on the authority of 1 Corinthians 7:39 : "If her husband sleep, she is at liberty." (3.) To suit different places, times, and persons, he gave different expositions of the words of consecration. Gaspar Querhamer Saxo has published thirty-six contradictory explanations of his on the subject of the Eucharist alone, collected from his writings during his lifetime.
Commending ourselves to every man's conscience. Those who follow their conscience and form their judgments by it see that what I say is true, and if they would say what they think, they cannot deny that preach with sincerity, as in the presence of God, seeing and fearing God everywhere as my witness and judge.
Ver. 3. But if Our Gospel be hid. So as not to be understood and hence not believed. He alludes to the veil of Moses (iii. 13), and anticipates the objection: "If you, 0 Paul, manifest, as you say, the word of God in truth, and commend yourself to every man's conscience, how comes it that this word of God of yours is not manifest to all? Why do not all believe it?" He replies that it is plain enough to the good and faithful, but to the wicked and unbelieving it is hidden and unknown, because they are reprobate. He is not speaking of the written Gospel, as heretics suppose, as though that were clear to all the elect, but of the mysteries of the Gospel, or the articles of the faith that are open and obvious to every Christian, such as the birth, Passion, and resurrection of Christ. These truths were preached by Paul and the Apostles before the Gospels were committed to writing; and when this letter was written, all the Gospels were not yet written.
To them that are lost. It is the proof and cause of their reprobation that they have a veil of blindness and unbelief over their heart, which prevents them from seeing and believing Christ and His mysteries, which are so clearly set forth in the Gospel and the New Testament. Ver. 4. In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not. Who is meant by the "god of this world?" (1.) Marcion, according to Chrysostom, inferred that there is a certain god, just but not good, who was the creator of the world. (2.) The Manicheans reply that it is the devil, and that he was the creator of the world and of matter in general. (3) Chrysostom, Anselm, Theodoret, and Theophylact make the sentence run: God, i.e ., true God, hath blinded the minds of the unbelievers of this world; or God, the true God, the author and maker of the world, hath blinded the minds of them that believe not. (4.) Œcumenius and S. Thomas say: The God of this world is the devil, who is the god of worldly men, not by having created them, but in the way of wickedness, example, power, and suggestion. This seems the simplest explanation; for S. Paul does not call him God simply, but the God of this world, i.e ., of worldly men, who prefer the perishing things of time to the realities of eternity. Cf. Ephesians 6:12 . (5.) S. Thomas also says: "The God of this world is mammon, or the power and pomp that men of the world make their chief good and set up as their god." Cf. Philippians 3:19 .
Them which believe not. The construction is a Hebraism. The Gospel is hidden in the case of unbelievers who perish, in whom i.e ., of whom, the God of this world hath blinded the minds.
Lest the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ . . . should shine unto them. The Greek word αυ̉γὴ , from which the verb here is derived, denotes, say Chrysostom and Theophylact, a faint light and foreshine of clear light, i.e ., of the brightness of the Divine glory which will be revealed in heaven. As the dawn and the morning star precede the sun, so does faith in this life, like a morning star, go before the brightness of the si ht of the Beatific Vision. Cf. 2 Peter 1:19 . The Gospel is called the "Gospel of the glory of Christ," or the "glorious Gospel of Christ," because by it Christ is glorified.
Who is the image of God . (1.) This is strictly true of the Son, who proceeds from the Father as His image. (2.) The Son is called the image of the Father, because He is begotten by Him in such a way that He is most like to the Father, and most perfectly represents Him. He is the Word of God or the Wisdom of God, in whom the Father beholds His own Wisdom mirrored. "Word," however, stands for a concept of the mind, and is an image of the thought of the mind, and so He is distinguished from the Holy Spirit, who, though He perfectly resembles the Father, yet is not this by the mere fact of His procession; for by that He is merely the bond of union in will and love between the Father and the Son. (3.) The Son is the image of the Father by reason of His Divine Essence, inasmuch as He has received It from the Father. For, since He has received It from the Father, He is in reality diverse in Person, just as an image is diverse from its original. Moreover, since He has received His Essence from the father, He is most like to Him, and in all things represents Him.
Observe the depth of the Apostle's statements. The world receives the light of faith from the Apostles, they from Christ, in the same way that Moses received it from an angel representing Christ; Christ from the Father, in the same way that light proceeds from light, and a ray from the sun. Ver. 5. Ourselves your servants for Jesus sake. Supply "we show," or "we preach." Ver. 6. For God . . . hath shined in our hearts. In the account of the creation of the world given in Genesis, light is said to have been created first of all, because light is a quality most splendid, pleasant, gladdening, useful, efficacious, and powerful. Cf. Dionysius ( de Divin. Nomin . c. iv.), who enumerates thirty-four properties of light and of fire wonderfully adapted to set forth God and the things belonging to Him. Cf. note to Genesis 1:2 .
Hugo ( de Sacram. pag. i. c. 10) and others point out, by way of allegory, that on the first day, when light was created and divided from darkness, the good angels were established in good and the evil in evil, and were separated each from other. What, therefore, was done in the world of sense was an image of what was being done in the unseen world. Nay, S. Augustine frequently maintains that the literal sense is that which refers to the angels.
The Apostle here explains this light tropologically. As God formerly produced light out of darkness, so now has He made unbelievers into believers, and has enlightened them with the light of faith. So, too, S. Augustine ( contra Advers. Leg. lib. i. c. 8) lays down that by light and day succeeding the pre-existing darkness, and being again succeeded by darkness, is signified what spiritually takes place in man, viz., grace succeeding sin, and sin again grace.
To give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. To illuminate us, that we in turn may illuminate others with that clear and glorious knowledge which shines forth from God in the face of Christ, or else by means of our clear knowledge of Christ and His redemption. It is commonly said that a man is known by his face; hence to know "in the face" signifies to know clearly and openly. Just as at night a lighted torch throws light on the surrounding darkness, and is carried before travellers to show them the way clearly, so does Christ lighten us in the night of this world, so that we know God surely and plainly, and go on our way to see Him in the life of bliss in heaven. Hence the Glossa symbolically explains these words to mean: by Jesus Christ, who is the Face of the Father; for without Him the Father is not known. There is still kept up an allusion to the veil over Moses' face contrasted with the open face of Christ (iii. 15). The word face may be, with the Syriac, translated the person, i.e ., we illuminate, others in the name, place, and authority of Christ. S. Cyril ( de Fide ad Theodor. Imp .) says. "He hath shined in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. See how openly and plainly the light of the knowledge of God the Father has shone, forth in the person of Christ." Ver. 7. But we have this treasure. The treasure is the ministry and preaching of the Gospel entrusted to him by God. Cf. ver. 1 and vers. 5 and 6.
In earthen vessels . (1.) In a body of dust frail and fragile. Our body is as an earthenware vessel; for as an earthen vessel is nothing but clay baked in the fire, so is our body nothing but earth made solid by the heat of the soul. Take away the soul, and the body returns to the dust whence it came. Cf. Psalms 103:14 . Or, (2.) in earthen vessels means in ourselves; for though we are Apostles, still we are men, frail and fashioned from the dust, and, like earthen vessels, are worthless, weak, and contemptible, exposed to injuries at the hands of all. This explanation is favoured by the words that follow: "We are troubled on every side," &c. So in 1 Corinthians 1:27 , it was said that God had chosen the Apostles as the foolish, and weak, and base things of the world; and also in 1 Corinthians 2:1 , Paul said that he had come to the Corinthians, not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, but in weakness, and fear, and trembling ; and again, in 1 Corinthians 4:9 , he expresses the same idea.
Origen ( Hom. in Numer .) symbolically interprets this treasure as the grace of the Holy Spirit hidden in earthen vessels, i.e ., in the rude, unpolished, and unadorned words of the law and the Gospel.
That the excellency of the power may be of God and not of us. God wills me to have this treasure in an earthen vessel, in order that the excellency which is in me, and the fruit that I gather in the conversion of the heathen, may not be ascribed to me, but to the power of God and the grace of Christ. Ver. 8. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed. Not made anxious. Physically he was distressed, hemmed in, and pressed down, but in the midst of adversity the Apostle's mind was serene and lofty. So, in Ps. iv. 1, David says. "Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress."
We are perplexed, but not in despair. The Latin Version gives "We are in want, but not destitute," or, as Ambrose, Theophylact, Erasmus, and Cajetan explain it: We are pressed with want, but not oppressed. There is a similar play on words in the Greek. Poverty gives sufficiency, nay, plenty, to a soul that is patient, wise, serene, and fixed on God. To say nothing of Christian writers, this was taught by Favorinus, who says. "It is true what wise men have said as the result of their experience, that they who have much want much, and that indigence takes its rise from abundance, and not from want. Much more is desired in order to guard the abundance you already have. Whoever, therefore, has great riches, and wishes to take forethought and guard against need or loss, needs loss, not gain, and should have less, that less may be lost."
The Greek may also be rendered: We are without guidance, and are perplexed in the midst of our evils and difficulties; still we are not overcome by them, nor by our anxiety and weariness. We do not despair, but we hope for, and we find counsel, help, and deliverance in God, and so we are conquerors. This explanation is nearer to the Greek α̉πόρια , which denotes, not only bodily distress, but mental, viz., want of counsel, doubt, and perplexity, when the mind, seeing itself surrounded by difficulties, is at a stand-still, and knows not what to do. But God succours the Apostles and their successors in these straits, and points out a way of escape. S. Xavier and Gaspar Barzæus found this true in their work among the Indians, and testified that in every difficulty the Holy Spirit taught them more than all doctors or wise men could have done, Ver. 9. Persecuted, but not forsaken. S. Gregory of Nyssa ( de Beatitud .), explaining the last of the Beatitudes, "Blessed are they that suffer persecution," acutely and piously weighs the meaning of the word persecution, which etymologically points to some running, or rather running before. He puts before our eyes a holy man and tribulation, like two runners running side by side. When the saint does not give place to tribulation, he says that he goes before it, as victorious over it, and that tribulation follows hard after him, and is, therefore, called persecution, not consecution, for it follows after but does not reach the holy man. He says that this word points out that the saints, through patience, run with great swiftness for the prize of glory, display their vigour and strength most brightly in the midst of persecutions. He goes on: " Martyrdom shows us the arena, and marks out the course to be run by faith; for 'persecution' denotes an ardent desire for swiftness, nay, it even indicates the winning of the prize; for who can be victor in the race save he who leaves his competitor behind? Since, therefore, he that has an enemy behind, seeking to deprive him of the prize, has one 'persecuting' him and such are they who finish the course of martyrdom on behalf of their holy religion, who are persecuted by their enemies, but not overtaken. Christ seems in these last words to put before us the most glorious crown of bliss, when He says, 'Blessed are they that suffer persecution for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven .'"
Cast down, but not destroyed. There is here an allusion to the earthen vessels of ver. 7. Though, he seems to say, we are earthen vessels, and cast down, as it were, from the most lofty towers of persecutions, yet are we not shattered. We are so hardened by the fire of charity that we cannot break. Some add, "We are humiliated, but not confounded," but the words are wanting in the Greek and Latin copies. Ver. 10. Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus. The death of Jesus, according to S. Ambrose, but the Greek is rather dying or mortification. The dying meant is the suffering of death like to the suffering of Jesus Christ, which is the road to and the beginning of death, a long and living death. This is the suffering spoken in vers. 8 and 9, suffering inflicted from without, though it may be extended also to any voluntary mortification of mind and body. It is called "the dying of Jesus," (1.) because it is borne by His example; (2.) because it is undergone for His faith; (3.) because we, His servants, bear about in our body, by a kind of representation, the very death and Passion of Christ, just as slaves carry the badge and token of their master. Cf. Galatians 6:17 . So in Hebrews 11:26 , it is said that Moses bore the reproach of Christ, and preferred it to the riches of Egypt (see note there). " There is no doubt ," says Ambrose, " that in His martyrs Christ is slain, and that in them that suffer chains or scourgings for the faith, Christ suffers the same. " Pau1 gives here the cause why, in the midst of trouble and distress, he is not crushed and destroyed, but is instead raised up and quickened. It is because by tribulation he is made like Christ crucified and smitten, and then raised and quickened; and, therefore, he rejoices in tribulation.
Salvianus ( de Vero Jud. et Provid. Dei, lib. i.) says that no one is miserable who is content in the midst of misery, rather he is happy, because it is of his own devotion that he lives in misery. Toil, fasting, poverty, humility, weakness, persecution are not grievous to those that endure them, but to those that kick at them. Among the heathen, Fabricius, Fabius, Regulus, Camillus found poverty and affliction no burden. " No one, " he says, " is made miserable by other people's opinion but by his own, and therefore false judgment cannot make them miserable whose conscience approves them . . . . None, I think, are happier than they who act according to their own knowledge and wish. Religious are of low estate, but they wish it so; they are poor, but pleased with poverty; they have no ambition, for they scorn it; they mourn, but they rejoice to mourn; they are weak, but they delight in weakness. 'When I am weak,' says the Apostle, 'then am I strong.' And so, no matter what may happen to those that are religious indeed, they are to be called happy. None are more joyous in the midst of all kinds of adversity than those who are in a state of their own choosing ."
That the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. This is that future life when we shall rise with Christ to glory (ver. 14); and also the present life, when, after the pattern of the risen body of Christ, our afflicted bodies become more lively through the operation of the Spirit, on account of our hope of the resurrection and through the power of God, which delivers us from so many dangers every day and strengthens us against them. Ver. 11 . For we which live are alway delivered unto death. In the midst of a life such as ours, we are exposed to constant danger of death and to every kind of trouble.
The thought, then, that in all our tribulation we are made like to Christ in His Passion and resurrection is what animates, comforts, and strengthens us. As in our afflicted and mortified body the death of Christ is visibly set forth, so in its deliverance, salvation, and strengthening do we see the life and resurrection of Christ. When we are thrown to the lions and other wild beasts, to be, as all expect, surely devoured by them, they spare us and fawn upon us; when we are cast into the fire it shrinks from us, nay, with genial warmth refreshes us; when we are thrown into the sea to be drowned, the sea bears us up and preserves us from all hurt; when I was stoned at Lystra and left for dead, I was soon after found to be alive. In all these and similar persecutions and afflictions I have fellowship with, I am made like, and I set forth the suffering, death, and burial of Christ, which by the power of God, were but the glorious prelude to the life of bliss. And for this reason I am strong, nay, I rejoice and glory in all my tribulations; for they give me a sure and certain hope of an eternal life of glory. " Therefore ," says Œcumenius, " was Christ permitted by God to be delivered to death, that His resurrection might be made manifest to all. He who daily raises us certainty raised up Himself also, and will in good time raise us up to eternal life ." Ver. 12. So then death worketh in us, but life in you. Your spiritual life, your salvation is produced through faith and grace, but ours by the death of our body. The passion and death of the Apostles has been the life of the Church. "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church," says Tertullian. Chrysostom gives a different explanation: "You live in peace and suffer no such persecutions for the faith as I do; and so you seem to live and I seem to die daily."
We, having the same spirit of faith. As David was hemmed in with dangers, and yet was delivered by God alone from them all, and said. "I believed," i.e ., I believe that God will always be true to His promises and deliver me, so too do we believe and hope, and boldly profess that our help and strength, our deliverance and resurrection have been promised by God, and will most surely be wrought out.
Ps. 116., alluded to here by S. Paul, is a Eucharistic psalm, in which David gives God thanks for his safe deliverance. Hence it begins with, "I believed." In other words: I, David, in the midst of dangers and adversity, when hunted by Saul and his men, when my life was sought by Achish and the Philistines, when I was so placed that I seemed to be deprived of all human help, and to be in desperate straits, yet put my trust in God, who had promised me safety and moreover the kingdom, by the mouth of Samuel. Wherefore, I said boldly that I believed, without doubting that God would deliver me from all these evils, and would bring me to His promised kingdom, as, in fact, He has delivered me, and has set me on the throne. "Right dear in the sight of the Lord is the death of His Saints." My death is of great account and great price in the sight of the Lord. God, therefore, carefully watches that my death, or that of His other Saints may not be allowed, except for good cause and great gain, and He wonderfully guards us and delivers us. This, I, David, found in the cave and at other times when I was shut in by the bands of Saul and of my other enemies, and therefore with praise and thanksgiving do I exclaim, What return shall I make unto the Lord for all the benefits that He hath done unto me? I will receive the cup of salvation, of my many safe deliverances that cup which is a witness and public profession of God's goodness to me, and of my frequent escapes from danger of God's salvation will I take.
Observe here that (1.) the Jews had three kinds of sacrifices, the whole burnt-offering, the sin-offering, and the peace-offering. This last was a sacrifice of salvation, offered for the peace and salvation of any individual or family, or of the whole people, whether already obtained or to be obtained. (2.) In every Sacrifice a libation was made to God, just as if the sacrifice were God's feast. The cup, therefore, of salvation is the cup of wine which was offered to God, poured out and drunk by the offerers. (3.) This cup was a figure of the Eucharistic chalice, which makes us not only mindful of the salvation wrought by Christ, but also partakers of it.
Tropologically this "cup" is martyrdom and affliction, and the obstinate resistance that we make to sin, even unto death, says S. Basil, in his comments on Ps. cxvi. For Paul eagerly longed for martyrdom, and hence he speaks not of the cross, but of the cup of salvation, as though he should say: I will readily drink whatever the Lord may have given to me, even though it be the martyr's death; and therefore knowing, says S. Augustine, that martyrdom is not within my own power, but depends on the grace of God, I will call upon that grace, and will publicly preach and celebrate the name of the Lord. Similarly, Christ speaks of His Passion as a cup, and bids His Apostles and martyrs and all His members drink of it (S. Matthew 20:22 , and Mat 26:42 ). As, then, every Christian offers to Christ, His Deliverer, the Eucharistic cup and sacrifice as a thanksgiving, so does Paul offer his sufferings, his afflictions, and death to Christ, as a most pleasing cup. So, too, have all the martyrs, by openly professing their faith and dying for it, offered to Christ the cup of their martyrdom.
I believed . I believed, and I still believe. This is a continuous act of belief, and not merely one that is inchoate, especially so since David speaks of the person of Paul and of us all, and puts his own belief forward as one deserving our imitation. Ver. 14. Shall raise up us also . . . and shall present us with you. Shall present us with you in glory. He says out of modesty, "shall present us with you," not "you with us," because the Corinthians were the cause and object of his preaching, and so also of his glory. Ver. 15 . That the abundant grace might redound to the glory of God. I.e. , through many giving thanks. The Syriac renders it, "that since grace abounds through many, thanksgiving may be proportionately multiplied to the glory of God." Ver. 16 . But though our outward man perish. Though the body be corrupted through persecutions, afflictions, hunger, thirst, cold, nakedness, scourgings, and diseases, yet the spirit within is renewed, and advances in faith, hope, charity, readiness of mind, and, like gold from the fire, comes out stronger and brighter, says Chrysostom.
This verse differs from Romans 7:22 . There the outward man is concupiscence, or the man governed by concupiscence; the inward man is charity, or the man renewed by the spirit. But here the outward man is the body, the inward is the soul; or, more appositely, the outward man is the man regarded as corporeal, or in so far as through his body he is visible, tangible, passible, and susceptible of injuries from without; the inward man is the same man regarded as possessed of a soul, or in so far as through his soul he is invisible, and bravely and cheerfully bears bodily afflictions. Since man consists of two so dissimilar parts, the body without and the soul within, and since the soul itself seems to have two sides, one which animates the body, and shows itself outwardly in the body by its working and passions, and so seems in a sense outward, animal, and embodied; one self-contained, concerned only with the operations of the mind, and so seems inward and invisible, hence man, consisting of these two parts, is called outward in the first respect, and inward in the second.
Hence it is evident, against Illyricus, that original sin and concupiscence are not an evil substance formed from man by the devil, and united to man's substance as its form; for this form would be the inward man, and that so corrupt as to be incapable of renewal, opposed to what the Apostle says here.
Tertullian was wrong, says S. Thomas, in gathering from this passage that the soul is corporeal, and has its figure and members like the body, so that the inward man is but a copy of the outward. In the same way John Huart, a physician, in his Examen Ingeniorum , lately published, has maintained that the souls of the lost are tortured by fire, because, he says, they have their members or images of members, they have their senses and sensations, in the same way that Dives said that his tongue was tormented, in S. Luke 16:0
But this opinion is baseless. As the soul is not corporeal, it has no members strictly speaking; but what is said of its senses and sensations may be true. For the rational soul, being also sensitive, has within itself a root of sense and sensation, e.g ., touch, by which it feels heat and fire, and the pain they cause. Although this sensation cannot be exercised naturally apart from the body, yet God can supernaturally produce it in a soul separated from the body; for such a soul has and retains the root of sensation within itself. This is the opinion of many subtle philosophers, and they find it easy in this way to explain how fire affects the soul. Reason, too, is in their favour; for sensation wholly consists in the soul. When, e.g ., we see with the eye, or hear with the ear, or touch with the hand, the sight, or bearing, or perception of touch is not in the eye, or ear, or hand, but in the soul. It is not the body but the soul which sees by the eye, hears by the ear, and touches by the hand; why, then, cannot God, by His omnipotence, produce the same sensation in a soul separated from the body? The natural use of the organs of the body, which has been lost at death, may be supernaturally replaced, as He can and does sometimes supply the object of sensation; as, e.g ., he may enable a man to see through a wall what is being done in a closed bedroom, or see what is taking place in distant countries. We read of such things in the life of Anselm and other Saints.
Day by day. As the outward, i.e ., the body daily is weakened and aged by affliction, so the inward man, i.e ., the mind, is daily renewed and gifted with youth through the hope of resurrection. We read of Abbot Barnabas in Sophronius ( Prat. Spir. c. x.), that he drove a thorn into his foot and refused to have it taken out, and so caused his foot to fester; and when some expressed their wonder, he said. "The more the outward man suffers, the more does the inward flourish." In the same work, in chap. viii., we read of Myrogenes, a man afflicted with dropsy, saying: "Pray for me, fathers, that the inward man may not grow dropsical, for my prayer to God is that I may live a long time in this weakness." No doubt these Saints applied this general declaration of the Apostle to their own particular diseases.
So that admirable martyr, Clement of Ancyra, when tortured by Agathangelus, under the Emperor Diocletian, with every possible kind of torture, though broken in body, yet became daily stronger, so much so as to long for fresh tortures, and to pray God that his life might be prolonged for them, and obtained his request. He lived for twenty eight years, during which he was constantly tortured. At length Diocletian and the judges, amazed at his constancy, asked him how he could bear such tortures, and he answered in these words of Paul: "Though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day." Ver. 17 . For our light affliction, which is but for a moment. All our tribulation is light and short-lived when compared with the exceeding weight of eternal glory, and is to it as a single feather is to all the lead in the universe.
S. Augustine ( Enarr. in Psalms 70:0 ), when explaining the words of Christ, "For My yoke is easy, and My burden light," says beautifully: " The one burden is oppressive and wearisome, but that of Christ sustains thee. One pulls thee down, the other lends thee wings. If you take away its wings from a bird, you take away, indeed, a weight, but by removing the weight you force it to remain on the ground. Restore the weight, and it will soar aloft. Of this kind is the burden of Christ ."
S. John Chrysostom had this in his mind when he was being led to Cucusus into exile. And then when, in extreme bodily weakness and fever-stricken, he was forced by his guards to travel from there for seventy days continuously, with the hope that he would succumb to the hardships of the journey, and so rid the Empress Eudoxia of one she hated bitterly (as indeed happened), when oppressed with hunger, thirst, poverty, heat, and attacks by the Isaurians, he cheerfully and bravely overcame them all, and, forgetful of himself, consoled and animated the noble matrons, Olympias and Pentadia, and his other friends, bidding them be ready to bear bravely imprisonment and other sufferings for Christ. It was then that he wrote that Divine treatise on the theme, "No one is injured but by himself," in which he surpasses himself. By solid arguments he showed that the whole cause and matter of real pain arise from ourselves, and not from any one else. "Sin alone," he says, "is the only evil, and the only one to be grieved for, and it cannot find lodgment in the breast by one's own free-will. But all other evils and pains, when compared with sin, are not real, but only painted shadows, being light, short-lived, and of little account; but sin brings in its train an innumerable number of grievous and eternal pains."
A far more exceeding. The Greek is, "from excellence to excellence," i.e ., says Theophylact, a weight of glory that is above measure wonderfully sublime and great. The Latin version gives, "above measure excellent." The sense, of course, is the weight of future glory is incomparably greater and more sublime than the tribulation we suffer here.
Chrysostom and Theodoret remark on the beautiful contrast drawn between the eternal and the momentary, the weight and the lightness, the rest, nay, the glory and the tribulation. So in the next verse we have a contrast drawn between the things which are seen and the things which are not seen, between things temporal and things eternal. So to the Maccabees, to Vincent, Laurence, Stephen, stones, gridirons, and racks, and all tortures, when compared with the glory of heaven, were but as a moment in respect of eternity, as a feather or a bubble in respect of heaven, as a point in respect of the whole world.
S. Augustine ( Enarr. in Ps. xciv.) says beautifully that " God says 'I have somewhat for sale!' 'What is it, Lord?' 'The Kingdom of heaven.' 'With what price is it bought?' 'Thy kingdom is bought with poverty, joy with grief, rest with toil, glory with shame, life with death .'" For it is written, "Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven; blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted," &c. S. Paul therefore aptly assigns to glory, weight; to tribulation, lightness; a moment's duration to this, eternity to that; to this, present time and place; to that, an exalted permanence; to this, tribulation, that it is ours as a thing we can contain within the hand; to that that it ever works within us, beyond all conception and all measure.
Eternal weight of glory. The Syriac is "an infinite glory for ever and ever." This is "worked for us," not physically or efficiently, but morally and meritoriously. Hence appears the merit of good works. Calvin, however, denies that this follows, and in this he is followed by Beza; he says that all that is here signified is the order and road by which we attain to glory, viz., through tribulations. But this is too cold an exposition. A road or way is not said to work the end of the journey, unless you understand the road to mean, not the way itself by which you go, but the act of travelling or journeying; this, indeed, is the cause of the end of the journey, and not merely the moral cause, but the physical and efficient cause. But if Calvin assign this to good works and merits in respect of the eternal reward, he assigns more to them than Catholics do. Again, the Greek word κατεργάζεται shows that more than the order of going is meant, for it signifies, "works out," "finishes," "perfects; " i.e ., it denotes a cause, not of any kind, but one that is powerful and efficacious. So say Ambrose and also Chrysostom in these words: "God, the just judge, renders bliss to the just, in the same way that He renders hell to the wicked." But to the wicked He assigns hell as the merited punishment of their wickedness, therefore to the just also He assigns bliss as the reward they merit for their good works.
S. Bernard ( Serm 17 in Ps. xci.) says. " He did not say, 'Shall be rewarded,' but, 'Worketh in us an eternal weight of glory.' Glory, my brethren, lies hidden in our tribulation; in this momentary act eternity is involved, in this imponderable there is an exceeding weight ." One is contained in the other, as the harvest is contained in the seed. When the seed puts forth its strength it is already producing the harvest. S. Bernard goes on to say: " Meanwhile let us hasten then to buy for ourselves that field, that treasure hidden in the field; let us count it all joy when we fall into divers Tribulations. Let us learn to say with all our heart, 'It is better to go to the house of mourning than to the house of feasting .'"
It may be asked, How can these sufferings be called light, when in another place they are said to be not worthy to be compared? I answer that they are not worthy so far as they are sufferings, or natural penal works, because in this sense they have no proportion to so great glory; yet they are "worthy" in so far as they are borne from grace or charity. They then become works of grace, which is the seed whence glory springs. As the seed has a certain worthy proportion to the harvest, so has grace to glory. Again, they are "worthy" in so far as they are sufferings of Christ, springing from His merits and subordinated to them. For Christ merited for us this endurance of sufferings and afflictions, and also merited that we should merit eternal glory by this suffering of ours, as though it were His own, flowing from Him and His merits.
S. Bernard ( Serm . 1 de Diversis ) presses well each word of the Apostle here; he says: " Go on, then; murmur and say, 'It is too long, it is too heavy: I cannot endure sufferings so great and protracted.' The Apostle declares that what He suffered was light and but for a moment. Certainly you have not yet received of the Jews five times forty stripes save one; you have not yet laboured more than all; you have not yet resisted unto blood. Let us see, then, if sufferings are not worthy to be compared with glory. (1.) Why do you uncertainly count up days and hours? The hour flieth by and with it punishment: they do not attach themselves to you, nay, they give place and are succeeded by others. It is not so with glory, it is not so with our reward, with the recompense of our toil. It knows no change, no end; we enjoy it wholly and all at once, and it abides for ever. (2.) Punishment is sipped drop by drop, it is easily swallowed, and soon done with. But in our reward there is a torrent of pleasure, and an overpowering current, an overflowing torrent of joy, a river of glory and of peace. (3.) It is not a glorious robe, or a glorious abode, but glory itself that is promised us. In truth, the expectation of the just is not of something joyful but of joy itself. It is not the honeycomb, but the most pure, liquid honey, that God has laid up for us; it is very joy, life, glory, peace, pleasure, delight, felicity, happiness, and exultation that the Lord our God has treasured up for us; and all these things are one, that Jerusalem may share it equally in all her citizens. And this one Thing is nothing save Himself, according to the words of the Apostle, 'God shall be all in all.' This is our reward, this is our crown and prize. Would God that we may so run that we may obtain ."
The author (perhaps Huh of S. Victor) of the treatise, de Anima et Spiritu , which is found in the works of S. Augustine (but evidently not his, for it quotes Boethius), graphically describes this weight of glory and these joys of the Blessed (c. lvii. et seq .). (1.) He describes the mutual love of all the Blessed, and their consequent mutual joy; for no one rejoices in his own glory alone, but in that of every one else, and hence he is not once blessed, but a hundred thousand times. (2.) He describes the rapture of the Blessed flowing from the Beatific Vision. (3.) He sets before our eyes their perfect peace and happiness. (4.) He vividly describes (c. lxiv.) the greatness of their wealth, which is God Himself. (5.) He relates the abundant fulness of the beauty, good health, wisdom, melody, honour, riches, and of all good things more than we can taste here, or even conceive of. " In heaven ," he says, " is whatever you love, whatever you desire. If you are delighted with beauty, the just shall shine as the sun; if swiftness or strength, they shall be as the angels of God; if a long and healthy life, there is eternal health and a healthy eternity; if it is fulness, they shall be filled when the glory of the Lord shall appear; if it is intoxication, they shall be intoxicated from the richness of the house of God; if it is melody, there the angels endlessly sing sweet strains to God; if any worldly pleasure, the Lord shall give them to drink of the torrent of His Godhead; if wisdom, they shall be all taught of God; if concord, their food will be the will of God; if power, they will enter into the power of God, and they will be all-powerful over their own will, as God is over His. As God can do what He will by Himself, so by Him will they be able to do what they will. If honour and riches, God will set His good and faithful servants over many things ; if true security, they will have sure certainty that their good will never fail them, for they will know that of their own accord they will not lose it, and that God, who loves them, will not take it against their will from them that love Him ." From all which Gregory ( Hom. 32 in Evang .) rightly infers that " no one can come to great rewards but by great labours. Hence that excellent preacher, Paul, said that no one is crowned except he strive lawfully. Let, then, the mind be delighted at the greatness of the prize, but not terrified by the laborious conflict. " The present time, as one of the Saints says, is a time of penitence and toil; the future will be a time of rest and gladness. Ver. 18. The things which are seen are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. S. Augustine ( Sentent. No. 270) says well: " There is this difference between things temporal and things eternal, that the former are loved more before they are obtained, but, seem worthless when they arrive. Nothing satisfies the mind but a true and certain eternity of incorruptible joy. But eternal joy is more ardently loved when obtained than when longed for. No one can value it above its true worth, so that when he attains it it seems vile in his eyes through having been too ardently longed for. But so great is the excellency of heaven that charity will obtain far more than faith has believed or hope desired. " See also S. Gregory, Hom. in Evang ., where he draws out at length this distinction between carnal and spiritual pleasures.