14. Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.
14. Benedicite iis qui vos persequuntur; benedicite et ne malum imprecemini.
15. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.
15. Gaudete cum gaudentibus, flete cum fientibus;
16. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.
16. Mutuo alii in altos sensu affecti, non arroganter de vobis sentientes, sed humilibus vos accommodantes: ne sitis apud vos ipsos prudentes.
14. Bless them, etc. I wish, once for all, to remind the reader, that he is not scrupulously to seek a precise order as to the precepts here laid down, but must be content to have short precepts, unconnected, though suited to the formation of a holy life, and such as are deduced from the principle the Apostle laid down at the beginning of the chapter.
He will presently give direction respecting the retaliation of the injuries which we may suffer: but here he requires something even more difficult, -- that we are not to imprecate evils on our enemies, but to wish and to pray God to render all things prosperous to them, how much soever they may harass and cruelly treat us: and this kindness, the more difficult it is to be practiced, so with the more intense desire we ought to strive for it; for the Lord commands nothing, with respect to which he does not require our obedience; nor is any excuse to be allowed, if we are destitute of that disposition, by which the Lord would have his people to differ from the ungodly and the children of this world.
Arduous is this, I admit, and wholly opposed to the nature of man; but there is nothing too arduous to be overcome by the power of God, which shall never be wanting to us, provided we neglect not to seek for it. And though you can hardly find one who has made such advances in the law of the Lord that he fulfills this precept, yet no one can claim to be the child of God or glory in the name of a Christian, who has not in part attained this mind, and who does not daily resist the opposite disposition.
I have said that this is more difficult than to let go revenge when any one is injured: for though some restrain their hands and are not led away by the passion of doing harm, they yet wish that some calamity or loss would in some way happen to their enemies; and even when they are so pacified that they wish no evil, there is yet hardly one in a hundred who wishes well to him from whom he has received an injury; nay, most men daringly burst forth into imprecations. But God by his word not only restrains our hands from doing evil, but also subdues the bitter feelings within; and not only so, but he would have us to be solicitous for the wellbeing of those who unjustly trouble us and seek our destruction.
Erasmus was mistaken in the meaning of the verb gein to bless; for he did not perceive that it stands opposed to curses and maledictions: for Paul would have God in both instances to be a witness of our patience, and to see that we not only bridle in our prayers the violence of our wrath, but also show by praying for pardon that we grieve at the lot of our enemies when they willfully ruin themselves.
15. Rejoice with those who rejoice, etc. A general truth is in the third place laid down, -- that the faithful, regarding each other with mutual affection, are to consider the condition of others as their own. He first specifies two particular things, -- That they were to |rejoice with the joyful, and to weep with the weeping.| For such is the nature of true love, that one prefers to weep with his brother, rather than to look at a distance on his grief, and to live in pleasure or ease. What is meant then is, -- that we, as much as possible, ought to sympathize with one another, and that, whatever our lot may be, each should transfer to himself the feeling of another, whether of grief in adversity, or of joy in prosperity. And, doubtless, not to regard with joy the happiness of a brother is envy; and not to grieve for his misfortunes is inhumanity. Let there be such a sympathy among us as may at the same time adapt us to all kinds of feelings.
16. Not thinking arrogantly of yourselves, etc. The Apostle employs words in Greek more significant, and more suitable to the antithesis, |Not thinking,| he says, |of high things:| by which he means, that it is not the part of a Christian ambitiously to aspire to those things by which he may excel others, nor to assume a lofty appearance, but on the contrary to exercise humility and meekness: for by these we excel before the Lord, and not by pride and contempt of the brethren. A precept is fitly added to the preceding; for nothing tends more to break that unity which has been mentioned, than when we elevate ourselves, and aspire to something higher, so that we may rise to a higher situation. I take the term humble in the neuter gender, to complete the antithesis.
Here then is condemned all ambition and that elation of mind which insinuates itself under the name of magnanimity; for the chief virtue of the faithful is moderation, or rather lowliness of mind, which ever prefers to give honor to others, rather than to take it away from them.
Closely allied to this is what is subjoined: for nothing swells the minds of men so much as a high notion of their own wisdom. His desire then was, that we should lay this aside, hear others, and regard their counsels. Erasmus has rendered phronimous, arrogantes -- arrogant; but the rendering is strained and frigid; for Paul would in this case repeat the same word without any meaning. However, the most appropriate remedy for curing arrogance is, that man should not be over-wise in his own esteem.