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infirmity of man and the power of God. And he applies this to the error of those, “who look upon the
infirmity of the flesh or body of man, but do not “ consider the power of him who raiseth it from the “ dead.” Tertullian, in his book De Pudicitia, c. 13. speaking of St. Paul's thorn in the flesh, and his being buffeted, adds,“ by a pain, as they say, in his “ ear or headh.” Where it is observable that he delivers this, not as his own conceit, but as a received tradition in his time. St. Cyprian, in his book De Mortalitate, understands St. Paul's thorn in the flesh to be “ many and grievous torments of his flesh “ and body.” And St. Jerom also, in his notes upon Gal. iv. 13. assures us, that this was the ancient tradition. “They report,” saith he, “that he often suf“ fered a most grievous pain in his head, and that “ this was the messenger of Satan given him to bufease indeed to cure an aspiring pride;) but it seems plain and evident to me, that some bodily sickness or infirmity it was. For,
fet him k.” I will not determine what particular sickness or infirmity of body St. Paul was troubled with; whether a violent headache, which, as you have seen, was the ancient tradition; or the cholic, as Aquinas upon the place tells us some thought; or the falling sickness, as others have imagined; (a fit dis
dicit verbum ; virtus enim in infirmitate perficitur. Quemadmodum enim didicisset homo quoniam ipse quidem infirmus et natura mortalis, Deus autem immortalis et potens, nisi id quod est in utroque didicisset experimento?
8 Qui infirmitatem intuentur carnis, virtutem autem ejus qui suscitat eam a mortuis non contemplantur. h Per dolorem, ut aiunt, auriculæ vel capitis.
Carnis et corporis multa et gravia tormenta. k Tradunt eum gravissimum capitis dolorem sæpe perpessum, et hunc esse Satanæ angelum, qui appositus ei fuerit, ut ipsum colaphizaret.
1. In the answer of God to St. Paul's prayers for the removal of his thorn in the flesh, it is expressly said, For my strength is made perfect in weakness! Where it is known the Greek word áo bévela literally and most properly signifies infirmity or weakness of body. And why we should here depart from the propriety of the word, I understand not. It is true, in the next verse, after the mention of infirmity, it presently follows, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake. But this is not added exegetically, or by way of exposition, but by accumulation : as if he had said, This my bodily infirmity, though attended with many other grievous and sharp afflictions and persecutions, I bear by the grace of God, yea and take pleasure in it and them. And accordingly St.Cyprian, occasionally discoursing on the text, in the place but now cited, joins St. Paul's “many and grievous torments “ of body m” with his other calamities, with his sufferings and persecutions.
2. St. Paul himself plainly enough confirms this interpretation of the ancients, Gal. iv. 13, 14. Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the Gospel unto you at the first. And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. There is little doubt to be made but that St. Paul's thorn in his flesh", and his temptation in his
1 Η γάρ δύναμίς μου έν ασθενεία τελειούται.
Corporis multa et gravia tormenta.
η Σκόλοψ τη σαρκί.
flesho, are one and the same thing. Now his temptation in his flesh he expressly here expounds to be an infirmity of his fleshy, or body. And it is observable, that he speaks of such an infirmity of his flesh as was notorious, open, and visible to the Galatians, and therefore such as, if they had not looked any farther than his flesh or body, they might have despised him for. This one consideration closely attended to útterly overthrows all the other interpretations, and confirms the last exposition of the ancient doctors, which I follow.
St. Paul's thorn in his flesh, or his temptation in his flesh, could not be any inward motion of original sin, or irritation to uncleanness, or suggestion of pride, it being something outward and apparent to the Galatians. Nor could it be his sufferings and persecutions for the Gospel's sake. For these all of them could not, without a very great impropriety, be called the infirmity of his flesh, or body. Nor could they with any colour of reason make him despicable in the eyes of the Galatians, but rather on the contrary they must needs render him more honourable and glorious; when at the same time they saw the preacher of the Gospel to them a stout and courageous confessor for that Gospel which he preached. Nor could this thorn and temptation in his flesh be any secret assaults of Satan upon his body or mind, (as some from the appellation given it, the messenger of Satan, have collected,) for these were not visible to the Galatians or others. It remains therefore, that it was some extraordinary bodily infirmity of St. Paul that he carried about him, which might
ο “Ο πειρασμός εν τη σαρκί.
Ρ Ασθένειαν της σαρκός.
have rendered him despicable in the eyes of the Galatians and others, to whom he preached the Gospel, if they had not at the same time seen the power of God appearing in the miracles he wrought, and in the excellency of his doctrine, and in his other vir tues. And it is very probable that the infirmity of his body, which thus continually haunted him, was interpreted by his malicious adversaries to be a judgment of God upon him.
Lastly, St. Paul himself again elsewhere informs us, that he was generally despised by the adversaries of his preaching, upon the account of some notable bodily weakness or infirmity of his. For he represents the false apostles as thus objecting against him. His letiers, say they, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible, 2 Cor. x. 10. Where it is in the Greek his bodily presence is aoberns, infirm, weak, or sickly, and his speech contemptible; as there are many bodily diseases that have a great influence on the speech, and render it less grateful and acceptable. And the same bodily infirmity he in divers other places mentions, as the great disadvantage which he laboured under in the preaching of the Gospel. See especially 1 Cor. ii. 3. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And 2 Cor. xiii. 3, 5, 9. Since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, which to you-ward is not weak, but is mighty in you.
yourselves, whether ye be in the faith ; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates ? For we are glad, when we are weak, and ye are strong: and this also we wish, even your perfec
tion. By all which it seems to me very plain, that St. Paul had some notorious visible infirmity in his body, that might expose him to contempt with those, who looked no farther than the outward appearance, and was designed by God as a means to keep him humble. He was a weak, sickly apostle; and therefore despicable to many.
In this also like his genuine son Timothy, to whom he gives this advice, Drink no longer water, but drink a little wine, for thy stomach's sake, and for thy often infirmities 9, 1 Tim. v. 23.' There was this difference between the infirmity of the one and the other, that St. Paul's was extraordinary and supernatural; but Timothy's an effect of his natural constitution. Which brings me to the third inquiry.
In the third and last place therefore we are to inquire, what St. Paul means by the messenger of Satan. And here it is agreed by the generality of interpreters, that this signifies the same thing with the former, viz. the thorn in the flesh. And indeed in the Greek, as well as in our translation, there is no conjunction, but a plain apposition; it is not said, a thorn in the flesh and a messenger of Satan; but a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan. Now we have evidently shewn, that St. Paul's thorn in his flesh was some troublesome disease in his body. It remains therefore that we inquire, why this bodily disease is called ayyedos Earã, the messenger of Satan. The learned Grotius here answers in short, because it was “ a disease",” by God's permission and appointment, “sent or inflicted on him
9 Και διά τάς πυκνάς σου ασθενείας. 'r Morbus a Satana immissus.