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1 Timothy 5:5-8

5. Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day.

5. Porro quae vere vidua est ac desolata, sperat in Deo, et perseverat in orationibus et obsecrationibus noctu et die.

6. But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth.

6. Quae autem in deliciis versatur, vivens mortua est.

7. And these things give in charge, that they may be blameless.

7. Et haec praecipe, ut irreprehensibiles sint.

8. But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.

8. Quod si quis suis et maxime familiaribus non providet, fidem abnegavit, et est infideli deterior.

5 She who is really a widow He expresses his meaning more clearly than before; for he shews that they are really widows who are solitary and have no children. He says that such persons hope in God Not that this is done by all, or by them alone; for we may see many widows that are childless, and that have no relatives whatever, who nevertheless are haughty and insolent, and altogether ungodly both in heart and in life. On the other hand, then, are those who have many children, and who are not prevented from having their hope placed in God; such as Job and Jacob and David. But for this, (πολυτεκνία) a multitude of children would be a curse, whereas Scripture always reckons it among the remarkable blessings of God. But Paul says here that widows “hope in God,” in the same manner as he elsewhere writes, that the unmarried study only to please God, because their affections are not divided like those of married persons. (1 Corinthians 7:32.) The meaning therefore is, that they have nothing to disturb their thoughts, from looking to God alone; because they find nothing in the world on which they can rely. By this argument he commends them; for, when human aid and every refuge fails them, it is the duty of the Church to stretch forth her hand to render assistance; and thus the condition of the widow, who is childless and desolate, implores the aid of the pastor.

Continueth in prayers. This is the second ground of commendation, that they continually devote themselves to prayer. Hence it follows, that they ought to be relieved and supported at the expense of the Church. At the same time, by these two marks he distinguishes between the worthy and the unworthy; for these words are of the same import as if he enjoined that they only shall be received who look for no aid from men, but rely on God alone, and, laying aside other cares and employments, are earnestly devoted to prayer; and that others are ill qualified and of no advantage to the Church. Again, this constancy in prayer demands freedom from other cares; for they who are occupied with the government of a family have less freedom and leisure. We are all, indeed, commanded to pray continually; but it ought to be considered what is demanded by every person’s condition, when, in order to pray, retirement and exemption from all other cares are demanded.

What Paul praises in widows, Luke (Luke 2:36) asserts as to Anna, the daughter of Phanuel; but the same thing would not apply to all, on account of the diversity in their manner of life. There will be foolish women — apes, and not imitators, of Anna — who will run from altar to altar, and will do nothing but sigh and mutter till noon. On this presence, they will rid themselves of all domestic affairs; and, having returned home, if they do not find everything arranged to their wish, they will disturb the whole family by outrageous cries, and will sometimes proceed to blows. Let us therefore remember that there are good reasons why it is the peculiar privilege of those who are widows and childless, to have leisure for praying by night and by day; because they are free from lawful hindrances, which would not permit those who govern a family to do the same.

And yet this passage lends no countenance to monks or nuns, who sell their mutterings or their loud noises for the sake of leading an easy and idle life. Such were anciently the Euchites or Psallians; for monks and Popish priests differ in no respect, except that the former, by continually praying, thought that none but themselves were pious and holy, while the latter, with inferior industry, imagined that they sanctify both themselves and others. Paul had no thought of anything of this sort, but only intended to shew how much more freely they may have leisure for prayer who have nothing else to disturb them.

6. She who is in luxury. After having described the marks by which real widows may be known, he now contrasts them with others that ought not to be received. The Greek participle which he employs, σπαταλῶσα, means one who allows herself every indulgence, and leads an easy and luxurious life. Accordingly, Paul (in my opinion) censures those who abuse their widowhood for this purpose, that, being loosed from the marriage yoke, and freed from every annoyance, they may lead a life of pleasant idleness; for we see many who seek their own freedom and convenience, and give themselves up to excessive mirth.

Is dead while she liveth When Paul says that such persons “are dead while they live,” this is supposed by some to mean that they are unbelievers; an opinion with which I do not at all agree. I think it more natural to say that a woman “is dead,” when she is useless, and does no good; for to what purpose do we live, if it be not that our actions may yield some advantage? And what if we should say that the emphasis lies in the word liveth? For they who covet an indolent life, that they may live more at their ease, have constantly in their mouth the proverbial saying: —

“For life is not to live, but to be well.” 8989     Non est vivere, sed valere vita.

The meaning would therefore be: “If they reckon themselves happy, when they have everything to their heart’s wish, and if they think that nothing but repose and luxury can be called life, for my part, I declare that they are dead.” But as this meaning might seem liable to the charge of excessive ingenuity, I wished merely to give a passing glimpse of it, without making any positive assertion. This at least is certain, that Paul here condemns indolence, when he calls those women dead who are of no use.

7 And command these things He means, that not only does he prescribe to Timothy the course which he ought to follow, but the women also must be carefully taught not to be stained with such vices. It is the duty of the pastor not only to oppose the wicked practices or ambition of those who act an unreasonable part, but to guard against every danger, as far as lies in his power, by instruction and constant warnings.

That they may be blameless. It was the natural result of prudence and steadfastness not to admit widows, unless they were worthy; but yet it was proper to assign a reason why they were not admitted; and it was even necessary to forewarn the Church that unworthy persons should not be brought forward, or should not offer themselves. Again, Paul commends this part of instruction on the ground of utility; as if he had said, that it must by no means be despised, because it is common, since it aims at the chief part of a good and perfect life. Now there is nothing that ought to be more diligently learned in God’s school than the study of a holy and upright life. In a word, moral instruction is compared with ingenious speculations, which are of no visible advantage, agreeably to that saying,

“All Scripture is profitable, that the man of God may become perfect,” etc. (2 Timothy 3:16.)

8 And if any person do not provide for his own Erasmus has translated it, “If any woman do not provide for her own,” making it apply exclusively to females. But I prefer to view it as a general statement; for it is customary with Paul, even when he is treating of some particular subject, to deduce arguments from general principles, and, on the other hand, to draw from particular statements a universal doctrine. And certainly it will have greater weight, if it apply both to men and to women.

He hath denied the faith 9090     “Ou, il a renonce’ a la foy.” — “Or, he hath renounced the faith.” He says that they who do not care about any of their relatives, and especially about their own house, have “denied the faith.” And justly; for there is no piety towards God, when a person can thus lay aside the feelings of humanity. Would faith, which makes us the sons of God, render us worse than brute beasts? Such inhumanity, therefore, is open contempt of God, and denying of the faith.

Not content with this, Paul heightens the criminality of their conduct, by saying, that he who forgets his own is worse than an infidel This is true for two reasons. First, the further advanced any one is in the knowledge of God, the less is he excused; and therefore, they who shut their eyes against the clear light of God are worse than infidels. Secondly, this is a kind of duty which nature itself teaches; for they are (στοργαὶ φυσικαί) natural affections. And if, by the mere guidance of nature, infidels are so prone to love their own, what must we think of those who are not moved by any such feeling? Do they not go even beyond the ungodly in brutality? If it be objected, that, among unbelievers, there are also many parents that are cruel and savage; the explanation is easy, that Paul is not speaking of any parents but those who, by the guidance and instruction of nature, take care of their own offspring; for, if any one have degenerated from that which is so perfectly natural, he ought to be regarded as a monster.

It is asked, Why does the Apostle prefer the members of the household to the children? I answer, when he speaks of his own and especially those of his household, by both expressions he denotes the children and grandchildren. For, although children may have been transferred, or may have passed into a different family by marriage, or in any way may have left the house of the parents; yet the right of nature is not altogether extinguished, so as to destroy the obligation of the older to govern the younger as committed to them by God, or at least to take care of them as far as they can. Towards domestics, the obligation is more strict; for they ought to take care of them for two reasons, both because they are their own blood, and because they are a part of the family which they govern.


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