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Let all who are under the yoke of slavery regard their masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be blasphemed.

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It appears that, at the beginning of the gospel, slaves cheered their hearts, as if the signal had been given for their emancipation; for Paul labors hard, in all his writings, to repress that desire; and indeed the condition of slavery was so hard that we need not wonder that it was exceedingly hateful. Now, it is customary to seize, for the advantage of the flesh, everything that has the slightest appearance of being in our favor. Thus when they were told that we are all brethren, they instantly concluded that it was unreasonable that they should be the slaves of brethren. But although nothing of all this had come into their mind, still wretched men are always in need of consolation, that may allay the bitterness of their afflictions. Besides, they could not without difficulty be persuaded to bend their necks, willingly and cheerfully, to so harsh a yoke. Such, then, is the object of the present doctrine.

1 They who are slaves under the yoke Owing to the false opinion of his own excellence which every person entertains, there is no one who patiently endures that others should rule over him. They who cannot avoid the necessity do, indeed, reluctantly obey those who are above them; but inwardly they fret and rage, because they think that they suffer wrong. The Apostle cuts off, by a single word, all disputes of this kind, by demanding that all who live “under the yoke” shall submit to it willingly. He means that they must not inquire whether they deserve that lot or a better one; for it is enough that they are bound to this condition.

When he enjoins them to esteem worthy of all honor the masters whom they serve, he requires them not only to be faithful and diligent in performing their duties, but to regard and sincerely respect them as persons placed in a higher rank than themselves. No man renders either to a prince or to a master what he owes to them, unless, looking at the eminence to which God has raised them, he honor them, because he is subject to them; for, however unworthy of it they may often be, still that very authority which God bestows on them always entitles them to honor. Besides, no one willingly renders service or obedience to his master, unless he is convinced that he is bound to do so. Hence it follows, that subjection begins with that honor of which Paul wishes that they who rule should be accounted worthy.

That the name and doctrine of God may not be blasphemed We are always too ingenious in our behalf. Thus slaves, who have unbelieving masters, are ready enough with the objection, that it is unreasonable that they who serve the devil should have dominion over the children of God. But Paul throws back the argument to the opposite side, that they ought to obey unbelieving masters, in order that the name of God and the gospel may not be evil spoken of; as if God, whom we worship, incited us to rebellion, and as if the gospel rendered obstinate and disobedient those who ought to be subject to others.