24The sins of some men are visible beforehand As there is nothing that distresses more the faithful ministers of the Church, than to see no way of correcting evils, and to be compelled to endure hypocrites, of whose wickedness they are aware and to be unable to banish from the Church many who are destructive plagues, or even to hinder them from spreading their venom by secret arts; (115) Paul supports Timothy by this consolation, that, when it shall please God, they, will one day be brought to public view. Thus he strengthens him for the exercise of patience; because he ought calmly to await the fit time which God in his wisdom has appointed.
There is another kind of base conduct that sorely distresses good and holy pastors. When they have most conscientiously discharged their duty, they are provoked by many unfair statements, are loaded with much ill-will, and perceive that those actions which deserved praise are turned into blame. Paul meets this case also, by informing Timothy, that there are some good works which are reserved for being brought to light at a future period; and consequently that, if their praise is, as it were, buried under ground by the ingratitude of men, that also ought to be patiently endured, till the time of revelation have arrived.
Yet not only does he provide a remedy for these evils, but, because it often happens that we are mistaken in choosing ministers, unworthy persons insinuating themselves cunningly, and the good being unknown to us; and even though we do not go wrong in judging, but still cannot bring others to approve of our judgment, the most excellent being rejected, notwithstanding all our efforts to the contrary, while bad men either insinuate or force themselves forward; it is impossible that our condition and that of the Church should not occasion great anguish. Accordingly, Paul strenuously endeavors to remove, or at least to alleviate, this cause of uneasiness. The meaning may be thus summed up. “ must bear what cannot be immediately corrected; we must sigh and groan, while the time for the remedy is not fully come; and we must not apply force to diseases, till they are either ripened or laid open. On the other hand, when virtue does not receive the honor which it deserves, we must wait for the full time of revelation, and endure the stupidity of the world, and wait quietly in darkness till the day dawn.”
Hastening to judgment I now come to the words, after having given a brief illustration of the subject. When he says that the sins of some men are visible beforehand, he means that they are discovered early, and come to the knowledge of men, as it were, before the time. He expresses the same thing by another comparison, that they run, as it were, and “ to their judgment;” for we see that many run headlong, and, of their own accord, bring damnation on themselves, though the whole world is desirous to save them. Whenever this happens, let us remember that the reprobate are prompted by an unseen movement of Providence, to throw out their foam.
In some they follow after The rendering given by Erasmus, “ they follow after,” I do not approve. Although it seems to be more in accordance with the Greek construction, yet the sense requires that the preposition
ἐν be understood; for the change of case does not destroy the contrast. As he had said that the sins of some men hasten rapidly to their judgment; so now, on the other hand, he adds, that the sins of some men (or, of others) come slowly to be known. But instead of the genitive “ some,” he uses the dative “ some” (or “ others.” He means that, although the sins of some men may be concealed longer than we would wish, and are slowly brought to light, yet they shall not always be concealed; for they too shall have their own time. And if the version of Erasmus be preferred, still the meaning must be the same, that, although the vengeance of God does not hasten, yet it follows slowly behind them.
(115) “Par moyens secrets, et comme par dessous terre.” — “ secret and underground arts.”