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There is no argument deducible from the statement of Christ regarding this man to favor the sects that are outside the Catholic Church. This man arrogated to himself no apostolic powers; he formed no independent sect. He was a member of Christ's Church, an ally of the Apostles, a man who had believed even to the extent of the working of great miracles. We know from history that the working of miracles was not confined to the Apostles or to their successors. It came to the members of the early Church, to laymen and to priests alike. Only the properly commissioned ones have a right to exercise the functions of the priesthood of the New Law, but the gift of faith is the common gift to all men, and the casting out of demons is the effect of a high degree of faith.
In the fifteenth verse eis oé is omitted in and B. In the twenty-fourth verse προσηνέχθη is the common reading of the codices. B and D have προσήχθη. In the twenty-fifth verse B alone has ἔχει: the other authorities have εἶχεν. In the twenty-sixth verse Kúpte is added in and in thirteen other uncial codices. This reading is also followed by many codices of the Vulgate, and by all the other ancient versions. In the twenty-seventh verse ἐκείνου is added after δούλου in, D, and many other uncial codices and versions. In the
twenty-ninth verse εἰς τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ is added in C, Ε.
F, H, K, M, S, U, V, г, ▲, II, et al.
It is also adopted by In the same verse Távтa , C2, L, г, П, K, et al.
The omission of eis σé in and B throws a great doubt on the reading. Hence there arises a great uncertainty in regard to the sense. If we omit the phrase, the sense becomes general, and establishes the Scriptural basis for fraternal correction.
Though many grave authorities expunge the phrase, and treat the passage as a universal precept, it seems more probable that the Saviour here deals with the Christian's line of duty in regard to personal offenses. The whole context is aimed to commend Christian brotherhood, and to condemn hatred and strife. The argument of the opposition, that the offended party would be an unfit person to undertake the task of showing the brother his fault is absurd. Many a time peace has been established between offender and offended by a calm, dispassionate Christian conference between the persons. In most cases misunderstanding of each other's motives is a powerful factor in disagreements and contentions. If two persons at variance with each other should meet and confer in the spirit of these words of Christ, peace would be the inevitable result. A truly Christian conference would reveal just what was the actuating motive of the injury, just where the chief point of injury lay, and would open a way to a redress of the grievance. Of course, Christ is not speaking of the way to deal with the crimes of criminals. The way to deal with a man who is a menace to society is to hunt him down, and punish him in a manner that will preserve society, and at the same time be remedial, if possible, to the man. Christ is speaking of the relations that should exist between brother Christians. The best of men may in some way or other commit an offense against another. The Church militant is not made up of sinless perfect men. It is composed of toiling combatants, who fall and rise, and labor to put down the old nature that wars against all that is of God.
Now to hold these in the bond of perfection the Saviour gives a rule that is worthy of the wisdom of the Son of God. If men would obey it, the wild surges of hate of man against man would cease.
We do not deny that the moral obligation of fraternal correction is incumbent on men, but the proofs for its existence must be sought from other sources than from this text.
Another proof that the present text has regard to personal offenses is found in St. Luke. XI. 3-4, where the whole theme treated is identical with the present theme of Matthew. Now in Luke's text, though in all the best codices the eis σé is omitted in the third verse, it is expressed in the fourth verse in all the codices, so that no doubt exists that it is implied in the third verse. Wherefore, even if it were clearly proven that the eis oé were absent from Matthew's original, we would still believe that it must be implied. Thus Palmieri, in his note to paragraph 153 of Ballerini's Opus Theol. Moralis, admits that the present passage treats of a personal injury. Palmieri endorses the opinion of Maldonatus that, though the Lord spoke only of a personal offense, he wished all fraternal correction to be made in accordance with the rules laid down for this particular species of the same.
The present words of Christ are closely bound up with the whole theme which treats of forgiveness of injuries and of brotherly love. The precept of fraternal correction has a sufficient foundation in its deduction from the great universal law of charity. With the limitations under which it binds, it is not a difficult thing to do. It naturally follows from the law of the love of neighbor. But Christ is here speaking of a thing much harder to do. He is speaking of the Christian's obligations, when he is wronged by a brother. The natural impulse is to yield to anger, and straightway by word and deed to seek revenge. The prouder a man is, the more intense will be his anger, and the stronger his desire for revenge. This is the way of the world, and men follow it, even while they profess to be Christians. If remonstrated with, these men will tell you with clenched teeth and lips drawn by anger that other men act in the same manner. If you charge them in the name of the Gospel of Christ to put away the thirst for revenge, they