Imatges de pàgina

the sainte. Wherefore the epistle to the Romans was written at Corinth, as we shall see immediately, in the end of A. D. 57, or in the beginning of A. D. 58, full seven years after the Jews and Christians were banished from Rome by Claudius, and about three years after their return. For Claudius dying in the year 54, his edict terminated with his life; and not being renewed by his successor, the Jews and Christians came back to Rome in such numbers, that, in the third year of the emperor Nero, when the apostle wrote this letter, the Roman church had acquired its former celebrity. To conclude: the circumstances, by which the date of the epistle to the Romans is fixed, are so well ascertained, that learned men are nearly agreed in their opinion upon the point: some, with Pearson, dating it at Corinth, in the year 57 ; others, with Lardner, in the beginning of 58; and others, with Mill, in 58, without determining the time of the year.

The salutations from Gaius or Caius, the apostle's host, and from Erastus, the chamberlain of the city, Rom. xvi. 23. are additional proofs, that this epistle was written at Corinth. For that Gaius lived there, seems plain from 1 Cor. i. 14. as did Erastus likewise, 2. Tim. ii. 14. Besides, Phæbe a deaconess of the church at Cenchrea, the eastern part of Corinth, having been the bearer of this letter, Corinth, by that circumstance also, is so plainly pointed out as the place where it was written, that there was no occasion for the apostle to be more particular.

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View and Illustration of the Matters contained in this Chapter.

The unbelieving Jews having violently opposed the gospel, because it was preached to the uncircumcised Gentiles, and because Jesus, whom the Christians called the Christ, was not such an one as they expected, the apostle, in the inscription of this epistle, affirmed that the gospel was preached to the Gentiles, in fulfilment of God's promise made by the prophets in the scriptures, ver. 1, 2.-And that Jesus, whom the apostles called the Christ, was, as to his flesh, sprung of the seed of David, ver. 3. -But as to his divine nature, he was, with the greatest power of evidence, declared to be the Son of God, by his resurrection, ver. 4.-And because Paul was personally unknown to most of the Christians in Rome, he assured them that he was made an apostle by Christ himself, for the purpose of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, ver. 5.:-of which class of men, most of the inhabitants of Rome were, ver. 6.-He was therefore authorized to write this letter to the whole inhabitants of Rome. So many particulars crowded into the inscription, hath made it uncommonly long. But they are placed with great judgment, in the very entrance, because they are the foundations, on which the whole scheme of doctrine contained in the epistle, is built.

Because it might seem strange, that Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles, had not hitherto visited Rome, the most noted Gentile city in the world, he assured the Romans he had often purposed to come to them, but had hitherto been hindered, ver. 13, 14.However, he was still willing to preach the gospel in Rome, ver. 15.;-being neither afraid, nor ashamed, to preach it in that great and learned city; because it reveals the powerful method which God hath devised for bestowing salvation on every one who believeth ; on the Jew first, to whom it was to be first preached, and also on the Greek, ver. 16. In this account of the gospel, the apostle insinuated, that no Jew could be saved by the law of Moses, nor any Gentile by the law of nature. For, if the Jews could have been saved by the one law, and the Greeks by the other, the gospel, instead of being the power of God for salvalion to every one who believeth, would have been a needless dispensation; and the apostle ought to have been ashamed of it, as altogether superfluous.

To prove that the gospel is the power of God for salvation to every one who believeth, the apostle first of all observes, that therein the righteousness of God by faith is revealed : in the gospel, the righteousness which God will accept and reward, is revealed to be a righteousness, not of works, but of faith. And this being the only righteousness of which sinners are capable, the gospel which discovers its acceptableness to God, and the method in which it may be attained, is, without doubt, the power of God for salvation, to all who believe, ver. 7. Here an essential defect, both in the law of Moses, and in the law of nature, is tacitly insinuated. Neither the one law, nor the other, reveals God's intention of accepting and rewarding any righteousness, but that of a perfect obedience.-Secondly, To prove that the gospel alone is the power of God for salvation, the apostle observes, that both in the law of nature, and the law of Moses, the wrath of God is revealed from heaven, &c. That is, these laws, instead of granting pardon to sinners, subject them to punishment, however penitent they may be; consequently, these laws are not the power of God for salvation, to any one. But the gospel, which promises pardon and eternal life, is the effectual means of saving sinners. In short, any hope of mercy sinners entertain, must be derived from revelation alone, ver. 18. And in regard the apostle wrote this epistle to the Romans for the purpose plaining and proving these important truths, the declaration of them, contained in verses 16, 17, 18. may be considered as the firoposition of the subjects to be handled in this epistle.

Accordingly, to shew that no person, living under the law of nature, has any hope of salvation given him by that law, the apostle begins with proving, that, instead of possessing that perfect holiness, which is required by the law of nature, in order to salvation, all are guilty before God, and doomed by that law to punishment. To illustrate this proposition, St. Paul took the

of ex

Greeks for an example; because, having carried the powers of reason to the highest pitch, their philosophy might be considered as the perfection both of the light and of the law of nature; consequently, among them, if any where, all the knowledge of God, and of the method of salvation, discoverable by the light of nature, and all the purity of manners, which men can attain by their own powers, ought to have been found. Nevertheless that people, so intelligent in other matters, were in religion foolish to the last degree, and in morals debauched beyond belief. For notwithstanding the knowledge of the being and per fections of the one true God subsisted among them, in the most early ages, ver. 19.-being understood by the works of creation, ver. 20.—their legislators, philosophers, and priests, unrighteously holding the truth concerning God in confinement, did not glorify him as God, by discovering him to the common people, and making him the object of their worship: But, through their own foolish reasonings, fancying holytheism and idolatry more proper for the vulgar than the worship of the one true God, they themselves at length lost the knowledge of God to such a degree, that their own heart was darkened, ver. 21.–Thus the wise men among the Greeks became fools in matters of religion, and were guilty of the greatest injustice, both towards God and men, ver. 22.-For, by their public institutions, they changed the glory of the incorruptible God, into an image of corruptible mani and of birds, &c. which they held up to the people as objects of worship. And by their own example, as well as by the laws which they enacted, they led the people to worship these idols, with the most impure and detestable rites, ver. 23.-For which crime, God permitted those pretended wise men, who had so exceedingly dishonoured him, to dishonour themselves with the most brutish carnality; of which the apostle gives a particular description, ver. 24,—26: and observes, that those proud legisJators and philosophers, who thought they had discovered the highest wisdom, in their religious and political institutions, thus received in themselves the recompense of their error that was meet, ver. 27.-So that the abominable uncleanness, which was avowedly practised by the Greeks, and which was authorized by their public institutions, as well as by the example of their great men, was both the natural effect, and the just punishment of that idolatry, which, in every state, was established as the national re. ligion.--Farther, because the Grecian legislators did not approve of the true knowledge of God as fit for the people, the great

men, as well as the vulgar whom they deceived, lost all sense
of right and wrong, in their behaviour towards one another,
ver. 28.-most of them being filled with all manner of injustice,
fornication, wickedness, &c. ver. 29.-31. Nay, although by
the law of God written on their hearts, they knew that those
who commit such crimes, are worthy of death, to such a degree
did they carry their profligacy, that they not only committed
these sins themselves, but encouraged the common people to
commit them, by the pleasure with which they beheld their de-
baucheries in the temples, and their revellings on the festivals
of their gods, ver. 32.
· Such is the apostle Paul's account of the manners of the
Greeks: from which it appears, that their boasted philosophy,
notwithstanding it enabled them to form excellent plans of civil
government, whereby the people were inspired with the love of
their country, and good laws for maintaining the peace of so-
ciety, it proved utterly ineffectual for giving the legislator's the
knowledge of salvation, and for leading them to establish a right
public religion: defects which entirely destroyed any influence.
which their political institutions might otherwise have had, in
aiding the people to maintain a proper moral conduct. In
short, the vicious characters of the false gods, whom the legisla-
tors held up to the people as objects of their worship, and the
impure rites with which they appointed them to be worshipped,
corrupted the morals of the people to such a degree, that the
Greeks became the most debauched of mankind, and thereby
lost all claim to the favour of God. But if this was the case
with the most intelligent, most civilized, and most accomplished
heathen nations, under the tuition of their boasted philosophy,
it will easily be admitted, that the light of nature, among the
barbarous nations, could have no greater efficacy in leading them
to the worship of the true God, and in giving them the knowledge
of the method of salvation. The most civilized heathen nations,
therefore, equally with the most barbarous, having, under the
guidance of the light of nature, lost the knowledge of God, and
become utterly corrupted in their morals, it is evident, that
none of them could have any hope of a future life from the law
of nature, which condemns all to death without mercy, who de
not give a sinless obedience to its precepts. Wherefore, both
for the knowledge of the method of salvation, and for salvation
itself, the Greeks were obliged to have recourse to the gospel,
which teaches, that because all have sinned, and are incapable of

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