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is said his bodily presence was mean, and his speech contemp- | monarchy. This opinion was so deeply rooted in the minds of tible, yet it ought to be remembered; that this was the aspersion of his enemies, the effusion of malignity, to defame and sink him, and ruin his usefulness."
the apostles, that Jesus Christ did not think proper to eradicate it all at once, but rather chose to remove it by gentle and easy degrees. Accordingly, in compliance with their prejudices, we find him describing his kingdom, and the pre-eminence they were to enjoy in it, by eating and drinking at his table, and sitting on thrones, and judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Luke xxii. 30. Matt. xix. 28.)
But after the Holy Spirit had given the apostles clear and
OBSERVATIONS ON THE APOSTOLICAL EPISTLES IN GENERAL, distinct apprehensions of the spiritual nature of Christ's kingdom,
AND THOSE OF SAINT PAUL IN PARTICULAR.
I. Importance of the Epistles.-Nature of these writings
and the real nature of its happiness, we find what noble reprefor true Christians, and what powerful arguments they derive sentations they give of the glories which are laid up in Heaven thence, in order to persuade them not to set their minds upon the things of this world. They describe the happiness of the world to come by an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away (1 Pet. i. 4.); by a new heaven, and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness (2 Pet. iii. 13.), where God shall be all in all (1 Cor. xv. 28.): he shall reign with an absolute dominion, and it shall be our honour and happiness that God is exalted; and they exhort us not to set our minds upon the things that are seen, and are temporal, but on those things which are not seen, and are eternal. (2 Cor. iv. 18.) Again, it was the same prejudice concerning the temporal glories of Christ's kingdom which caused his disciples to misunderstand the meaning of his various clear and explicit discourses concerning his sufferings, death, and resurrection. (See Mark ix. 10. Luke ix. 45. xviii. 34.) They vainly expected that their master would gain earthly conquests and triumphs, and they could not apprehend how he should become glorious through sufferings. In consequence of these mistaken ideas, the doctrine of the cross and its saving effects were not understood by the apostles (Matt. xvi. 22.), until our Saviour had opened their understandings by his discourses on this subject after his resurrection; and therefore we cannot expect so perfect an exposition of that great and fundamental article of Christianity in the Gospels as in the Epistles, in which Christ's dying for our sins, and rising again for our justification, is every doctrine of the cross is there spoken of as a truth of such imwhere insisted upon as the foundation of all our hopes; and the
I. THE EPISTLES, or letters addressed to various Christian communities, and also to individuals, by the apostles Paul, James, Peter, John, and Jude, form the second principal division of the New Testament. These writings abundantly confirm all the material facts related in the Gospel and Acts of the Apostles. The particulars of our Saviour's life and death are often referred to in them, as grounded upon the undoubted testimony of eye-witnesses, and as being the foundation of the Christian religion. The speedy propagation of the Christian faith, recorded in the Acts, is confirmed beyond all contradiction by innumerable passages in the Epistles, written to the churches already planted; and the miraculous gifts, with which the apostles were endued, are often appealed to in the same writings, as an undeniable evidence of the divine mission of the apostles.2 Though all the essential doctrines and precepts of the Christian religion were unquestionably taught by our Saviour himself, and are contained in the Gospels, yet it is evident to any person who attentively studies the Epistles, that they are to be considered as commentaries on the doctrines of the Gospel addressed to particular Christian societies or persons, in order to explain and apply those doctrines more fully, to confute some growing errors, to compose differences and schisms, to reform abuses and corruptions, to excite Chris-portance, that Saint Paul (1 Cor. ii. 2.), in comparison of it, tians to holiness, and to encourage them against persecutions. despises every other kind of knowledge, whether divine or human. And since these Epistles were written (as we have already Hence it is that the apostles deduce those powerful motives to shown) under divine inspiration, and have uniformly been obedience, which are taken from the love, humility, and condereceived by the Christian church as the productions of in-scension of our Lord, and the right which he has to our service, spired writers, it consequently follows (notwithstanding some having purchased us with the price of his blood. (See 1 Cor. vi. writers have insinuated that they are not of equal authority 20. 2 Cor. v. 15. Gal. ii. 20. Tit. ii. 14. 1 Pet. i. 18, 19.) Hence with the Gospels, while others would reject them altogether) they derive those great obligations, which lie upon Christians to that what the apostles have delivered in these Epistles, as exercise the duties of mortification and self-denial; of crucifying necessary to be believed or done by Christians, must be as the flesh with the affections and lusts (Gal. v. 24. vi. 14. Rom. necessary to be believed and practised in order to salvation, vi. 6. 1 Pet. iv. 1, 2.); of patience under afflictions, and rejoicing as the doctrines and precepts delivered by Jesus Christ him- in tribulations (Phil. iii. 10. 2 Tim. ii. 11, 12. 1 Pet. ii. 19. &c., self, and recorded in the Gospels: because in writing these iv. 13.); of being dead to this world, and seeking those things Epistles, the sacred penmen were the servants, apostles, am- which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God. bassadors and ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mys- (Col. iii. 1. &c.) Thus, as our Saviour spoiled principalities teries of God, and their doctrines and precepts are the will, and powers, and triumphed over his enemies by the cross the mind, the truth, and the commandments of God himself. (Col. ii. 15.), so the believer overcomes the world by being cruOn account of the fuller displays of evangelical truth con- cified to it; and becomes more than conqueror through Christ tained in this portion of the sacred volume, the Epistles have that loved him. by some divines been termed the DOCTRINAL BOOKS of the New Testament.
That the preceding view of the Epistles is correct, will appear from the following considerations.
In the FIRST place they announce and explain DOCTRINES, of, which our Saviour had not fully treated in his discourses, and which consequently are not clearly delivered in the Gospels.
-Once more, it is in the Epistles principally, that we are clearly taught the calling of the Gentiles to make one church with the Jews. Our Lord, indeed, had intimated this glorious event in some general expressions, and also in some of his parables (see Matt. viii. 1. xx. 1. Luke xv. 11. &c.); and the numerous prophecies of the Old Testament, which foretell the calling of the Gentiles, were sufficient to convince the Jews, that in the times of the Messiah, Thus there were some things which our Saviour did not fully God would reveal the knowledge of himself and his will to the and clearly explain to his disciples (John xvi. 12.), but accom- world more fully than ever he had done before. But the extraormodated his expressions to those prejudices in which they had dinary value which they had for themselves, and the privileges been educated. Of this description were his discourses concern-which they fancied were peculiar to their own nation, made ing the nature of his kingdom; which, agreeably to the erroneous notions then entertained by their countrymen, the apostles expected would be a temporal kingdom, and accompanied with the same pomp and splendour which are the attendants of an earthly 1 Dr. Harwood's Introd. to the New Test. vol. i. p. 202. See also Michael is's Introduction, vol. i. pp. 149-159. Bp. Newton's Dissertation on St. Paul's Eloquence. (Works, vol. v. pp. 248-271.) Dr. Kennicott's Remarks on the Old Testament and Sermons, pp. 369-379. Dr. A. Clarke on 1 Tim. vi. 15.
and 2 Tim. iv. 8.
them unwilling to believe that the Gentiles should ever be fellowheirs with the Jews, of the same body or church with them, and partakers of the same promises in Christ by the Gospel. (Eph. iii. 6.) This Saint Peter himself could hardly be persuaded to him for that purpose. (Acts x. 28.) And Saint Paul tells us believe, till he was convinced by a particular vision vouchsafed to that this was a mystery which was but newly revealed to the apostles by the Spirit (Eph. iii. 5.): and therefore not fully discovered by Christ before.
Lastly, it is in the Epistles chiefly that the inefficacy of the law to procure our justification in the sight of God, the cessation
of the law, and the eternal and unchangeable nature of Christ's | ple of Saint Paul, and also because those Epistles are the priesthood are set forth. Compare Rom. iii. 20. 25. Gal. ii. 21. iii. 16. v. 2. 5. Heb. ix. 10. vii. 18. v. 5, 6. vii. 24, 25 SECONDLY, in the Epistles only we have instructions concerning many great and necessary DUTIES.
Such are the following, viz. that all our thanksgivings are to be offered up to God in the name of Christ. The duties which we owe to our civil governors are only hinted in these words of Christ-"Render unto Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's," but are enlarged upon in Saint Paul's Epistles to the Romans (xiii.), and to Titus (iii. 1.), and also in the first Epistle of Saint Peter. (ii. 10. 17.) In like manner the duties, which we owe to the ministers of the Gospel (our spiritual governors), are more expressly taught in Saint Paul's Epistle to the Galatians (vi. 6.), the Thessalonians (1 Thess. v. 12, 13.), and to the Hebrews. (xiii. 17, 18.) Lastly, all the duties belonging to the relations of husbands and wives, parents and children, masters and servants, are particularly treated in the Epistles to the Ephesians (v. 28-33. vi. 1-9.), and the Colossians (iii. 1125.); but are scarcely ever mentioned in the Gospels. This is a convincing argument that the Holy Spirit, who influenced the pens of the apostles, not only regarded the particular exigencies of the Christians who lived in those times, but also directed the sacred writers to enlarge on such points of doctrine and practice as were of universal concern, and would be for the benefit of the faithful in all succeeding generations. It is true that the immediate occasion of several of the epistles was the correction of errors and irregularities in particular churches :3 but the experience of all succeeding ages, to our own time, has shown the necessity of such cautions, and the no less necessity of attending to the duties which are directly opposite to those sins and irregularities, and which the apostles take occasion from thence to lay down and enforce. And even their decisions of cases concerning meats and drinks, and the observation of the ceremonial law, and similar doubts which were peculiar to the Jewish converts, in the first occasion of them:-even these rules also are, and will always be, our surest guides in all points relating to church liberty, and the use of things indifferent; when the grounds of those decisions, and the directions consequent upon them, are duly attended to, and applied to cases of the like nature by the rules of piety and prudence, especially in one point, which is of universal concern in life, viz. the duty of abstaining from many things which are in themselves innocent, if we foresee that they will give offence to weak Christians, or be the occasion of leading others into sin.
II. The Epistles contained in the New Testament are twenty-one in number, and are generally divided into two classes, the Epistles of Saint Paul, and the Catholic Epistles. Of these apostolical letters, fourteen were written by the great apostle of the Gentiles; they are not placed in our Bibles according to the order of time when they were composed, but according to the supposed precedence of the societies or persons to whom they were addressed. Thus, the epistles to churches are disposed according to the rank of the cities or places whither they were sent. The Epistle to the Romans stands first, because Rome was the chief city of the Roman empire: this is followed by the two Epistles to the Corinthians, because Corinth was a large, polite, and renowned city. To them succeeds the Epistle to the Galatians, who were the inhabitants of Galatia, a region of Asia Minor, in which were several churches. Next follows the Epistle to the Ephesians, because Ephesus was the chief city of Asia Minor, strictly so called. Afterwards come the Epistles to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians; for which order Dr. Lardner can assign no other probable reason than this, viz. that Philippi was a Roman colony, and, therefore, the Epistle to the Philippians was placed before those to the Colossians and Thessalonians, whose cities were not - distinguished by any particular circumstance. He also thinks it not unlikely that the shortness of the two Epistles to the Thessalonians, especially of the second, caused them to be placed last among the letters addressed to churches, though in point of time they are the earliest of Saint Paul's Epistles.
Among the Epistles addressed to particular persons, those to Timothy have the precedence, as he was a favourite disci
1 Compare Eph. v. 8. 20. 1 Thess. v. 18. Heb. xiii. 14, 15.
2 Whitby, vol. ii. p. 1. Lowth's Directions for the Profitable Reading of the Scriptures, pp. 199-211.
3 Such were the corrupting of Christianity with mixtures of Judaism and philosophy, apostacy from the faith which they had received, contentions and divisions among themselves, neglect of the assemblies for public worship, and misbehaviour in them, the dishonouring of marriage, &c. &r.
longest and fullest. To them succeeds the Epistle to Titus, who was an evangelist; and that to Philemon is placed last, as he was supposed to have been only a private Christian. Last of all comes the Epistle to the Hebrews, because its authenticity was doubted for a short time (though without any foundation, as will be shown in a subsequent page); Dr. Lardner also thinks that it was the last written of all St. Paul's Epistles.
Some learned men, who have examined the chronology of Saint Paul's Epistles, have proposed to arrange them in our Bibles, according to the order of time: but to this classification there are two serious objections, viz. 1. The order of their dates has not yet been satisfactorily or unanimously settled; and, 2. Very considerable difficulty will attend the alteration of that order which has been adopted in all the editions and versions of the New Testament. This was the received arrangement in the time of Eusebius, who flourished in the beginning of the third century, and probably also of Irenæus, who lived in the second century. Consequently it is the most ancient order: in Dr. Lardner's judgment it is the best that can be adopted;4 and therefore we have retained the received order in the subsequent part of this work. As, however, a knowledge of the order in which Saint Paul's Epistles were written, cannot fail to be both 'instructive and useful to the biblical student, we have deemed it proper to subjoin a TABLE of their CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER (as established in the subsequent pages), which exhibits the places where, and the times when, they were in all probability respectively written. The dates, &c. assigned by Dr. Lardner and other learned men, are duly noticed in the following pages.
- Corinth -
- Rome Italy
(perhaps from Rome)
III. The Catholic Epistles are seven in number, and contain the letters of the apostles James, Peter, John, and Jude. They are termed Catholic, that is, general or universal, because they are not addressed to the believers of some particular city or country, or to individuals, as Saint Paul's Epistles were, but to Christians in general, or to Christians of several countries. The subjoined table exhibits the dates of the Catholic Epistles, and also the places where they were written, agreeably to the order established in the following pages.
IV. The general plan on which the Epistles are written is, first, to discuss and decide the controversy, or to refute the erroneous notions, which had arisen in the church, or among the persons to whom they are addressed, and which was the occasion of their being written; and, secondly, to recommend the observance of those duties, which would be necessary, and of absolute importance to the Christian church in every age, consideration being chiefly given to those particular graces or virtues of the Christian character, which the disputes that occasioned the Epistles might tempt them to negfect. In pursuing this method, regard is had, first, to the nature and faculties of the soul of man, in which the understanding is to lead the way, and the will, affections, and active powers are to follow; and, secondly, to the nature of religion in general, which is a reasonable service, teaching us that we are not to be determined by superstitious fancies, Dr. Lardner's Works, 8vo. vol. vi. pp. 646-649., 4to. vol. iii. pp. 407, 408. On the origin and reasons of this appellation, see Chapter IV, Sant
nor by blind passions, but by a sound judgment and a good | understanding of the mind and will of God; and also showing us the necessary union of faith and practice, of truth and holiness. The pious, affectionate, and faithful manner in which the apostles admonish, reprove, exhort, or offer consolation, can only be adequately appreciated by him, who, by patient and diligent study, is enabled to enter fully into the spirit of the inspired authors.
V. Explicit as the Epistles unquestionably are in all fundamental points, it is not to be denied that some parts of them are more difficult to be understood than the Gospels. The reason of these seeming difficulties is evident. In an Epistle many things are omitted, or only slightly mentioned, because they are supposed to be known by the person to whom it is addressed; but, to a person unacquainted with such particulars, they cannot but present considerable difficulty. The affairs discussed by Saint Paul were certainly well known to the persons to whom he wrote; who consequently would easily apprehend his meaning, and see the force and tendency of his discourse. As, however, we who live at this distance of time, can obtain no information concerning the occasion of his writing, or the character and circumstances of the persons for whom his Epistles were intended, except what can be collected from the Epistles themselves, it is not strange that several things in them should appear obscure to us. Further, it is evident from many passages, that he answers letters sent, and questions proposed to him, by his correspondents; which, if they had been preserved, would have illustrated different passages much better than all the notes of commentators and critics. To these causes of obscurity, which are common to all the writers of the Epistles, we may add some that are peculiar to Saint Paul, owing to his style and temper. Possessing an ardent, acute, and fertile mind (as we have seen in the preceding section), he seems to have written with great rapidity, and without closely attending to method. Hence arise those frequent parentheses which occur in his Epistles. In the course of his argument he sometimes breaks off abruptly, in order to pursue a new thought that is necessary for the support of some point arising from the subject, though not immediately leading to it; and when he has exhausted such new idea, he returns from his digression without any intimation of the change of topic, so that considerable attention is requisite in order to retain the connection. His frequent changes of persons and propositions of objections, which he answers without giving any formal intimation, are also causes of ambiguity. To these we may add, 1. The modern divisions of chapters and verses, which dissolve the connection of parts, and break them into fragments; and, 2. Our uncertainty concerning the persons addressed, as well as the opinions and practices to which the great apostle of the Gentiles alludes, sometimes only in exhortations and reproofs.2 Other causes of obscurity might be assigned, but the preceding are the most material; and the knowledge of them, if we study with a right spirit, will enable us to ascertain the rest without difficulty. The most useful mode of studying the epistolary writings of the New Testament is, unquestionably, that proposed and recommended by Mr. Locke; which, having been already noticed when treating on the doctrinal interpretation of the Scriptures, it is not necessary again to repeat.3
ON THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS.
I. Date, and where written.-II. Genuineness and authenticity of this Epistle; particularly of chapters XV. and XVI.III. The church at Rome, when and by whom founded.
1 The following remark of a late excellent writer, on the Scriptures in general, is particularly applicable to Saint Paul's Epistles.-"Difficulties indeed there are, but the life-directing precepts they contain are sufficiently easy; and he who reads the Scriptures with an unprejudiced mind, must be convinced, that the whole end they have in view is to lead mankind to their truest and best happiness, both here and hereafter. They inform our reason, they guide our consciences; in short, they have the words both of temporal and eternal life." Gilpin's Sermons, vol. iv. p. 335. See also Mrs. More's Essay on Saint Paul, vol. i. pp. 59-72.
2 Locke's Essay for the understanding of Saint Paul's Epistles (Works, vol. iii.), p. 275. et seq. See also Dr. Graves's Essay on the Character of the Apostles and Evangelists, pp. 146-163., for some useful remarks on the obscurity of Saint Paul's Epistles.
See Vol. I. Part II. Chap. V.
IV. Occasion.-V. Internal state of the church at Rome.VI. Scope.-VII. Synopsis of its contents.-VIII. Observations on this Epistle.
I. THE Epistle to the Romans, though fifth in order of time, is placed first of all the apostolical letters, either from the pre-eminence of Rome, as being the mistress of the world, or because it is the longest and most comprehensive of all Saint Paul's Epistles. Various years have been assigned for its date. Van Til refers it to the year 55; Langius, Bishop Pearson, Drs. Mill and Whitby, Fabricius, Reineccius, Professor Stuart, and others, to the year 57: Baronius, Michaelis, Lord Barrington, Drs. Benson and Lardner, and Bishop Tomline to the year 58; Archbishop Usher and our Bible chronology, to the year 60; Dr. Hales to the end of 58, or the beginning of 59; and Rosenmüller to the end of the year 58. The most probable date is that which assigns this Epistle to the end of 57, or the beginning of 58; at which time Saint Paul was at Corinth, whence he was preparing to go to Jerusalem with the collections which had been made by the Christians of Macedonia and Achaia for their poor brethren in Judæa. (Rom. xv. 25-27.) The Epistle was dictated by the apostle in the Greek languages to Tertius his amanuensis (xvi. 22.), and was sent to the church at Rome, by Phoebe, a deaconess of the church at Cenchrea (xvi. 1.), whose journey to Rome afforded Saint Paul an opportunity of writing to the Christians in that city. That he wrote from Corinth is further evident from Romans xvi. 23. where he sends salutations from Erastus the chamberlain of Corinth (which city, we learn from 2 Tim. iv. 20. was the place of his residence), and from Gaius, who lived at Corinth (1 Cor. i. 14.), whom Saint Paul terms his host, and the host of all the Christian church there.
II. That this Epistle has always been acknowledged to be a genuine and authentic production of Saint Paul, is attested not only by the ancient Syriac and Latin versions, but by the express declarations and quotations of Irenæus, Theophilus of Antioch, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Origen,10, and by all subsequent ecclesiastical writers. It was also cited or alluded to by the apostolic fathers," Barnabas,12 Clement of Rome,13 Ignatius,14 Polycarp,15 and by the churches of Vienna and Lyons.16
The genuineness of chapters xv. and xvi. has been of late years impugned by Heumann, Semler, Schott, and Eichhorn. Their arguments have been examined in detail, and most satisfactorily refuted by Professor Stuart, in his Introduction to the Epistle to the Romans, the result of whose researches proves, first, that there is no internal evidence to prove that these chapters are spurious; and secondly, that no external evidence of any considerable weight can be adduced in favour of this supposition. All the manuscripts which are of any authority (with some variety as to the position of xvi. 25-27., and with the omission of these verses in a few cases) are on the side of the genuineness of these chapters. Jerome mentions, that he knew of some manuscripts which omitted xvi. 25-27.; and Wetstein cites a Codex Latinus which also omits those verses. But in regard to all the rest of the fifteenth and sixteenth chapters, no authority from manuscripts, fathers, or versions, warrants us in suspecting them.
III. The Scriptures do not inform us at what time or by whom the Gospel was first preached at Rome. Those who assert that the church in that city was founded by Saint Pe ter, can produce no solid foundation for their opinion: for, if he had preached the Gospel there, it is not likely that such
This opinion is satisfactorily vindicated at considerable length, by Dr. J. F. Flatt, in a dissertation, De tempore, quo Pauli epistola ad Romanos scripta sit (Tubinga, 1789); reprinted in Pott's and Ruperti's Sylloge Commentationum Theologicarum, vol. ii. pp. 54-74.
Latin, but this notion is contradicted by the whole current of Christian 5 Bellarmine and Salmeron imagined that this epistle was written in antiquity; and John Adrian Bolton, a German critic, fancied that it was written in Aramaic, but he was amply refuted by Griesbach. Viser, Herm. Sacr. Nov. Test. pars ii. p. 354. Rosenmüller, Scholia, vol. iii. p. 359. That pp. 193, 194. Greek was the original language we have already proved, supra, Vol. I
Lardner's Works, 8vo. vol. ii. pp. 163-165.; 4to. vol. i. pp. 368, 369. Ibid. 8vo. vol. ii. pp. 195-199.; 4to. vol. i. pp. 385-388. 8 Ibid. 8vo. vol. ii. pp. 222-224.; 4to. vol. i. pp. 400-402. Ibid. 8vo. vol. ii. pp. 266-272.; 4to. vol. i. pp. 424-428. 10 Ibid. 8vo. vol. ii. pp. 375-377.; 4to. vol. i. pp. 482-434. 11 Ibid. 8vo. vol. ii. pp. 471, 472.; 4to. vol. i. p. 535. 12 Ibid. 8vo. vol. ii. pp. 17, 18:; 4to. vol. i. pp. 286, 287. 13 Ibid. 8vo. vol. ii. p. 35.; 4to. vol. i. p. 296.
14 Ibid. 8vo. vol. ii. p. 74.; 4to. vol. i. p. 318.
15 Ibid. 8vo. vol. ii. p. 94.; 4to. vol. i. p. 329.
16 Ibid. 8vo. vol. ii. p. 151.; 4to. vol. i. p. 361.
1 Stuart's Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, pp. 42-50. 19 Hieronymi Comm. in Eph. iii. 5.
an event would have been left unnoticed in the Acts of the Apostles, where the labours of Peter are particularly related with those of Paul, which form the chief subject of that book. Nor is it probable that the author of this Epistle should have made no reference whatever to this circumstance, if it had been true. There is still less plausibility in the opinion, that the church was planted at Rome by the joint labours of Peter and Paul, for it is evident from Romans i. 8. that Paul had never been in that city previously to his writing this Epistle. As, however, the fame of this church had reached him long before he wrote the present letter (xv. 23.), the most probable opinion is that of Dr. Benson, Michaelis, Rambach, Rosenmüller, and other critics, viz. that the Gospel was first preached there by some of those persons who heard Peter preach, and were converted at Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost: for we learn from Acts ii. 10. that there were then at Jerusalem, strangers of Rome, Jews, and proselytes. These Roman Jews, on their return home, doubtless preached Christ to their countrymen there, and probably converted some of them: so that the church at Rome, like most of the churches in Gentile countries, was at first composed of Jews. But it was soon enlarged by converts from among the religious proselytes to Judaism, and in process of time was increased by the flowing in of the idolatrous Gentiles, who gave themselves to Christ in such numbers, that, at the time Saint Paul wrote his Epistle to the Romans, their conversion was much spoken of throughout the world. (i. 8.) Among the earliest messengers of the faith or promoters of its doctrines, Andronicus and Junia may be enumerated (Rom. xvi. 7.), and also Rufus, the same, perhaps, whose father assisted Jesus Christ in bearing the cross. (xvi. 13. Mark xv. 21.)
IV. The occasion of writing this Epistle may easily be collected from the Epistle itself. It appears that Saint Paul, who had been made acquainted with all the circumstances of the Christians at Rome by Aquila and Priscilla (Rom. xvi. 3.), and by other Jews who had been expelled from Rome by the decree of Claudius (Acts xviii. 2.), was very desirous of seeing them, that he might impart to them some spiritual gift (Rom. i. 8-13. xv. 14. xvi. 1.); but, being prevented from visiting them, as he had proposed, in his journey into Spain, he availed himself of the opportunity that presented itself to him by the departure of Phoebe to Rome, to send them an Epistle. (Rom. xvi. 1, 2.) Finding, however, that the church was composed partly of Heathens who had embraced the Gospel, and partly of Jews, who, with many remaining prejudices, believed in Jesus as the Messiah; and finding also that many contentions arose from the Gentile converts claiming equal privileges with the Hebrew Christians (which claims the latter absolutely refused to admit unless the Gentile converts were circumcised), he wrote this Epistle to compose these differences, and to strengthen the faith of the Roman Christians against the insinuations of false teachers; being apprehensive lest his involuntary absence from Rome should be turned by the latter to the prejudice of the Gospel.
V. In order fully to understand this Epistle, it is necessary that we should be acquainted with the tenets believed by those whose errors the apostle here exposes and confutes. It is clear that he wrote to persons, who had been either Gentiles or Jews, and that his grand design was to remove the prejudices entertained by both these descriptions of
The greater part of the GENTILES, who lived in gross ignorance, did not trouble themselves much concerning the pardon of their sins, or the salvation of their souls; and the rest believed that their virtues deserved the favour of their gods, either in this world or in the next, if there were any thing to expect after death. They also thought that their vices or sins were expiated by their virtues, especially if they were truly sorry for the crimes they had committed; for they declared a man to be innocent who repented of his fault. In order to expiate the most atrocious crimes, they had recourse to purifications and sacrifices, and sometimes offered human victims; but the wisest among them maintained that nothing was more fit to appease the Divinity than a change
The Jews, on the other hand, divided all mankind into three classes. The first was composed of righteous men whose righteousness exceeded their sins; the second comAt this time there were great numbers of Jews at Rome. Josephus relates that their number amounted to eight thousand (Antiq. Jud. lib. xvii. c. 12.); and Dion Cassius (lib. xxxvii. c. 17.) informs us that they had obtained the privilege of living according to their own laws.
prised those whose righteousness was equal to their sins; and the third contained wicked men, whose sins were more in number than their good deeds. They thought, however, that there was no person so righteous as not to stand in need of pardon: but they believed that they should obtain it by repentance, by confession of their sins, by almsgiving, by prayer, by the afflictions which God sent them, by their purifications, sacrifices, and change of life, and above all by the solemn sacrifice which was annually offered on the great day of atonement;-and if there yet remained any thing to be pardoned, every thing (they said) would be expiated by death. Further, the most zealous among the Jews entertained various erroneous opinions relative to their justification, to the election of their nation, and to the Roman government, which it is important to consider, as Saint Paul has refuted them at considerable length in this Epistle.
1. The Jews assigned three grounds of justification, by which they were delivered from the guilt and punishment of sin; viz.
(1.) The extraordinary piety and merit of their ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the twelve patriarchs, and the covenant God made with them; for the sake of which piety, as He had promised to bless their posterity, they thought that this covenant obliged Him to forgive their sins. This error is confuted by Saint Paul in the ninth chapter, where he shows that God's promises were made only to the faithful descendants of Abraham; and in the latter part of the fifth chapter, which confirms his assertion in chapter iii. 29, 30. that God was alike the God of the Jews and Gentiles; and that the covenant, broken by their common father Adam, should be restored to both by the
common Head of the new covenant, Jesus Christ.
(2.) Their knowledge of God through the law of God, ana their diligence in the study of that law which they estimated so highly as to make it a plea for the remission of their sins. In opposition to this notion, Saint Paul proves, in the second chapter, that man is justified, not by the knowledge, but by the observance of the law.
(3.) The works of the Levitical law, which were to expiate sin, especially circumcision and sacrifices; whence the Jews inferred that the Gentiles must receive the whole law of Moses, in order to be justified and saved, in other words, that there was no salvation out of the Jewish church. In opposition to this erroneous tenet, Saint Paul teaches that the Levitical law does not expiate, but only reveals sin; and that it exemplifies on the sacrificed beasts the punishment due to the sinner. (iii. 20. v. 20.)
2. The doctrine of the Jews concerning election was, that as God had promised Abraham that he would bless his seed, that He would give it not only the true spiritual blessing, but also the land of Canaan, and that he would suffer it to dwell there in prosperity, and consider it as his church upon earth; therefore this blessing extended it to their whole na tion. They asserted that God was bound to fulfil these promises to every Jew, because he was a descendant of Abraham, whether he were righteous or wicked, faithful or unbelieving. They even believed that a prophet ought not to pronounce against their nation the prophecies with which he was inspired, but was bound to resist the will of God, by praying, like Moses, that his name might be expunged from the book of life. These Jewish errors illustrate that very difficult chapter (the ninth), and show that the question discussed by Saint Paul, relative to predestination and election, is totally different from that debated by Christians since the fourth century, and which now unhappily divides the Christian world.
3. It is well known that the Pharisees, at least those who were of the party of Judas the Gaulonite or Galilæan, cherished the most rooted aversion to foreign magistrates; and from a false interpretation of Deut. xvii. 15., thought it unlawful to pay tribute to, or to acknowledge, the Roman emperor.2 Expecting a Messiah who would establish a temporal kingdom, and liberate them from the dominion of the Romans, they were ripe for rebellion, and at all times ready to throw off the yoke. Even the Jews at Rome had already begun to create disturbances which occasioned the edict of Claudius, that all Jews should depart from Rome; and as,
Compare Matt. xxii. 15-22. with Josephus, Ant. Jud. lib. xvii. c. 2. It was a maxim with the Jews that the world was given to the Israelites; that they should have the supreme rule every where, and that the Gentiles should be their vassals.
3 Josephus de Bell, Jud. lib. vii. c. 31. Suetonius in Vespasiano, c. 4. Tacitus, Hist. lib. ii. c. 5.
Acts xviii. 2. Suetonius in Claudiano, c. 25.
in those early times, the Christians were generally confounded with the Jews, it is not unlikely that both were included in this decree. At this time also, the city of Rome contained within herself the seeds of insurrection and civil war. The senate was secretly jealous of the emperor, who in his turn suspected the senate. The life even of the emperor was seldom free from danger: and the succession to the throne, after the death of Claudius, was purchased by largesses to the imperial guard. With the political notions cherished by the Jews, it is no wonder that they, in several instances, gave cause of suspicion to the Roman government, who would be glad of an opportunity to expel from the city, persons who were considered dangerous to its peace and security: nor is it improbable, on this account, that the Christians, under an idea of being the peculiar people of God, and the subjects of his kingdom alone, might be in danger of being infected with those unruly and rebellious sentiments. Under these circumstances, therefore, Saint Paul judged it necessary to exhort the Roman Christians to submit peaceably to the government under which they lived. He tells them, that the powers that be (Rom. xiii. 1.), or the constituted authorities, are ordained of God, and forbids them to meddle with those who endeavoured to effect a change in the government. The reigning emperor at this time was that monster of iniquity, Nero.
The preceding view of the tenets held by the Heathens and Jews of Rome will enable us to ascertain the SCOPE or design of Saint Paul in writing this epistle, which was to confute the unbelieving; to instruct the believing Jew; to confirm the Christian, and to convert the idolatrous Gentile: and to place the Gentile convert upon an equality with the "Jewish in respect of his religious condition, and his rank in the divine favour. These several designs he reduces to one scheme, by opposing or arguing with the infidel or unbelieving Jew, in favour of the Christian or believing Gentile. "Upon this plan, if the unbelieving Jew escaped and remained unconvinced, yet the Christian Jew would be more inoffensively and more effectually instructed in the nature of the Gospel, and the kind brotherly regards he ought to have for the believing Gentiles, than if he had directed his discourse immediately and plainly to him. But, if his argument should fail in reference to the believing Jew, yet the believing Gentile would see his interest in the covenant and kingdom of God as solidly established by a full confutation of Jewish objections (which were the only objections that could with any show of reason be advanced against it), as if the Epistle had been written for no other purpose. And thus it is of the greatest use to us at this day. It is also at present exceedingly useful, as it entirely demolishes the engrossing pretensions and imposing principles of the church of Rome; for a professed faith in Christ, and a subjection to Him, are in this Epistle fully shown to be the only Gospel condition of a place in his church, an interest in the covenant of God, and of Christian fellowship. By this extensive principle God broke down the pales of his own ancient enclosure, the Jewish church; and therefore, by the same principle, more strongly forbids the building of any other partition wall of schemes and terms of Christian fellowship." VII. This Epistle consists of four parts; viz. PART I. The Introduction. (ch. i. 1—15.) PART II. contains the Doctrinal Part of the Epistle concerning Justification. (i. 16—32. ii.—xi.); in which we have, SECT. 1. The proposition concerning the extent of the Gospel (i. 16.) and the demonstration of that proposition (i. 17.), in which it is shown that justification is to be attained,
Michaelis, vol. iv. pp. 89-102. Dr. J. Taylor on Rom. xiii. 1. 2 Dr. J. Taylor's Preface to the Epistle to the Romans, p. clxii. Michaelis has given the following more logical view of the argumenta tive part of the Epistle to the Romans, which may be not unacceptable to the reader. The principal point, he observes, which Saint Paul intended to prove, was, that the Gospel reveals a righteousness unknown before, and to which both Jews and Gentiles have an equal claim. (Rom. i. 15, 16.3 In order to prove this point he shows (i. 18.-iii. 20.) that both Jews and Gentiles are "under sin," that is, that God will impute their sins to Jews as well as to Gentiles.
His proof of this position may be reduced to the following syllogisms. (i. 17-24.) "The wrath of God is revealed against those who hold the truth in unrighteousness; that is, who acknowledge the truth, and yet sin against it." (i. 18.)
"The Gentiles acknowledged truths; but partly by their idolatry, and partly by their other detestable vices, they sinned against the truths which they acknowledged.
"Therefore the wrath of God is revealed against the Gentiles, and punishes them. (i. 19-32.)
"The Jews have acknowledged more truths than the Gentiles, and yet they sin. (ii. 1. 17-24.)
Consequently the Jewish sinners are yet more exposed to the wrath of God." (ii. 1-12.)
$i. Not by Works. (i. 18.)
For the Gentiles (i. 19-32.),
The Jews (ii. iii. 1-18.),
and both together (iii. 19, 20.), are under sin. Sii. But by faith, in which it is shown
That we are justified by faith alone (iii. 21-31.),
As appears by the example of Abraham and the testimony of David (iv.);
And the privileges and blessings of Abraham's seed by faith are shown to be far greater than those which belonged to his seed by natural descent (as described in Rom. ii. 17-20.) These privileges of true believers in Christ are, 1. Peace with God (v. 1.); 2. Joy in hope of the glory of God (2.), which tribulation cannot prevent, but rather promotes (3-10.); 3. Rejoicing in God himself as reconciled to us through Christ, which however affords no countenance to sin, but requires evangelical obedience to God (11-21.), whence flows, 4. Mortification of sin and newness of life, as another evidence and effect of justification (vi.); 5. The freedom of justified persons from the malediction of the law, and is irritation to sin (vii.); 6. Freedom from condemnation, and ultimate glorification. (viii.)
SECT. 2. Concerning the equal privileges of Jewish and Christian believers (ix.-xi.), in which the apostle, after expressing his affectionate esteem for the Jewish nation (ix. 15.),4 proceeds to show :
§ i. That God's rejection of great part of the seed of Abraham, and also of Isaac, was an undeniable fact. (ix. 6-13.)
§ ii. That God had not chosen them (the Jews) to such peculiar privileges, for any kind of goodness either in themselves or their fathers. (14-24.)
Having thus proved his point, he answers the following objections which might be made to it.
studied the law." Saint Paul answers, if a knowledge of the law, without Objection 1. "The Jews were well grounded in their knowledge, and the performance of it, could justify them, God would not have condemned the Gentiles, who knew the law by nature. (ii. 13-16.) were admitted by an outward sign to a covenant with God; but this sign Objection 2. "The Jews were circumcised." Answer. That is, they will not avail those who violate the covenant. (ii. 25-29.) advantage above the Gentiles, which is manifestly false." Answer. They still have advantages; for to them are committed the oracles of God. But their privileges do not extend so far, that God should overlook their sins, which Scripture earnestly condemns even in Jews. (iii. 1-19.) Hence is no remission, but only the knowledge of sin. (iii. 20.) Objection 4. "They had the Levitical law and sacrifices." Answer.
Objection 3. "According to this doctrine of Saint Paul, the Jews have no
From the preceding arguments Saint Paul infers, that Jews and Gentiles must be justified by the same means, namely, without the Levitical law, through faith in Christ; and in opposition to the imaginary advantages of the Jews, he states the declaration of Zechariah, that God is not the God of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles. (iii. 21-31.) As the whole blessing was promised to those who were the faithful ren, he proves his former assertion from the example of Abraham; who descendants of Abraham, whom both scripture and the Jews call his childwas an idolater before his call, but was declared just by God, on account of his faith, long before his circumcision. Hence Saint Paul takes occaproceeds to prove from the equity of God that the Jews had no advantages sion to explain the nature and fruits of faith. (iv. 1.-v. 1-11. He then above the Gentiles, with respect to justification. Both Jews and Gentiles had forfeited* life and immortality, through the common father of their race, whom they themselves had not chosen as their representative. If therefore it was the will of God to restore immortality by a new spiritual head of a covenant, which was Christ, it was just that both Jews and Gentiles should have an equal share in this new representative of the human race. (v. 12-21.)
He shows that the doctrine of justification, as he had stated it, lays us under the strongest obligations to holiness (vi. 1-23.); and that since the death of Christ we are no longer concerned with the law of Moses; for our dead with Christ, on account of our sins; but the law of Moses was not justification arises from our appearing in the sight of God, as if actually given to the dead. On this occasion he evinces at large, that the preceding consideration does not affect the eternal power of God over us, and that while we are under the law of Moses, we perpetually become subject to death, even by sins of inadvertency. (vii. 1-end.) Hence he concludes, that all those, and those only, who are united with Christ, and for the sake of this union live not according to the flesh, are free from all condemnation
of the law, and have an undoubted share in eternal life. (viii. 1—17.)
Having described the happiness of all such persons, he is aware that the Jews, who expected temporal blessings, would object to him, that Christians, notwithstanding what he had said, endured many sufferings in this world. This objection he obviates (viii. 18-39.), and shows that God is not the less true and faithful because he does not justify, but rather rejects and punishes the Jews who would not believe in the Messiah. (ix. x. xi.) In discussing this delicate topic he displays the utmost caution on account of the prejudices of his countrymen the Jews. He shows that the promises of God were never made to all the posterity of Abraham; and that God always reserved to himself the power of choosing those sons of Abraham, whom for Abraham's sake he intended to bless, and of punishing the wicked sons of Abraham: and that, with respect to temporal happiness or misery, even their good or ill conduct did not determine his choice. Thus Ishmael, Esau, the Israelites in the Desert in the time of Moses, and the greater part of that nation in the time of Isaiah, were rejected and made a sacrifice of his justice. (ix. 1-29.) He then shows that God had reason to reject most of the Jews then living, because they would not believe in the Messiah, though the Gospel had been preached to them plainly enough (ix. 30.-x.): yet, that God had not rejected all his people, but was still fulfilling his promises on many thousand natural descendants of Abraham, who believed in the Messiah; and would in a future period fulfil them upon more; for that all Israel would be converted. (xi. 1-32.) And he concludes with expressing his admiration of the wise counsels of God. (33-36.) Michaelis, vol. iv. pp. 102-106.
The genuineness and proper interpretation of Rom. ix. 5. (which contains one of the most decisive testimonies to the divinity of Jesus Christ, in the New Testament), are satisfactorily established by Mr. Holden in his Scripture Testimony to the Divinity of Jesus Christ, pp. 51–56.
Michaelis's expression, as translated by Bishop Marsh, is "foretold." but the sense evidently requires "forfeited."