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“ Are we
for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet.” “ He casteth out devils through Beelzebub, the prince of the devils." “ We were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?" blind also ?” 8 And daily they opposed the apostle himself, “ forbidding him to preach unto the Gentiles that they might be saved.”9 Thus they were contentious, and would not obey the truth : some pretending that they had light enough: and others preferring to remain in darkness. And the end would be, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man that doeth evil. “ That the righteous should be as the wicked,” or the wicked as the righteous,that is “far from God:"1 far from what we expect from the Governor of the world. Scripture only confirms our reasonable belief, when it denounces indignation and wrath against the hardened and impenitent. And it equally agrees with our own reasonable convictions, in saying that there is no respect of persons with God: but that all will be rewarded according to their works, and all judged according to their opportunities. So that “in every nation, he that feareth God and worketh righteousness, is accepted of him.”!
Therefore the Jew had need to examine into his state, and make sure of some better title to eternal life, than God's favour towards him as a son of Abraham. Both eternal life, and eternal death, are to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile. As the privileges of the Jew are a great every way,” so is his condemna
8 John vii. 52. Matt. ix. 34. John viii. 33; ix. 40.
2 Acts x. 35.
tion great, if he neglects those privileges. For many shall “ come from the east and west, and sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.”3
THE EQUAL RULE OF DIVINE JUDGMENT.
ROMANS ii. 12-16.
12. For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law : and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law ;
13. (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.
St. Paul had spoken of the judgment which should try the lives of all men, and determine their everlasting destiny according as those lives had been. He now speaks of justice: and declares that God shall judge the world in righteousness: and not as the Jews believed, with respect of persons.
Now it is a rule of justice, which Paul himself lays down, (Rom. iv. 15,) that “ where no law is, there is no transgression.” For the nature of wrong is to offend against a known duty. In the case, for instance, of the very first sin. If our first parents had
3 Matt. viii. 11.
not been forbidden to eat the fruit of a particular tree, they might have eaten it with impunity: the command to abstain, made it sinful to indulge.
The apostle transfers this general rule to the case of the heathen of whom he was writing. They were not in the same state as the Jews: for to the Jews the will of God had been revealed: to the heathen it had not been revealed. They would not therefore be judged by the law, the law of Moses. It would not be charged against them, for example, that they had not kept holy the sabbath-day; because they had never been enjoined to “ remember the sabbath-day.” But still they had sinned, and would be judged. They had sinned without law; without a written or revealed law, but not without a law of natural reason and understanding, which if their heart had not been too corrupt to follow it, would have taught them ways more pleasing to God than those they practised.
By the same just rule, the Jew must also abide the righteous judgment of God. For as many as have sinned in the law, shall be judged by the law. They might pride themselves in the distinction of possessing a revelation from God, of being his favoured people. But they were happy in knowing his will, only in proportion as they obeyed it. Their privileges made them not the less, but the more, accountable. For not the hearers of the law, but the doers of the law, shall be justified.
i It was a received notion amongst the Jews, that no son of Abraham, no circumcised person could perish : and, on the other hand, that no other could be saved. See this and other like traditions in Whitby, in loco.
14. For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves :
15. Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another ;)
16. In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.?
When the priest and the Levite in our Lord's parable, seeing a stranger who had fallen among thieves, passed by on the other side, and left him without care: they sinned in the law.
The law had commanded them to love their neighbour as themselves.3 These transgressed the law, neglecting the neighbour whom they were bound to relieve.
On the other hand, the inhabitants of Melita, where Paul was shipwrecked, did by nature, did without the revealed law, the things contained in the law. They had not possessed the written law, instructing them to do to others as they would wish it should be done to them. But they having not the law, are a law unto themselves, shewing the work of the law written in their hearts : being led by the operation of their own understanding and conscience to do that which it is the purpose of the law to effect. For the history records, how “the barbarous people shewed us no little kindness; for they kindled a fire, and received us every one, because of the present rain, and because of the cold.”
2 The gospel which I preach. Or, as some have supposed, " the gospel according to St. Luke,” dictated by Paul. 3 Lev. xix. 18.
4 Acts xxviii. 2.
For God, whilst he left the rest of mankind without law, without such a law as Moses delivered to the Jews, still did not leave them without a law written in their hearts : not without the light of reason and conscience: not without means of knowing right from wrong, their thoughts condemning or absolving them. By this light they might have walked, if it had not been obscured by their own perverseness: and by this light they will be tried, in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ.
We have an example of this light in the book of Jonah. A storm pursued the vessel in which he embarked from Joppa. “ There was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken.”5 The mariners had not the law. They had no revelation of Him, who “in the beginning created the heaven and the earth.” But they believed in some superior Being: they were led by the “ things that are made, and clearly seen,” to “Him that is invisible:"and they believed the storm to be occasioned by his anger: and they believed his anger to be occasioned by transgression. So “they said every man to his fellow; Come, and let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this evil is come upon us." This was the work of the law written in their hearts, their thoughts accusing, or else excusing one another.
So likewise in what followed. Jonah, who had sinned in the law, felt himself convicted by the law: “and he said unto them, Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you: for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you.” But the law written in their hearts made 5 Jonah i. 4-16.
6 See ch. i. 20, &c.