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them afraid of the guilt of murder. They used every effort to avoid the sad necessity. And at last, when there seemed no other hope, “they cried unto the Lord, and said, We beseech thee, O Lord, we beseech thee, let us not perish for this man's life, and lay not upon us innocent blood : for thou, O Lord, hast done as it hath pleased thee.”
Truly the mariners of Joppa shall rise up in judgment against many of the generation to which Paul was writing: many who boasted of themselves that they were righteous, and despised others who had not the law. There was no such dread of shedding innocent blood at Jerusalem, when the Pharisees held it to be expedient that Jesus should be put to death, lest the Romans should “come, and take away their place and nation."7 There was no such tenderness of conscience, when the people cried out with one accord, “His blood be on us, and on our children.":
But “that servant which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes."
For “God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation, he that feareth God, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him."1
7 John xi. 50.
8 Matt. xxvii. 25.
THE JEWS CONDEMNED FOR THEIR HYPOCRISY
AND DEPENDENCE UPON OUTWARD FORMS.
ROMANS ii. 17–29.
17. Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God,
18. And knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law;
19. And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness;
20. An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law.
These verses give a lively picture of the Jewish mind, depending upon privileges, the right use of which they knew not. Behold, thou art called a Jew. Like Paul's adversaries at Corinth, of whom he says: “ Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I.” Again, Thou restest in the law. As the Pharisee: “I am no extortioner, unjust, adulterer; I fast twice in the week; I give tithes of all that I pos
Again, Thou makest thy boast of God. So the Pharisees contended against Jesus. “ We have one Father, even God.”3 They were instructed out of the law; and said “ This people, which know not the law, are cursed.”
To those who cherished this habit of mind, Paul
» 2 sess.
1 2 Cor. xi. 22.
2 Luke xviü. 11.
addresses himself, and shows that the knowledge of which they boasted might prove their condemnation, and their confidence put them to shame.
21. Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal ?
22. Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege ?
23. Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God ?
24. For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written.
The name of God was dishonoured through those who ought to have made his glory known. It was a heavy aggravation of David's sin, that he had “ given occasion to the enemies of God to blaspheme. And so it was a heavy charge against the Jews, that they who in their intercourse with foreigners appeared as worshippers of the true God, and abhorred the idolatry which was around them, did a dishonour to Him of whom they boasted, by living in a way which even the heathen must condemn. As it was written by Ezekiel, (xxxvi. 20,) “When they entered unto the heathen, whither they went, they profaned my holy name, when they said to them, These are the people of the Lord, and are gone forth out of his land.”
What was their state then? Was it nothing to have a knowledge of God, to be dedicated to his service by the ordinance which he had appointed ? Paul is far from saying this. It was a special mercy
5 2 Sam. xii. 14.
and privilege to be brought to God's service, if they did serve him. But if they who were called his servants ceased to obey, their title to his favour ceased, and must be given to others.
25. For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law ; but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision.
26. Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness
the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision ?
27. And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law ?
If the uncircumcised heathen keep the law, shall not he, though not within the covenant, have the blessing of the covenant? To say this, is not to deny that a peculiar blessing was conferred upon the people of Israel. A son is profited, who is heir to a rich father, and keeps the condition on which he is to possess the estate. He is in very different circumstances from another, who has no such relationship, no such inheritance. So circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law : it has great and precious promises annexed to it. But if the son break the condition on which his inheritance rested, then he forfeits all his original advantages: and he has less right to favour than a stranger, who has no conditions imposed upon him, and yet does that, which the son was required to do, and failed.
Therefore, the heathen, if led by nature, by the right use of their natural reason, to that righteousness which the law was designed to establish, may judge, and condemn those, who by the letter and the
circumcision, having the written law and the ordinances, yet transgress the law, disobey the commands of God.
28. For he is not a Jew which is one outwardly ; neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh;
29. But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter ; whose praise is not of men, but of God.
The Jews had fallen into the common error, satisfying themselves with forms and outward ceremonies; which are designed to influence the heart, and produce inward feelings; but not to be instead of the service of the heart. We are circumcised, they argued ; and this makes us the people of God. No, says the apostle; this is a token that you are dedicated to God, and ought to live as his people; but if you
have the form of dedication, and nothing more, what shall it profit? For he is not a Jew which is one outwardly ; who has merely the outward sign. That is a proof of what he ought to be; not of what he is. We might compare it to the ring which is given in marriage. The ring is a sign of wedlock, but no proof of conjugal faithfulness: it is a sign that there ought to be love, but no proof that there is love. And so of circumcision. That is not in itself devotedness to God: nor has it any value, unless it is attended by those inward feelings which lead to dutiful obedience.
What St. Paul here affirms of the Jewish ordinance, we may justly apply to the ordinances of the Gospel, Baptism, and the Lord's Supper. These