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Conclusions from the preceding Discourse.
worthy use of their calling.) Mat. xxiv. 31, He shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect. xii. 36, 37, In the day of judgment, by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned. 1 Thes. v. 24, The God of peace sanctify you wholly, &c. 1 John ii. 29, Every one that doth righteousness is born of him. iv. 7, Every one that loveth is born of God, in the eminent sense.
130. The Faith, which gave a person a place or standing in the Christian church, was a profession considered simply, and separately from the fruits and effects of it. But it included a profession of repentance, of forsaking sin and idolatry, and of bringing forth the fruits of righteousness. And it is the continued profession of this faith in Christ, which gives us a continued right to a place in the church. For, if we cast off our first faith, we renounce our profession, we cease to be Christians, or we no longer continue to be the peculiar family of God.
131. Here it should be carefully observed that it is very common, in the sacred writings, to express, not only our Christian privileges, but also the duty to which they oblige in the present or preterperfect tense; or to speak of that as done, which only ought to be done ; and which, in fact, may possibly never be done. Mal. i. 6, A son honours, (ought to honour,) his father. Matt. v. 13, Ye are, (ought to be,) the sult of the earth; but if the salt have lost his savour, &c. Rom. ii. 4, The goodness of God leads, (ought to lead,) thee to repentance. Rom. vi. 2, 11. viii. 9. Col. iii. 3. 1 Pet. i. 6, Wherein ye (ought) greatly (to) rejoice. 2 Cor. iii. 18, We all with open face, (enjoying the means of) beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord are, (ought to be, enjoy the means of being,) changed into the same image, from glory to glory. 1 Cor. v. 7, Purge out the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are (obliged by the Christian profession to be,) unleavened. Heb. xiii. 14, We seek, (we ought to seek, or according to our profession, we seek,) a city to come. 1 John ii. 12, 15.-iii. 9. v. 4, 18.; and in various other places.
132. The man of true goodness, courage, and greatness of soul, is he who has that faith which worketh by love ; who lives the life he now lives, by faith in the Son of God. Such a man is happy under all events. This is he, who, while he despises a vain life, has the truest and highest enjoyment of all that can be enjoyed in it. This is the man who alone properly lives; for he has nothing but life and immortality before him ; death itself giving no interruption to his life. Blessed, unspeakably blessed is this man. Such the gospel is designed to make us all; and such we all may be, if we do not shamefully neglect the grace of God, and our own happiness. But the knowledge and sense of these things are generally lost among those called Christians; to whom the words of the Psalmist may be, too truly, applied : They are a people that do err in their hearts, for they have not known my ways. Psal. xcv. 10.
133. From all the preceding observations and arguments we may clearly see what is implied in preaching Christ. It is not teaching, that only a small, uncertain number among Christians, are ARBITRARILY redeemed elected, called, adopted, born again or regenerated; and that all the rest are, by a sovereign, absolute, and eternal DECREE, passed by, or reprobated. These are no principles of Christianity, but stand in direct contradiction to them, and have drawn a dark veil over the grace of the Gospel, sunk the Christian world into an abject state of fear, and a false superstitious humility; and thrown ministers into endless absurdities. It is such doctrines as these that have misrepresented the Christian religion, harrassed the Christian world endlessly, by blending and confounding men's understandings, and imbittering their spirits; and have been the reason of calling in a false kind of learning, logic, metaphysics, and school divinity, in order to give a colour of reason to the grossest absurdities; and to enable divines to make a plausible show of supporting and defending palpable contradictions." See Dr. Taylor's Key to the Apostolical Writings.
A GENERAL SURVEY
EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS.
“Paul had never been at Rome when he wrote this letter, and therefore it cannot turn upon some particular points, to revive the remembrance of what he had more largely taught in person; or to satisfy the scrupulous in some things he might not have touched upon at all. But in it, we may expect a full account of his Gospel, or those glad tidings of salvation, which he preached among the Gentiles ; seeing this Epistle was intended to supply the total want of his preaching at Rome.
He understood perfectly well the system of religion he taught, for he was instructed in it by the immediate Revelation of Jesus Christ, Gal. i. 11. Eph. iii. 3. 1 Cor. xi. 23; and being also endowed with the most eminent gifts of the Holy Spirit, a man disinterested and quite unbiassed by any temporal considerations, we may be sure he has given us the truth, as he received it from our Lord, after his ascension. On the other hand, he was also well acquainted with the sentiments and system of religion which he opposed; for he was well skilled in Jewish litera ture, having had the best education bis country could afford; and having been once a most zealous advocate for Judaism. Having frequently disputed with the Jews, he was thoroughly versed in the controversy, and knew very well what would be retorted upon every point: and therefore we may very reasonably suppose that the queries and objections, which the Apostle in this Epistle puts into the mouth of the Jews, were really such as had been advanced in opposition to his arguments.
He was a great genius and a fine writer; and he seems to have exercised all his talents, as well as the most perfect Christian temper, in drawing up this Epistle. The plan of it is very extensive; and it is surprising to see what a spacious field of knowledge he has comprised; and how many various designs, arguments, explications, instructions, and exhortations, he has executed in so small a compass.
This letter was sent to the world's metropolis, where it might be exposed to all sorts of persons, Heathens, Jews, Christians, Philosophers, Magistrates, and the Emperor himself. And I make no doubt that the Apostle kept this in view while he was writing; and guarded and adapted it accordingly.
However, it is plain enough it was designed to confute the unbelieving, and to instruct the believing Jew, to confirm the Christian, and to convert the idolatrous Gentile. Those several designs he reduces to one scheme, by opposing and 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 to the believing Gentiles, than if he had directed his discourse plainly and immediately to him. But if his arguments 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 the 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 exceeding useful as it entirely demolishes the ingrossing pretensions, and imposing principles of the church of Rome. For a professed faith in Christ, and a subjection to him, is, in this Epistle, fully shewn 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 antient inclosure, the Jewish church ; and therefore, by the same principle, more strongly forbids the building any other partition-wall of schemes, and terms of Christian fellowship, devised by human wisdom, or imposed by human authority. He
A general Survey of the Epistle to the Romans.
then, who professes faith in Christ, and subjection to bim, is, by the Apostle, allowed and demonstrated to be a member of the true visible church, and to have a right to all its privileges.
Both antients and moderns make heavy complaints of the obscurity of this Epistle, though all agree it is a great and useful performance. Origen, one of the fathers, compares our Apostle to a person who leads a stranger into a magnificent paluce, but perple.red wilh various cross and intricate passages, and many remote and secret
apartments; shews him some things at a distance, out of an opulent treasury ; brings some things near to his : view ; conceals others from it; often enters in at one door, and comes out at another : so that the stranger is surprised, and wonders whence he came, where he is, and how he shall get out. But we shall have a tolerable idea of this princely structure, if we observe, that it consists of four grand parts or divisions. The first division contains the five first chapters: the second, the sixth, seventh, and eighth: the third, the ninth, tenth, and eleventh : the fourth, the five last chapters.
Part I.- Displays the riches of Divine grace, as free to all mankind. Jews and Gentiles are equally sin. ful and obnoxious to wrath ; and therefore there was no way for the Jew to be continued in the kingdom of God, but by GRACE, through Faith ; and by grace and fuith, the Gentile might be admitted into it.-To reject this
way of justification, was to reject the very method in which Abraham himself was justified, or interested in the covenant made with him: in which covenant, believing Gentiles were included, as well as believing Jews; and had as great or greater privileges, to glory in.-But if the Jew should pertinaciously deny that, he could not deny, that all mankind are interested in the grace of God, which removes the consequence of Adam's offence. Through that offence all mankind were subjected to death; and through Christ's obedience all mankind should be restored to life at the last day. The resurrection from the dead is, therefore, a part of the grace of God in the Redeemer. And if all mankind have an interest in this part of the grace of God, why not in the whole of it? If all mankind were subjected to death through Adam's one offence; is it not much more reasonable that, through the opposite nobler cause, the obedience of the Son of God, all mankind should be interested in the whole of the grace, which God has established upon it?--And as for law, or the rule of right action, it was absurd for any part of mankind to expect pardon, or any blessedness upon the foot of that, seeing all mankind had broken it. And it was still more absurd, to seek pardon and life by the law of Moses, which condemned those that were under it to death for every transgression.
Part II.-Having proved that believing Jews and Gentiles were pardoned, and interested in all the privileges and blessings of the Gospel, through mere grace; he next shews the obligations laid upon them to a life of virtue and piety, under the new dispensation. And upon this subject he adapts this discourse to the Gentile Christians in the sixth chapter; and in the seventh, and part of the eighth, he turns himself to the Jewish Christians: then, from verse 12, to the end of the eighth chapter, he addresses himself upon the same head, to both Christian Jews and Gentiles ; particularly, giving them right notions of the sufferings to which they were exposed, and by which they might be deterred from the duties required in the Gospel ; and concluding with a very strong and lively assertion of the certain perseverance of all who love God, notwithstanding any infirmities or trials in this world.
Part III.-Gives right sentiments concerning the rejection of the Jews, which was a matter of great moment to the due establishment of the Gentile converts.
Part IV.-Is filled with exhortations to several instances of Christian duty; and concludes with salutations to and from particular persons. It will be an advantage to the reader to have this sketch of the Epistle ready in his thoughts.
Further; we cannot enter into the spirit of this Epistle, unless we enter into the spirit of a Jew in those times; and have some just notion of his utter aversion to the Gentiles ; his valuing and raising himself high upon his relation to God, and to Abraham ; upon his law, and pompous worship, circumcision, &c. as if the Jews were the only people in the world who had any manner of right to the favour of God.
And let it also be well noted, that the Apostle, in this Epistle, disputes with the whole body of the Jews, without respect to any particular sect or party among them, such as Pharisees, Sadducees, &c. For the grand
A general Survey of the Epistle to the Romans. .
proposition or question in debate is, Are we Jews, better than they, Gentiles? (chap. iii. 9.) And one argument, in proof of the negative, which the Apostle espouses, is this, (chap. iii. 29.) Is God the God of the Jews only? Is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also. These are the two points through which the line of the Apostle's discourse in the third chapter, and consequently in all the argumentative part of the Epistle, must necessarily run. And as, both in the proposition and in the argument, he evidently means the whole body of the Jews, in opposition to the whole body of the Gentiles, he who doth not give such a sense of the Apostle's discourse, throughout the argumentative part of the Epistle, as exactly hits and suits this general, collective notion of Jews and Gentiles, certainly misses his aim, and shoots wide of the mark.
Lastly, the whole Epistle is to be taken in connection, or considered as one continued discourse; and the sense of every part must be taken from the drift of the whole. Every sentence, or verse, is not to be regarded as a distinct mathematical proposition, or theorem; or as a sentence in the book of Proverbs, whose sense is absolute, and independent of what goes before or conies after : but we must remember, that every sentence, especially in the argumentative part, bears relation to, and is dependent upon, the whole discourse; and can not be understood unless we understand the scope and drift of the whole. And therefore, the whole Epistle, or at least the eleven first chapters of it, ought to be read over at once, without stopping.
As to the use and excellency of this epistle, I shall leave it to speak for itself, when the Render has studied and well digested the contents of it. And methinks curiosity, if nothing else, should invite us to examine carefully the doctrine, by which (accompanied with the gifts and operations of the Spirit of God) a few men, otherwise naked, weak, and contemptible, in opposition to the power, learning, and deep rooted prejudices of the world, confronted and overthrew the Pagan religion and idolatry throughout the Roman empire. A victory far more difficult and surprising than all the atchievements of Alexander and Cæsar. The fact cannot be denied. And surely the dignity and virtue of the cause must be proportionable to such an unusual and wonderful event. It is certain the world never, either before or since, has seen any thing equal to the writings of the New Testament. Never was the love of God, and the dignity to which he has raised the human nature, so clearly shewn and demonstrated; never were motives so divine and powerful proposed to induce us to the practice of all virtue and goodness. In short, there we find whatever enobles and adorns the mind; whatever gives solid peace and joy ; whatever renders us the most excellent and happy creatures, taught, recommended, and inforced by light and authority derived from the only fountain of truth and of all good.
As to the Apostle's manner of writing, it is with great spirit and force, I may add, perspicuity too; for it will not be difficult to understand him if our minds are unprejudiced, and at liberty to attend to the subject he is upon, and to the current scriptural sense of the words he uses. For he keeps very strictly to the standard of Scripture phraseology. He takes great care to guard and explain every part of his subject. And I may venture to say he has left no part of it unexplained or unguarded. Never was author more exact and cautious in this than he. Sometimes he writes notes upon a sentence, liable to exception and wanting explanation, as Rom. i. 12—16. Here the 13th and 15th verses are a comment upon the former part of it. Sometimes he comments upon a single word; as Chap. x. 11, 12, 13. The 12th and 13th verses are a comment upon tas every one, in the Ilth.
He was studious of a perspicuous brevity. Chap. v. 13, 14, For until the Law, sin was in the world; but sin is not imputed when Law is not in being. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not simed after the likeness of Adam's transgression. Surely never was a greater variety of useful sentiments crowded into a smaller compass; and yet so skilfully, that one part very clearly explains another. Hence we learn, 1, that here imputing of sin means, men's being subject to death for sin; for it follows, Nevertheless death reigned. 2. That law is the constitution that subjects the sinner to death; for he saith, Sin is not imputed when law is not in being. 3. That until the Law, is the times before the law of Moses was given; for he saith, Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses. Until the law, is the same as until Moses. 4. That law was not in being from Adam to Moses ; for having said, when law is not in being, he immediately adds, necertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses. 5. That Adam was under the law; for if the law was not in being
A general Survey of the Epistle to the Romans.
from Adam, or after the dispensation he was under, it is plain it was in being before; or, that law was the dispensation under which God placed Adam. 6. That the clause, even over those that had not sinned after the likeness of Adam's transgression, it is not to be understood only of some particular persons, as infants, but of all that lived from Adam to Moses, because none that lived from Adam to Moses were under the law, and none could sin after the likeness of Adam's transgression. 7. That the law was in being after Moses, for it was not in being from Adam to Moses, which evidently supposes it was in being afterwards, and that the Jews, from that time, sinned after the likeness of Adam's transgression, or were by the law condemned to death for every transgression. 8. Lastly, from the whole it is evident that from Adam to Moses men did not die for their own personal transgressions, but in consequence of Adam's one transgression, which is the point to be proved. One shall hardly find in any other author, an argument so justly managed, so fully established, attended with such a variety of instructive sentiments in the compass of thirty words; for setting aside the articles there are no more in the Greek. It is by this unparalleled art, that the Apostle has brought such a variety of arguments, instructions, and sentiments, all stated, proved, and sufficiently guarded, explained, and defended, within the limits of this letter ; which has made it a magazine of the most real, extensive, useful, and profitable knowledge.
He treats his countrymen, the Jews, with great caution and tenderness. He had a natural affection for them, was very desirous of winning them over to the gospel; he knew that their passions and prejudices were very strong for their own constitution; therefore, in his debates with them, he avoids every thing harsh, introduces every kind and endearing sentiment, and is very nice in choosing soft and inoffensive expressions, so far as he honestly could, for he never flatters, nor dissembles the truth.
His transitions and advances to an ungrateful subject, are very dextrous and apposite, as chap. ii. 1– 17. viii. 17.
He often carries on a complicated design, and while he is teaching one thing, gives us an opportunity of learning one or two more. So chap. xiii. 1–8, he teaches the duty of subjects, and at the same time instructs magistrates in their duty, and shews the true grounds of their authority.
He is a nervous reasoner, and a close writer, who never loses sight of his subject, and who throws in every colour that may enliven it.
He writes under a deep and lively sense of the truth and importance of the Gospel, as a man who clearly understood it, and in whose heart and affections it reigned far superior to all temporal considerations."
See Dr. Taylor's Preface to the Romans.
There is so much good sense and sound criticism in the above remarks, that I cannot help considering them of high importance to a proper understanding of this epistle. . The Apostle's manner of writing, is here well vindicated ; and proved to be close, nervous, and conclusive ; and such a testimony from such a man as Dr. Taylor, must, with every unprejudiced reader, out-weigh the miserable sentiment of that philosopher, who, while professing to hold the same creed with the above writer, has had the awful temerity to say, that St. Paul was “an inconclusive reasoner.” By such a saying, a man fixes the broad seal to his own incompetency to judge either of the Apostle's writings or doctrine.
In the preceding pages I have borrowed largely from the work of Dr. Taylor, on a full conviction that it is the best ever written upon this subject, that it is indispensably necessary to a proper understanding of the Apostolic writings; and that I could not hope to equal it by any production of my own. Those parts of his Key which did not fall in with my plan, I have taken the liberty to pass by; the rest I have greatly abridged, and only added a few notes where I thought there might be any danger of misapprehending the subject. May 21, 1814.