Verse 32. "Who, knowing the judgment of God" - dikaiwma, the grand rule of right which God has revealed to every man, the knowledge of which he has, less or more, given to every nation of the world, relative to honouring parents, taking care of their own offspring, keeping their engagements, &c., &c. In the worst states of heathenism this great principle has been acknowledged; but, through the prevalence of corruption in the heart, this law, though acknowledged, was not obeyed; and the corruption increased so that those were highest in repute who had cast off all restraints of this kind; so that they even delighted in them; suneudokousi, highly applauded, and gladly associated with those transgressors: which argues the very highest pitch of moral depravity.
1. THE preceding chapter gives us one of the finest views of the Gospel of Christ, to be met with any where. It is God's method of saving a lost world, in a way which that world could never have imagined: there is nothing human in it; it is all truly and gloriously Divine; essentially necessary to the salvation of man, and fully adequate to the purposes of its institution. Though it is an extension of the old covenant, yet it is almost wholly dissimilar; being as different from that as the person is from the picture which represents it, and as the substance is from the shadow projected by it. It is a scheme as worthy of God as it is necessary for man; hence there are no excluding clauses in it-it is for the Jew and for the Greek; for the wise and for the unwise; for all the nations of the universe, and for all the individuals of those nations. He blasphemes God who holds the contrary.
2. As God never does any thing that is not fitting, suitable, and necessary to be done, he has not made an unnecessary display of his mercy and goodness in the incarnation and death of his Son-all this was necessary, else it had not been done. But how does the necessity appear? In the deep-rooted and widely extended corruption and profligacy of the nations of the earth. Of these the apostle gives a most affecting and distressing picture. 1. Almost every trace of original righteousness had been obliterated. The proofs of God's eternal power and providence, so manifest in the creation and preservation of the universe, were wholly disregarded. 3. A vain philosophy, without right, principle, or end, was substituted for those Divine truths which had been discovered originally to man. 4. Their hearts were contaminated with every vice which could blind the understanding, pervert the judgment, corrupt the will, and debase the affections and passions. 5. This was proved in the most unequivocal manner, by a profligacy of conduct which had debased them far, far below the beasts that perish; and the apostle here gives a list of their crimes, every article of which can be incontrovertibly proved from their own history and their own writers: crimes which, even bad as the world is now, would shock common decency to describe. See the whole of the second, third, sixth, and ninth Satires of Juvenal.
3. So completely lost were the heathens to a knowledge of the influence of God on the souls and the necessity of that influence, that they asserted, in the most positive manner, that man was the author of his own virtue and wisdom. Cicero, Nat. Deor., lib. iii. c. 36, declares it a general opinion that, although mankind received from the gods the outward conveniencies of life-virtutem autem nemo unquam acceptam Deo retulit-"virtue none ever thought they received from the Deity." And again:-"This is the persuasion of all, that fortune is to be had from the gods; wisdom from ourselves." And again:-"Whoever thanked the gods for his being a good man? Men pray to Jupiter, not that he would make them just, temperate, and wise; but rich and prosperous." JUVENAL, on this point, speaks thus:-
Monstro, quod ipse tibi possis dare: Semita certe Tranquillae per virtutem patet unica vitae. Sat. x. v. 363.
The path to peace is virtue; which, I show, Thyself may fully on thyself bestow.
In the same stain, HORACE, EPIST. lib. i. E. xviii. v. penult.
Haec satis est orare Jovem, qui donat et aufert: Det vitam det opes: aequum mi animum ipse parabo.
To Jove for life and wealth I pray, These Jove may give or take away; But, for a firm and tranquil mind, That blessing for myself I find.
Thus, they became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened; and professing themselves to be wise, they became fools. See Madan's Juvenal, vol. ii. p. 53.
4. By all this we see what the world was, and what it would have continued to be had not God sent a Divine revelation of his will, and established a public ministry to proclaim and enforce it. Were man left to the power and influence of his fallen nature he would be, in all places of his dispersion on the earth, what the apostle describes in the 29th, 30th, and 31st verses of this chapter. Reader, magnify God, who has called thee from such deep darkness, to the marvellous light of the glorious Gospel of his Son; and walk as a child of the light and of the day, in whom there shall be no cause of stumbling.