Verse 14. "Put ye on the Lord Jesus" - This is in reference to what is said, ver. 13: Let us put on decent garments-let us make a different profession, unite with other company, and maintain that profession by a suitable conduct. Putting on, or being clothed with Jesus Christ, signifies receiving and believing the Gospel; and consequently taking its maxims for the government of life, having the mind that was in Christ. The ancient Jews frequently use the phrase putting on the shechinah, or Divine majesty, to signify the soul's being clothed with immortality, and rendered fit for glory.
To be clothed with a person is a Greek phrase, signifying to assume the interests of another-to enter into his views, to imitate him, and be wholly on his side. St. Chrysostom particularly mentions this as a common phrase, o deina ton deina enedusato, such a one hath put on such a one; i.e. he closely follows and imitates him. So Dionysius Hal., Antiq., lib. xi., page 689, speaking of Appius and the rest of the Decemviri, says: ouketi metriazontev, alla ton tarkunion ekeinon enduomenoi, They were no longer the servants of Tarquin, but they CLOTHED THEMSELVES WITH HIM-they imitated and aped him in every thing.
Eusebius, in his life of Constantine, says the same of his sons, they put on their father-they seemed to enter into his spirit and views, and to imitate him in all things. The mode of speech itself is taken from the custom of stage players: they assumed the name and garments of the person whose character they were to act, and endeavoured as closely as possible to imitate him in their spirit, words, and actions. See many pertinent examples in Kypke.
"And make not provision for the flesh" - By flesh we are here to understand, not only the body, but all the irregular appetites and passions which led to the abominations already recited. No provision should be made for the encouragement and gratification of such a principle as this.
"To fulfill the lusts thereof." - eiv epiqumiav, in reference to its lusts; such as the kwmoi, koitai, meqai, and aselgeiai, rioting, drunkenness, prostitutions, and uncleanness, mentioned, Romans xiii. 13, to make provision for which the Gentiles lived and laboured, and bought and sold, and schemed and planned; for it was the whole business of their life to gratify the sinful lusts of the flesh. Their philosophers taught them little else; and the whole circle of their deities, as well as the whole scheme of their religion, served only to excite and inflame such passions, and produce such practices.
I. IN these four last verses there is a fine metaphor, and it is continued and well sustained in every expression. 1. The apostle considers the state of the Gentiles under the notion of night, a time of darkness and a time of evil practices. 2. That this night is nearly at an end, the night is far spent. 3. He considers the Gospel as now visiting the Gentiles, and the light of a glorious day about to shine forth on them. 4. He calls those to awake who were in a stupid, senseless state concerning all spiritual and moral good; and those who were employed in the vilest practices that could debase and degrade mankind. 5. He orders them to cast off the works of darkness, and put on the armour opla, the habiliments of light-of righteousness: to cease to do evil; to learn to do well. Here is an allusion to laying aside their night clothes, and putting on their day clothes. 6. He exhorts them to this that they may walk honestly, decently habited; and not spend their time, waste their substance, destroy their lives, and ruin their souls in such iniquitous practices as those which he immediately specifies. 7. That they might not mistake his meaning concerning the decent clothing which he exhorts them to walk in, he immediately explains himself by the use of a common form of speech, and says, still following his metaphor, Put on the Lord Jesus Christ-receive his doctrine, copy his example, and seek the things which belong to another life; for the Gentiles thought of little else than making provision for the flesh or body, to gratify its animal desires and propensities.
II. These last verses have been rendered famous in the Christian Church for more than 1400 years, as being the instrument of the conversion of St. Augustine. It is well known that this man was at first a Manichean, in which doctrine he continued till the 32nd year of his age. He had frequent conferences and controversies on the Christian religion with several friends who were Christians; and with his mother Monica, who was incessant in her prayers and tears for his conversion. She was greatly comforted by the assurance given her by St. Ambrose, bishop of Milan, where her son Augustine was then professor of rhetoric: that a child of so many prayers and fears could not perish. He frequently heard St. Ambrose preach, and was affected, not only by his eloquence, but by the important subjects which he discussed; but still could not abandon his Manicheanism.
Walking one day in a garden with his friend Alypius, who it appears had been reading a copy of St. Paul's epistle to the Romans, and had left it on a bank near which they then were, (though some say that Augustine was then alone,) he thought he heard a musical voice calling out distinctly, TOLLE ET LEGE! TOLLE ET LEGE! take up and read! take up and read! He looked down, saw the book, took it up, and hastily opening it, the first words that met his eye were these-mh kwmoiv kai meqaiv, &c., Not in rioting and drunkenness, &c., but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ. He felt the import and power of the words, and immediately resolved to become a follower of Christ: he in consequence instantly embraced Christianity; and afterwards boldly professed and wrote largely in its defense, and became one of the most eminent of all the Latin fathers. Such is the substance of the story handed down to us from antiquity concerning the conversion of St. Augustine. He was made bishop of Hippo in Africa, in the year 395, and died in that city, Aug. 28th, 430, at the very time that it was beseiged by the Vandals.
III. After what I have said in the notes, I need add nothing on the great political question of subordination to the civil powers; and of the propriety and expediency of submitting to every ordinance of man for the Lords sake. I need only observe, that it is in things civil this obedience is enjoined; in things religious, God alone is to be obeyed. Should the civil power attempt to usurp the place of the Almighty, and forge a new creed, or prescribe rites and ceremonies not authorized by the word of God, no Christian is bound to obey. Yet even in this case, as I have already noted, no Christian is authorized to rebel against the civil power; he must bear the persecution, and, if needs be, seal the truth with his blood, and thus become a martyr of the Lord Jesus. This has been the invariable practice of the genuine Church of Christ. They committed their cause to him who judgeth righteously. See farther on this subject on Matt. xxii. 20, &c.