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  • ADAM CLARKE'S BIBLE COMMENTARY -
    ROMANS 16

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    CHAPTER XVI.

    The apostle commends to the Christians at Rome Phoebe, a deaconess of the Church at Cenchrea, 1, 2. Sends greetings to Aquila and Priscilla, of whom he gives a high character; and greets also the Church at their house, 3-5. Mentions several others by name, both men and women, who were members of the Church of Christ at Rome, 6-16. Warns them to beware of those who cause dissensions and divisions, of whom he gives an awful character, 17, 18. Extols the obedience of the Roman Christians, and promises them a complete victory over Satan, 19, 20. Several persons send their salutations, 21-23. To whose good wishes he subjoins the apostolic blessing; commends them to God; gives own abstract of the doctrines of the Gospel: and concludes with ascribing glory to the only wise God, through Christ Jesus, 24-27.

    NOTES ON CHAP. XVI.

    Verse 1. "I commend unto you Phoebe" - As the apostle had not been at Rome previously to his writing this epistle, he could not have had a personal acquaintance with those members of the Church there to whom he sends these friendly salutations. It is likely that many of them were his own converts, who, in different parts of Asia Minor and Greece, had heard him preach the Gospel, and afterwards became settlers at Rome.

    Phoebe is here termed a servant, diakonon, a deaconess of the Church at Cenchrea. There were deaconesses in the primitive Church, whose business it was to attend the female converts at baptism; to instruct the catechumens, or persons who were candidates for baptism; to visit the sick, and those who were in prison, and, in short, perform those religious offices for the female part of the Church which could not with propriety be performed by men. They were chosen in general out of the most experienced of the Church, and were ordinarily widows, who had borne children. Some ancient constitutions required them to be forty, others fifty, and others sixty years of age. It is evident that they were ordained to their office by the imposition of the hands of the bishop; and the form of prayer used on the occasion is extant in the apostolical constitutions. In the tenth or eleventh century the order became extinct in the Latin Church, but continued in the Greek Church till the end of the twelfth century. See Broughton's Dictionary, article deaconess.

    Cenchrea was a sea-port on the east side of the isthmus which joined the Morea to Greece, as the Lechaeum was the sea-port on the west side of the same isthmus. These were the only two havens and towns of any note, next to Corinth, that belonged to this territory. As the Lechaeum opened the road to the Ionian sea, so Cenchrea opened the road to the AEgean; and both were so advantageously situated for commerce that they were very rich. These two places are now usually denominated the Gulf of Lepanto, and the Gulf of Ingia or Egina. It was on the isthmus, between these two ports, which was about six miles wide, that the Isthmian games were celebrated; to which St. Paul makes such frequent allusions.

    Verse 2. "Succourer of many" - One who probably entertained the apostles and preachers who came to minister at Cenchrea, and who was remarkable for entertaining strangers. See on Romans xii. 8.

    Verse 3. "Greet Priscilla and Aquila" - This pious couple had been obliged to leave Rome, on the edict of Claudius, see Acts xviii. 2, and take refuge in Greece. It is likely that they returned to Rome at the death of Claudius, or whenever the decree was annulled. It seems they had greatly contributed to assist the apostle in his important labours. Instead of Priscilla, the principal MSS. and versions have Prisca, which most critics suppose to be the genuine reading.

    Verse 4. "Who have for my life laid down their own necks" - What transaction this refers to we know not; but it appears that these persons had, on some occasion, hazarded their own lives to save that of the apostle; and that the fact was known to all the Churches of God in that quarter, who felt themselves under the highest obligations to these pious persons, for the important service which they had thus rendered.

    Verse 5. "The Church that is in their house." - In these primitive times no such places existed as those which we now term churches; the word always signifying the congregation or assembly of believers, and not the place they assembled in. See the term defined at the end of the notes, Matt. xvi. 28.

    "Epenetus-the first fruits of Achaia" - In 1 Cor. xvi. 15, the house or family of Stephanas is said to be the first fruits of Achaia: how then can it be said here, that Epenetus was the first fruits, or first person who had received the Gospel in that district? Ans. - Epenetus might have been one of the family of Stephanas; for it is not said that Stephanas was the first fruits, but his house or family; and there can be no impropriety in supposing that one of that house or family was called Epenetus; and that this person, being the only one of the family now at Rome, might be mentioned as the first fruits of Achaia; that is, one of that family which first received the Gospel in that country. This would rationally account for the apparent difficulty, were we sure that acaiav, of Achaia, was the true reading: but this is more than doubtful, for asiav, of Asia, is the reading of ABCDEFG, some others; the Coptic, AEthiopic, Armenian, Vulgate, and Itala; and some of the chief of the fathers. On this evidence Griesbach has admitted it into the text. Yet the other reading is sufficiently natural, for the reasons already assigned.

    Verse 6. "Greet Mary, who bestowed much labour on us." - Who this Mary was, or what the labour was which she bestowed upon the apostles, we know not. Her works, though hidden from man, are with God; and her name is recorded with honour in this book of life.

    Verse 7. "Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen" - As the word suggeneiv signifies relatives, whether male or female, and as Junia may probably be the name of a woman, the wife of Andronicus, it would be better to say relatives than kinsmen. But probably St. Paul means no more than that they were Jews; for, in chap. ix. 3, he calls all the Jews his kinsmen according to the flesh.

    "My fellow prisoners" - As Paul was in prison often, it is likely that these persons shared this honour with him on some occasion, which is not distinctly marked.

    "Of note among the apostles" - Whether this intimates that they were noted apostles or only highly reputed by the apostles, is not absolutely clear; but the latter appears to me the most probable. They were not only well known to St. Paul, but also to the rest of the apostles.

    "In Christ before me." - That is, they were converted to Christianity before Paul was; probably at the day of pentecost, or by the ministry of Christ himself, or by that of the seventy disciples.

    Verse 8. "Amplias, my beloved in the Lord." - One who is my particular friend, and also a genuine Christian.

    Verse 9. "Urbane, our helper" - Who this Urbanus was we know not; what is here stated is, that he had been a fellow labourer with the apostles.

    "Stachys, my beloved." - One of my particular friends.

    Verse 10. "Apelles, approved in Christ" - A man who, on different occasions, had given the highest proofs of the sincerity and depth of his religion. Some suppose that Apelles was the same with Apollos: whoever he was, he had given every demonstration of being a genuine Christian.

    "Of Aristobulus' household." - It is doubted whether this person was converted, as the apostle does not salute him, but his household; or as the margin reads, his friends. He might have been a Roman of considerable distinction, who, though not converted himself, had Christians among his servants or his slaves. But, whatever he was, it is likely that he was dead at this time, and therefore those of his household only are referred to by the apostle.

    Verse 11. "Herodion, my kinsman." - Probably another converted Jew. See on ver. 7.

    "Of the household of Narcissus" - Probably dead also, as we have supposed Aristobulus to have been at this time.

    "Which are in the Lord." - This might intimate that some of this family were not Christians; those only of that family that were converted to the Lord being saluted. There was a person of the name of Narcissus, who was a freed man of the Emperor Claudius, mentioned by Suetonius in his life of that prince, cap. 37; and by Tacitus, An., lib. xii. cap. l7: but there does not seem any reason to suppose that this was the person designed by St. Paul.

    Verse 12. "Tryphena and Tryphosa" - Two holy women, who it seems were assistants to the apostle in his work, probably by exhorting, visiting the sick, &c. Persis was another woman, who it seems excelled the preceding; for, of her it is said, she laboured much in the Lord. We learn from this, that Christian women, as well as men, laboured in the ministry of the word. In those times of simplicity all persons, whether men or women, who had received the knowledge of the truth, believed it to be their duty to propagate it to the uttermost of their power. Many have spent much useless labour in endeavouring to prove that these women did not preach.

    That there were some prophetesses, as well as prophets in the Christian Church, we learn; and that a woman might pray or prophesy, provided she had her head covered, we know; and that whoever prophesied spoke unto others to edification, exhortation, and comfort, St. Paul declares, 1 Cor. xiv. 3. And that no preacher can do more, every person must acknowledge; because to edify, exhort, and comfort, are the prime ends of the Gospel ministry. If women thus prophesied, then women preached.

    There is, however, much more than this implied in the Christian ministry, of which men only, and men called of God, are capable.

    Verse 13. "Rufus, chosen in the Lord" - ton eklekon, one of great excellence in Christianity; a choice man, as we would say. So the word eklektov often signifies. Psa. lxxviii. x21: They smote touv eklektouv, the chosen men that were of Israel. So eklekta mnhmeia are choice sepulchres, Gen. xxiii. 6: eklekta twn dwrwn choice gifts, Deut. xii. 11; and andrev eklektoi, choice men, Judg. xx. 16.

    By the same use of the word, the companions of Paul and Barnabas are termed chosen men, eklexamenouv andrav, persons in whom the Church of God could confide. See Whitby.

    "His mother and mine." - It is not likely that the mother of Rufus was the mother of Paul; but while she was the natural mother of the former, she acted as a mother to the latter. We say of a person of this character, that she is a motherly woman. Among the ancients, he or she who acted a kind, instructing, and indulgent part to another, was styled the father or mother of such a one. So Terence:-

    Natura tu illi pater es, consiliis ego.

    Adelphi, Act. i. scen. 2, ver. 47.

    Thou art his father by nature, I by instruction.

    Verse 14. "Salute Asyncritus, &c." - Who these were we know not.

    Hermas was probably the same to whom a work called the Shepherd is attributed; a work with this title is still extant, and may be found among the writings of the apostolical fathers. But it is in vain to look for identity of persons in similarity of names; for, among the Greeks and Romans at this time there were many persons who bore the same names mentioned in this chapter.

    Verse 15. "Salute Philologus, &c." - Of these several persons, though much has been conjectured, nothing certain is known. Even the names of some are so ambiguous that we know not whether they were men or women. They were persons well known to St. Paul, and undoubtedly were such as had gone from different places where the apostle had preached to sojourn or settle at Rome. One thing we may remark, that there is no mention of St. Peter, who, according to the Roman and papistical catalogue of bishops, must have been at Rome at this time; if he were not now at Rome, the foundation stone of Rome's ascendancy, of Peter's supremacy, and of the uninterrupted succession, is taken away, and the whole fabric falls to the ground. But if Peter were at Rome at this time, Paul would have sent his salutations to him in the first place; and if Peter were there, he must have been there, according to the papistical doctrine, as bishop and vicar of Jesus Christ; but if he were there, is it likely that he should have been passed by, while Andronicus and Junia are mentioned as of note among the apostles, ver. 7, and that St. Paul should call on the people to remedy the disorders that had crept in among themselves; should not these directions have been given to Peter, the head of the Church? And if there were a Church, in the papistical sense of the word, founded there, of which Peter was the head, is it likely that that Church should be in the house of Priscilla and Aquila, ver. 5. But it is a loss of time to refute such ridiculous and groundless pretensions. It is very likely that Peter, so far from being universal bishop at Rome, never saw the city in his life.

    Verse 16. "Salute one another with a holy kiss." - In those early times the kiss, as a token of peace, friendship, and brotherly love, was frequent among all people; and the Christians used it in their public assemblies, as well as in their occasional meetings. This was at last laid aside, not because it was abused, but because, the Church becoming very numerous, the thing was impossible. In some countries the kiss of friendship is still common; and in such countries it is scarcely ever abused, nor is it an incentive to evil, because it is customary and common. Shaking of hands is now substituted for it in almost all Christian congregations.

    "The Churches of Christ salute you." - The word pasai, ALL, is added here by some of the most reputable MSS. and principal versions; and Griesbach has received it into his text. St. Paul must mean, here, that all the Churches in Greece and Asia, through which he had passed, in which the faith of the Christians at Rome was known, spoke of them affectionately and honourably; and probably knowing the apostle's design of visiting Rome, desired to be kindly remembered to the Church in that city.

    Verse 17. "Mark them which cause divisions" - Several MSS. read asfalwv skopeite, look sharply after them; let them have no kiss of charity nor peace, because they strive to make divisions, and thus set the flock of Christ at variance among themselves; and from these divisions, offenses (skandala, scandals) are produced; and this is contrary to that doctrine of peace, unity, and brotherly love which you have learned. Look sharply after such that they do you no evil, and avoid them-give them no countenance, and have no religious fellowship with them.

    Verse 18. "They-serve not our Lord Jesus" - They profess to be apostles, but they are not apostles of CHRIST; they neither do his will, nor preach his doctrine; they serve their own belly-they hate intruded themselves into the Church of Christ that they might get a secular support; it is for worldly gain alone that they take up the profession of the ministry: they have no Divine credentials; they convert not the heathen nor the ungodly, for they have no Divine unction; but by good words and fair speeches (for they have no miraculous nor saving powers) deceive the hearts of the simple, perverting Christian converts, that they may get their property, and thus secure a maintenance for themselves. The Church of God has ever been troubled with such pretended pastors-men who FEED themselves, not the flock; men who are too proud to beg, and too lazy to work; who have neither grace nor gifts to plant the standard of the cross on the devil's territories, and by the power of Christ make inroads upon his kingdom, and spoil him of his subjects. On the contrary, by sowing the seeds of dissension, by means of doubtful disputations, and the propagation of scandals; by glaring and insinuating speeches, crhstologiav, for they affect elegance and good breeding, they rend Christian congregations, form a party for themselves, and thus live on the spoils of the Church of God.

    Should it be asked, Whom do you intend by this description? I answer: No soul, nor party, but such as the description suits. Irasceris.?-De TE fabula narratur. O, you are angry, are you? O, then, the cap fits you-put it on.

    Verse 19. "For your obedience is come abroad" - The apostle gives this as a reason why they should continue to hear and heed those who had led them into the path of truth, and avoid those false teachers whose doctrines tended to the subversion of their souls.

    "Yet I would have you wise" - I would wish you carefully to discern the good from the evil, and to show your wisdom, by carefully avoiding the one and cleaving to the other.

    Verse 20. "The God of peace" - Who neither sends nor favours such disturbers of the tranquillity of his Church.

    "Shall bruise Satan" - Shall give you the dominion over the great adversary of your souls, and over all his agents who, through his influence, endeavour to destroy your peace and subvert your minds.

    Several critics suppose that the word Satan is a sort of collective term here, by which all opposers and adversaries are meant; and especially those false teachers to whom he refers above.

    "The grace of our Lord" - That you may be truly wise simple, obedient, and steady in the truth, may the favour or gracious influence of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you! without which you cannot be preserved from evil, nor do any thing that is good.

    Here the apostle appears to have intended to conclude his epistle; but afterwards he added a postscript, if not two, as we shall see below. Several ancient MSS. omit the whole of this clause, probably thinking that it had been borrowed from chap. xvi. 24; but on the ground that the apostle might have added a postscript or two, not having immediate opportunity to send the epistle there is no need for this supposition.

    Verse 21. "Timotheus my workfellow" - This is on all hands allowed to be the same Timothy to whom St. Paul directs the two epistles which are still extant. See some account of him in the notes on Acts xvi. 1, &c.

    "Lucius" - This was probably Luke the evangelist, and writer of the book called The Acts of the Apostles. For a short account of him see the Preface to that book.

    "Jason" - It is likely that this is the same person mentioned Acts xvii. 7, who at Thessalonica received the apostles into his house, and befriended them at the risk both of his property and life.

    "Sosipater" - He was a Berean, the son of one Pyrrhus, a Jew, by birth, and accompanied St. Paul from Greece into Asia, and probably into Judea. See Acts xx. 4.

    Verse 22. "I Tertius, who wrote this epistle" - Some eminent commentators suppose Tertius to be the same with Silas-the companion of St. Paul. If this were so, it is strange that the name which is generally given him elsewhere in Scripture should not be used in this place. I have already noticed (Preface, page v.) that some learned men have supposed that St. Paul wrote this epistle in Syriac, and that Tertius translated it into Greek; but this can never agree with the declaration here: I Tertius, who wrote, grayav thn epistolhn, this epistle; not translated or interpreted it. It appears that St. Paul dictated it to him, and he wrote it down from the apostle's mouth; and here introduces himself as joining with St. Paul in affectionate wishes for their welfare.

    "Salute you in the Lord." - I wish you well in the name of the Lord: or, I feel for you that affectionate respect which the grace of the Lord Jesus inspires. It is not clear whether the two following verses be the words of Tertius or St. Paul.

    Verse 23. "Gaius mine host" - Gaius in Greek is the same as Caius in Latin, which was a very common name among the Romans. St. Luke (Acts xix. 29) mentions one Gaius of Macedonia, who was exposed to much violence at Ephesus in the tumult excited by Demetrius the silversmith against St. Paul and his companions; and it is very possible that this was the same person. He is here called not only the host xenov, the entertainer of St. Paul, or Tertius, (if he wrote this and the following verse,) but also of the whole Church: that is, he received and lodged the apostles who came from different places, as well as the messengers of the Churches. All made his house their home; and he must have been a person of considerable property to be able to bear this expense; and of much piety and love to the cause of Christ, else he had not employed that property in this way.

    Erastus the chamberlain of the city] Treasurer of the city of Corinth, from which St. Paul wrote this epistle. This is supposed to be the same person as is mentioned Acts xix. 22. He was one of St. Paul's companions, and, as appears from 2 Tim. iv. 20, was left about this time by the apostle at Corinth. He is called the chamberlain oikonomov, which signifies the same as treasurer; he to whom the receipt and expenditure of the public money were intrusted. He received the tolls, customs, &c., belonging to the city, and out of them paid the public expenses. Such persons were in very high credit; and if Erastus was at this time treasurer, it would appear that Christianity was then in considerable repute in Corinth. But if the Erastus of the Acts was the same with the Erastus mentioned here, it is not likely that he now held the office, for this could not at all comport with his travelling with St. Paul. Hence several, both ancients and moderns, who believe the identity of the persons, suppose that Erastus was not now treasurer, but that having formerly been so he still retained the title. Chrysostom thought that he still retained the employment.

    "Quartus a brother." - Whether the brother of Erastus or of Tertius we know not; probably nothing more is meant than that he was a Christian-one of the heavenly family, a brother in the Lord.

    Verse 24. "The grace of our Lord" - This is the conclusion of Tertius, and is similar to what St. Paul used above. Hence it is possible that Tertius wrote the whole of the 22nd, 23rd, and 24th verses, without receiving any particular instructions from St. Paul, except the bare permission to add his own salutations with those of his particular friends.

    There is a great deal of disagreement among the MSS. and versions relative to this verse; some rejecting it entirely, and some of those which place the following verses at the end of Romans xiv. 23, inserting it at the end of the 27th verse in that place. The reader who chooses may consult Wetstein and Griesbach on these discordances.

    Verse 25. "Now to him" - In the note at chap. xiv. 23. I have shown that this and the following verses are by the most reputable MSS. and versions placed at the end of that chapter, which is supposed by most critics to be their proper place. Some of the arguments adduced in favour of this transposition may be found in the note above mentioned. I shall therefore refer to Griesbach, and proceed to make a few short remarks on the verses as they occur here.

    "Of power to stablish you" - To that God, without whom nothing is wise, nothing strong; who is as willing to teach as he is wise; as ready to help as he is strong.

    "According to my Gospel" - That Gospel which explains and publishes God's purpose of taking the Gentiles to be his people under the Messiah, without subjecting them to the law of Moses. This is what he here calls the preaching of Jesus Christ; for without this he did not think, as Mr. Locke observes, that Christ vas preached to the Gentiles as he ought to be; and therefore in several places of his epistle to the Galatians he calls it the truth, and the truth of the Gospel, and uses the like expressions to the Ephesians and Colossians. This is that mystery which he is so much concerned that the Ephesians should understand and adhere to firmly, and which was revealed to him according to that Gospel whereof he was made a minister. And it is probable that this grand mystery of bringing the Gentiles into the kingdom of God, without passing through the rites of the Mosaic law, was revealed more particularly to St. Paul than to any other of the apostles, and that he preached it more pointedly, and certainly with more success. See Taylor and Locke.

    "Which was kept secret" - This purpose of calling the Gentiles, and giving them equal privileges to the Jews, without obliging them to submit to circumcision, &c.

    Verse 26. "But now is made manifest" - Now, under the New Testament dispensation, and by my preaching.

    "By the scriptures of the prophets" - Hints relative to this important work being scattered up and down through all their works, but no clear revelation that the Gentiles, who should be admitted into the Church, should be admitted without passing under the yoke of the Mosaic law.

    This was the point which was kept secret: as to the calling of the Gentiles, this was declared in general terms by the prophets, and the apostle quotes and makes a most important use of their predictions; but the other was a point on which the prophets gave no information, and it seems to have been peculiarly revealed to St. Paul, who received the commandment of the everlasting God to make it known eiv panta ta eqnh, to all the Gentiles-all the people of the earth that were not of Jewish extraction.

    And it was to be made known for the obedience of faith, that they might believe its doctrines and obey its precepts; its universal voice requiring repentance towards God, faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and circumcision of the heart, in the place of all Jewish rites and ceremonies.

    Verse 27. "To God only wise" - This comes in with great propriety. He alone who is the fountain of wisdom and knowledge, had all this mystery in himself; and he alone who knew the times, places, persons, and circumstances, could reveal the whole; and he has revealed all in such a way as not only to manifest his unsearchable wisdom, but also his infinite goodness: therefore, to him be glory for his wisdom in devising this most admirable plan; and his goodness in sending Christ Jesus to execute it; to Him, through Christ Jesus, be glory for ever! Because this plan is to last for ever; and is to have no issue but in eternal glory.

    "Written to the Romans from Corinthus, &c." - That this epistle was written from Corinth is almost universally believed. That Phoebe was a deaconess of the Church at Cenchrea, we have seen in the first verse of this chapter; and that the epistle might have been sent by her to Rome is possible; but that she should have been the writer of the epistle, as this subscription states, egrafh dia foibhv, is false, for chap. xvi. 22 shows that Tertius was the writer, though by inserting the words and sent, we represent her rather as the carrier than the writer. This subscription, however, stands on very questionable grounds. It is wanting in almost all the ancient MSS.; and even of those which are more modern, few have it entirely, as in our common editions. It has already been noted that the subscriptions to the sacred books are of little or no authority, all having been added in latter times, and frequently by injudicious hands. The most ancient have simply To the Romans, or the Epistle to the Romans is finished. The word Amen was seldom added by the inspired writers, and here it is wanting in almost all the ancient MSS. As this was a word in frequent use in religious services, pious people would naturally employ it in finishing the reading or copying of this epistle, as they would thereby express their conviction of the truth of its contents, and their desire that the promises contained in it might be fulfilled to them and to the Church at large; and in this sense the word is not only harmless but useful. May the fullness of the Gentiles be brought in, and may all Israel be saved! This is treated of at large in this epistle; and to this prayer let every pious reader say AMEN! Often this word seems to be used as we use the word finis, i.e. the end. See the observations on this word at the end of the Gospel of John.

    BEFORE I conclude this work, I shall beg leave to add several important observations, chiefly extracted from Dr. Taylor.

    1. Paul, the apostle, writes to all the Christians at Rome, without distinction, as being called of Jesus Christ, beloved of God, called saints; as justified by faith and having peace with God; as standing in the grace of the Gospel, chap. v. 1, 2; as alive from the dead, chap. vi. 13, &c. He gives them various exhortations: Walk in newness of life. Let not sin reign in your mortal body. Yield yourselves unto God. chap. xii. 1, &c.: I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. chap. xiv. 10, 12: We shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. Every one of us shall give account of himself to God. chap. xiii. 11-14: It is high time to awake out of sleep; let us therefore cast off the works of darkness; let us not walk in rioting and drunkenness, in chambering and wantonness, in strife and envying; make no provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof. chap. viii. 13: For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die; mellete apoqnhskein, ye shall hereafter die, meaning, in the world to come. But if ye, through the Spirit, do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.

    2. The rites and ceremonies of the law of Moses were incorporated into the civil state of the Jews, and so might be considered as national and political usages. Now, as the Gospel did not interfere with or subvert any national polity upon earth, but left all men in all the several countries of the globe to live, in all things not sinful, according to the civil constitution under which it found them; so it left the Jews also at liberty to observe all the rites and injunctions of the law of Moses, considered as a part of the civil and political usages of the nation. And in this respect they remained in force so long as the Jews were a nation, having the temple, the token of God's presence and evidence among them. But when the temple was destroyed, and they were expelled from the land of Canaan, their polity was dissolved, and the Mosaic rites were quite laid aside. And as the time in which this happened was near when the epistle to the Hebrews was written, therefore the apostle saith: The first covenant, or Mosaical dispensation, was then decaying and waxing old, and ready to vanish away, Heb. viii. 13.

    3. But though the Gospel was not in itself intended to unchurch the Jews, yet the Jews every where warmly opposed the preaching of it, though not for the same reasons. Some Jews opposed it totally, and rejected the whole Gospel as unnecessary, judging the Mosaical constitution, and their conformity to the law there delivered, completely sufficient for justification or salvation, without any farther provision made by the grace of God. These accounted Christ our Lord an impostor, and the Gospel a forgery; and therefore persecuted the apostles with the utmost assiduity and outrage, as deceivers who had no Divine mission. Such were the Jews who put Stephen to death, Acts 6, and 7. Such were they at Antioch, in Pisidia, who were filled with envy, and spake against the things that were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming, Acts xiii. 45, 50. Such were the Jews at Iconium, Acts xiv. 2, 19; at Thessalonica, Acts xvii. 5; at Corinth, Acts xviii. 5, 6, and in other places. And such a Jew was Paul himself before his conversion. He consented to the death of Stephen, made havoc of the Church, (Acts viii. 3,) and breathed out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, Acts ix. 1; xxii. 4; xxvi. 9-11.

    4. What Paul's principles, and those of the unbelieving Jews, were, we may learn if we observe that the first persecution raised against the apostles at Jerusalem was partly on account of their preaching through Jesus the resurrection from the dead, Acts iv. 1, 2. This gave great offense to the Sadducees; and partly because they openly affirmed that Jesus, whom the rulers of the Jews slew and hanged on a tree, was the Messiah, whom God had exalted to be a prince and a saviour. This disgusted all the council and senate of the Jews, Acts v. 21, 28-31. But with regard to these two particulars, the indignation of the Jews seems for some time abated, till the doctrine the apostles taught was better understood; and Stephen, in his dispute with some learned Jews, had suggested that the Gospel was intended to abrogate the Mosaical constitution, Acts vi. 9-15. This irritated the Jews afresh, especially the Pharisees, the strictest and most numerous sect among them. And Saul, one of that sect, (Acts xxvi. 5; xxiii. 6,) being then a young man, just come out of Gamaliel's school, having finished his studies in the law, and being fully persuaded that the Jewish dispensation was instituted by God, never to be altered, but to abide for ever, he really believed that Jesus and his followers were deceivers, and that it was his duty to oppose them, and to stand up courageously for God and his truth.

    Thus he honestly followed the dictates of his own conscience. How far other unbelieving Jews were or were not upright in their opposition to the Gospel, God only knows; but their professed principles seem to be nearly the same. In short, they were for seizing on the inheritance, (Matt. xxi. 38,) and for engrossing all salvation and the favour of God to themselves.

    The Jews they judged were the only people of God, and the Jewish nation the only true Church, out of which there was no salvation. No man could be in a state of acceptance with God without observing the law of Moses.

    The works of the law, moral and ceremonial, must be performed in order to his being a member of God's Church and family, and having a right to future and eternal happiness. They expected the Messiah indeed and his kingdom; but not as if either had a reference to another world. The law, and a punctual observance of it, were the ground of their expectations in a future world. And as for the Messiah, they supposed his coming and kingdom related only to the temporal prosperity and grandeur of the Jewish nation, and the perpetual establishment of their law, by rescuing them out of the hands of the Gentile powers, who had greatly embarrassed and distressed their constitution. Thus they endeavoured to establish their own righteousness, (chap. x. 3,) salvation, or interest in God; an interest which they imagined for themselves, and which excluded men of all other nations, who they thought were in fact utterly excluded from the Divine favour and eternal life, as quite lost and hopeless. Against us Gentiles, they had the strongest prejudices, accounting us as perfectly vile, as nothing, as abandoned of God, only because we were not included in their peculiarity; while they imagined themselves to be vastly superior to us, and the only people beloved of God, purely on account of their external privileges and relation to God as the seed of Abraham; being circumcised, enjoying the law, the promises, and ordinances of worship, &c.

    5. And this was another ground of their opposition to the Gospel when it was preached to the Gentiles. Indeed the apostles themselves, and the first Christians among the Jews, had for some time no notion of the Gospel's being preached to the Gentiles, till God in a vision convinced Pet. it was his will that it should, Acts x. 9-45. But the unbelieving Jews regarded the preaching of the Gospel to the Gentiles, or the declaring that they were, upon their faith in Christ, pardoned and admitted into the Church of God, and to the hopes of eternal life, almost in the same manner as we should regard the preaching of the Gospel to brute creatures. They could not bear the thought that the Gentiles-any barbarous nations, should, only by faith, have an equal interest in God and the blessings of his covenant with themselves. They did not indeed deny the possibility of their being taken into the Church, and of obtaining salvation. But it must be only by their becoming Jews; they must first submit to the law, and yield obedience to its precepts and obligations, before they could be qualified objects of God's mercy. There was no grace, no part in the kingdom of God either here or hereafter, for a Gentile, unless he first became a Jew, and performed the works of the Mosaical law. By these sentiments they were led to do all they could to oppose the preaching of the Gospel to the Gentiles, and became very bitter enemies to Paul, who was the apostle particularly selected and commissioned for that purpose. They could not allow the Gentiles to have any access to the privileges of God's Church and people, but through the door of the law; and to introduce them any other way was, not only to overthrow their law and peculiarity, but to deceive the Gentiles. Therefore they did all in their power to withstand the apostle, and to persuade the Gentiles every where that he was an odious impostor; that his Gospel was a forgery, destitute of Divine authority; that he proposed admitting them into the Church and covenant of God in a way which had no foundation in the declared will of God. Their law was the only Divine establishment, and obedience to it the only means to introduce them into the kingdom of God; and Paul could have no commission from heaven to teach otherwise, whatever he might pretend, or what miracles soever he might work. Of this sort of Jews the apostle speaks, 1 Thess. ii. 14-16.

    Other Jews there were who believed the Gospel, and agreed that it ought to be preached to the Gentiles; but so that the Gentiles, at the same time they accepted the Gospel, were obliged to submit to the law of Moses in every part, otherwise they could not be saved or have any interest in the kingdom and covenant of God, Acts xv. 1. These taught that the Gospel was insufficient without the law. They differed from the forementioned Jews in that they embraced the faith of Jesus Christ; but agreed with them in this, that the law of Moses was to be in force for ever, and the observance of all its rituals absolutely necessary to a standing in the Church of God, and the hopes of eternal life. And for this reason they were upon pretty good terms with the unbelieving Jews, and avoided the persecution to which those who adhered to the pure and unmixed Gospel were exposed, Gal. vi. 12. These Jews, who were for joining law and Gospel together, were also great enemies to our apostle. He speaks of them, Philippians iii. 2, 3, &c.

    6. Now against the mistakes of the infidel Jews the apostle thus argues in the epistle to the Romans: Jews, as well as Gentiles, have corrupted themselves, and are become obnoxious to the Divine wrath, and, if they repent not, will certainly fall under the wrath of God in the last day: consequently, as both are obnoxious to wrath, both must be indebted to grace and mercy for any favour shown them. The continuance of the Jews in the Church, as well as the admittance of the Gentiles into it, is wholly of grace; mere grace or favour. Upon which footing, the Gentiles must have as good a right to the blessings of God's covenant as the Jews themselves.

    And why not? Is not God the creator and governor of the Gentiles, as well as of the Jews? And if both Jews and Gentiles have corrupted themselves by wicked works, it is impossible that either should have a right to the privileges of God's Church and people on account of WORKS, or obedience to the law of God, whether natural or revealed. It must be pure mercy, accepted by faith through Christ, or a persuasion of that mercy on their part, which gives that right. All must be indebted to grace. The works of the law never gave the Jews themselves a right to the privileges and promises of the covenant. Even Abraham himself, (the head of the nation, who was first taken into God's covenant, and from whom the Jews derive all their peculiar blessings and advantages,) was not justified by works of the law. It was free grace, or favour, which at once admitted him and his posterity into the covenant and Church of God. And that the grace of the Gospel actually extends to all mankind, appears from the universality of the resurrection; which is the effect of God's grace or favour in a Redeemer, and is the first and fundamental part of the new dispensation with regard to the gift of eternal life. For, as all were involved in death in consequence of Adam's sin, so shall all be restored to life at the last day in consequence of Christ's obedience; and therefore it is certain that all men actually have a share in the mercy of God in Christ Jesus. - Thus the apostle argues.

    7. And we ought particularly to observe how he combats the engrossing temper of the Jews in his arguments. They could not engross all virtue to themselves, for they were as bad as other people; they could not engross God and his favour to themselves, for he was the governor and creator of Gentiles as well as Jews; they could not engross Abraham and the promise made to him to themselves, for he is the father of many nations, and the believing Gentiles are his seed as well as the Jews; they could not engross the resurrection, the necessary introduction to eternal life, to themselves, because it is known and allowed to be common to all mankind.

    8. And he had good reason to be so large and particular in confuting the mistakes of the infidel Jews. For had their principles prevailed, the Gospel could not have maintained its ground. For if we must have performed the works of the law, before we could have been interested in the blessings of the covenant, then the Gospel would have lost its nature and force; for then it would not have been a motive to obedience, but the result of obedience; and we could have had no hope towards God prior to obedience. Therefore the apostle has done a singular and eminent piece of service to the Church of God, in asserting and demonstrating the free grace and covenant of God as a foundation to stand upon, prior to any obedience of ours, and as the grand spring and motive of obedience. This sets our interest in the covenant, or promise of God, upon a foundation very clear and solid.

    9. To understand rightly the epistle to the Romans, it is farther necessary to observe, that the apostle considers mankind as obnoxious to the Divine wrath, and as standing before God, the Judge of all. Hence it is that he uses forensic or law terms, usual in Jewish courts: such as the LAW, RIGHTEOUSNESS or JUSTIFICATION, being JUSTIFIED, JUDGMENT to CONDEMNATION, JUSTIFICATION of LIFE, being made SINNERS, and being made RIGHTEOUS. These I take to be forensic or court terms; and the apostle by using them naturally leads our thoughts to suppose a court held, a judgment seat to be erected by the most high God, in the several cases whence he draws his arguments. For instance, chap. v. 12-20, he supposes Adam standing in the court of God after he had committed the first transgression; when the judgment passed upon him for his offense, came upon all men to condemnation; and when he and his posterity, by the favour and in the purpose of God, were again made righteous, or obtained the justification of life. Again, chap. iv. 1-18, he supposes Abraham standing before the bar of the supreme Judge; when, as an idolater, he might have been condemned, but through the pure mercy of God he was justified, pardoned, and taken into God's covenant, on account of his faith. He also supposes, chap. iii. 19-29, all mankind standing before the universal Judge, when Christ came into the world. At that time neither Jew nor Gentile could pretend to justification upon the foot of their own works of righteousness, having both corrupted themselves, and come short of the glory of God. But at that time both had righteousness or salvation prepared for them in a Redeemer; namely, the righteousness which results from the pure mercy or grace of God, the lawgiver and judge. And so both (instead of being destroyed) had admittance into the Church and covenant of God, by faith, in order to their eternal salvation.

    10. But besides these three instances, in which he supposes a court to be held by the supreme Judge, there is a fourth to which he points, chap. ii. 1-17, and that is the final judgment, or the court which will be held in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ. And it is with regard to that future court of judicature that he argues chap. ii. 1-17. But in the other cases, whence he draws his arguments, he supposes the courts of judicature to be already held; and, consequently, argues in relation to the economy, constitution, or dispensation of things to this present world. This is very evident with regard to the court which he supposes to be held when our Lord came into the world, or when the Gospel constitution was erected in its full glory; for, speaking of the justification which mankind then obtained through the grace of God in Christ, he expressly confines that justification to the present time, chap. iii. 26, To demonstrate, I say, his righteousness, en tw nun kairw, at the PRESENT TIME. This plainly distinguishes the righteousness or salvation, which God then exhibited, from that righteousness or justification which he will vouchsafe in the day of judgment to pious and faithful souls.

    11. Before the coming of our Lord, the peculiar kingdom of God was confined to the Jewish nation, and to such only of the heathens as were incorporated among them by becoming Jews, and observing the whole law of Moses. And the Jews firmly believed it would always continue in the same state.

    But when our Lord came, the mystery of God, which had been concealed both from Jews and Gentiles, was revealed; namely, that the Gentiles also, even men of all nations, should be freely admitted into it. This was an act of great favour, considering the darkness, idolatry, and wickedness into which the heathen world was then sunk.

    But God mercifully passed over their former sins; and our Lord commissioned his apostles, and particularly St. Paul, to promulge a general pardon; and to call or invite all who repented, and accepted of the grace, to all the blessings and privileges of his kingdom; confirming their interests in those blessings by pouring out the Holy Ghost upon them, in various miraculous gifts, or endowments, above the ordinary capacity of men.

    This was a very evident seal to them (and to us too) of a title to the blessings of God's Kingdom and covenant, Gal. iii. 2-5.

    And it had such an effect upon the Christian Jews at Jerusalem that, though they were at first greatly disgusted at Peter for treating the first uncircumcised Gentile converts as members of the kingdom of God, (Acts xi. 2, 3,) yet, when they heard that the Holy Ghost was fallen upon those converts, they were much surprised and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted (the benefit of) repentance unto (eternal) life; which, before this, they verily believed could not have been granted unto them without obedience to the law of Moses by being circumcised.

    But the unbelieving Jews paid no regard to this or any other argument in favour of the uncircumcised Gentiles. The notion of admitting them into the kingdom and congregation of God, only upon faith in Christ, they opposed and persecuted every where with great zeal and bitterness. And it was not long before good impressions wore off, and old prejudices revived among even the believing Jews. Numbers of them very stiffly, and with much warmth and contention, endeavoured to persuade the Gentile converts that, except they were circumcised after the manner of Moses, they could not be saved, or admitted to the privileges of the kingdom of God and the hope of eternal life, Acts xv. 1, 2.

    The Gentiles, even the most learned and wise amongst them, were wholly ignorant in the affair. They were perfect strangers to the Gospel scheme: they had no notion or expectation of being received into the kingdom and covenant of God, and could have no knowledge of it but what they received from some or other of the Jews: nor could they have any objection against it worth regarding but what came from that quarter. And the Jews had a considerable influence among them, having synagogues in most, if not all, the great towns in the empire, from the Euphrates, as far as Rome itself, which numbers of the Gentiles frequented, and so had received impressions in favour of the Jewish religion.

    But had the Jewish notion prevailed, that no part of mankind could have any share in the blessings of God's covenant, the pardon of sins and the hope of eternal life, but only such as were circumcised and brought themselves under obligations to the whole law of Moses; had this notion prevailed, the extensive scheme of the Gospel would have been ruined, and the gracious design of freeing the Church from the embarrassments of the law of Moses would have been defeated. The Gospel, or glad tidings of salvation, must not only have been confined to the narrow limits of the Jewish peculiarity, and clogged with all the ceremonial observances belonging to it, which to the greatest part of mankind would have been either impracticable, or excessively incommodious, but, which is still worse, must have sunk and fallen with that peculiarity. Had the Gospel been built upon the foundation of the Jewish polity, it must have been destroyed when that was demolished, and the whole kingdom of God in the world would have been overthrown and extinct at the same time; and so all the noble principles it was intended to inspire, to animate and comfort our hearts, would have been lost; and all the light it was calculated to diffuse throughout the world would have been quite extinguished.

    It was therefore the apostle's duty to vindicate and assert the truth of the Gospel which he was commissioned to preach to the Gentiles; and of very great consequence to prove that we Gentiles are called to be the children of God, and are interested in his covenant, and all the honours, blessings, and privileges of his family and kingdom here upon earth, only by faith in Christ, without coming under any obligations to the law of Moses, as such: which is the main drift and subject of this epistle.

    12. It is worth notice that there is this difference in one respect between the gospels and epistles, namely, that our Lord, in the gospels, represents the doctrines and principles of the Christian religion chiefly in an absolute sense, or as they are in themselves: but, in the epistles, those doctrines and principles are chiefly considered in a relative view; as they respect partly the foregoing Jewish dispensation, and partly the future corruption of the Christian Church; but principally, as they respect the different state of Jews and heathens; showing how just, true, and necessary they are with reference to both, and directing and exhorting both to value them and to make a right use of them. This was absolutely necessary to a full explication of the Gospel, to guard it against all objections, and to give it a solid establishment in the world.

    And we must not forget that in the epistle to the Romans, the Gospel is presented in this relative view, as adapted to the circumstances of us Gentiles, and obliging us to all virtue and piety.

    13. Farther, we can neither duly value this epistle, nor be sensible how much we are indebted to the author of it, unless we make this sentiment familiar to our thoughts; namely, That St. Paul is the patron and defender of all that is by far the most valuable and important to us in the world, against the only opposition that could be made to our title and claim. Give me leave to explain this by an easy comparison. - A person, to me unknown, leaves me at his death 1000 . a-year: I myself can have no objection against the noble donative; and the good pleasure of the donor, who had an undoubted right to dispose of his own, may silence any of the caviller's surmises. But a person claiming, as heir at law, gives me the greatest uneasiness. He alleges the estate was entailed, and that he has a prior title, which renders the donation to me invalid. Here I want an able advocate to prove that his pretensions are ill grounded, and that my title is perfectly good and firm. St. Paul is that advocate: he argues, and strongly proves, that we, believing Gentiles, have a just and solid title to all the blessings of God's covenant; and effectually establishes us in possession of all the noble principles, motives, comfort, hope and joy of the Gospel.

    The sum of what he demonstrates is comprehended in 1 Pet. ii. 8-10; They, the Jews, stumble, and lose their ancient honours and privileges; but ye, Gentiles, are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who has called you out of heathenish darkness into his marvellous light. Thus, on the authority of God, we Gentiles have an indisputable right to all the blessings of the Gospel; and, if we receive by Christ Jesus that grace which pardons and cleanses the soul, we shall pass from the Church militant into the Church triumphant.

    At the conclusion of my notes on this very important epistle I feel it necessary to make a few additional remarks. I have sincerely and conscientiously given that view of the apostle's work which I believe to be true and correct. I am well aware that many great and good men have understood this portion of Divine revelation differently, in many respects, from myself: they have the same right of private judgment which I claim, and to publish those opinions which they judge to accord best with their views of the Gospel. My business is to give what I think to be the mind of my author; and every where I have laboured to do this without even consulting any pre-established creed. I hope my readers will take in good part what is honestly intended. I wish to avoid controversy; I give my own views of Divine truth. The plan on which I have endeavoured to expound this epistle shows it a beautiful, highly important, and consistent whole; a work which casts the clearest light on the grand original designs of God relative to the diffusion of the Gospel and its blessings over the face of the earth; illustrating many apparently dark and unaccountable providences; fully proving that though clouds and darkness are often round the supreme Being, yet, righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne. Where this grand view of this epistle is not taken, the major part of its beauties are lost. God, who is not the God of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles, shows by his apostle in this admirable epistle, that from the beginning he had purposed to call the whole Gentile world to that salvation which he appeared for a time to restrain to the Jews alone, and which they imagined should be exclusively theirs for ever.

    This prejudice the apostle overturns, and shows that the Gentiles also had an equal share in the election of grace. We should be careful how we make that partial and exclusive which shows the Fountain of goodness to be no respecter of persons, or even ultimately of nations, who like the sun, the faint though brightest image of his glory in this lower world, shines equally upon the just and the unjust. God, with the same benevolent design, orders his Gospel to be preached to every creature under heaven.

    The peculiar phraseology of this epistle I have also endeavoured to explain, and where this could not be conveniently done in the notes, I have generally stated it at the end of the chapters. And, for the explanations of difficult points, or articles which may have been but slightly handled in the notes, I beg to refer to those concluding observations; and particularly to those at the end of chapters 8 and 9. But it is necessary to make some remarks on this epistle, as an epistle directed to the Romans; that is, to the Church of God founded at Rome. Though the Gospel was preached and established there long before either the apostle had visited this city, or written this epistle, yet we may rest assured that the doctrine contained here was the doctrine of the Church of Rome, and therefore that Church was holy and apostolic. If it do not continue to walk by the same rule, and mind the same things it is no longer so: in a time then when the Roman Church that now is invites the attention of the Christian world, by making great and bold pretensions- assuming to itself the titles of holy, catholic, and apostolic; representing Rome as the fountain whence pure truth and apostolical authority emanate-it may be useful to examine whether such pretensions are well founded, and not permit confident assumption, noise and parade, to carry away our understandings, and occupy the place of reason, argument, and truth. This however cannot be done to any extent in this place; only it may be necessary to state, that, as the doctrines. &c. of the Roman Church profess to be apostolic, they must be found in the epistle to the ROMANS, this being the only apostolic work directed to that Church. If they are not to be met with here, it would be absurd to look for them anywhere else. But there is not one distinguishing doctrine or practice of the Romish Church found in this epistle. Here is no pope, no exclusive churchship, no Peter-pence, first fruits, legatine levies, dispensations, pardons, indulgences, reliques, Agnus Dei's, jubilees, pilgrimages, crusades, carnivals, canonizations, abbeys, monasteries, cells, shrines, privileged altars, auricular confessions, purgatories, masses, prayers for the dead, requiems, placebos, dirges, lamps, processions, holy water, chrisms, baptism of bells, justification by works, penances, transubstantiation, works of supererogation, extreme unction, invocation of saints and angels, worship of images, crossings of the body, rosaries, albs, stoles, &c.; nor the endless orders of priests, abbots, monks, friars, nuns, anchorets, hermits, capuchins, &c., &c. Here are no inquisitions, no writs de haeretico comburendo, no auto da fe's, no racks, gibbets, tortures, nor death in all variable and horrid forms, for those who may differ from this mother Church in any part of their religious creed. In vain will the reader look into this epistle for any thing that is not consistent with sound sense, inflexible reason, and the justice, purity, and endless benevolence of the great God, the equal Father of the spirits of all flesh. Here, indeed, he will see the total fall and degeneracy of all mankind strongly asserted and proved; the utter helplessness of the human race to rescue itself from this state of corruption; the endless mercy of God, in sending Christ Jesus into the world to die for sinners; the doctrine of justification by faith in the blood of the Lamb; regeneration by the energy of the Divine Spirit producing that holiness without which no man can see God. Here the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ takes place of all Jewish sacrifices, and works or sufferings, of man, in reference to justification. Here is nothing puerile, nugatory, or superstitious; no dogma degrading to the understanding; no religious act unworthy of the spirit and dignity of the Gospel; nothing that has not the most immediate tendency to enlighten the mind, and mend the heart of man; in a word, every thing is suitable to the state of man, and worthy of the majesty, justice, and benevolence of that God from whom this epistle came. Here, indeed, is the model of a pure Church. What a pity it is not more closely followed by all, whether Protestant or popish, that profess the faith of Christ crucified! Alas! that a Church which was once pure and apostolic, and still retains all the essential doctrines of the Gospel, should compound them with others which are not only the commandments and inventions of men, but which so counteract the influence of the truths still retained, as to destroy their efficacy; and no wonder, when this foreign admixture is an assemblage of rites and ceremonies borrowed partly from the Jews and partly from the ancient heathens; rendered palatable by a small proportion of Christianity.

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