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Did I not seem yesterday to you to have spoken some great and exorbitant things of Paul’s love toward Christ? And great indeed they were, too great for any words to express. Yet what you have heard to-day are as far above those things, as those things were above ours. And yet I did not think they could be exceeded, still when I came to what has been read to-day1459
What sayest thou, O Paul? from Christ, thy beloved One, from Whom neither kingdom nor hell, nor things visible nor intelligible, nor another world as great, would separate thee, is it from Him that thou wouldst now be accursed? What has happened? Hast thou changed, hast thou given over that love? No, he replies, fear not. Rather I have even made it more intense. How then is it that thou wouldest fain be accursed, and seekest a separation, and a removal to such a distance, that after it there is no possibility of finding a more distant one? Because I love Him exceedingly, he may reply. How, pray, and in what manner? For the things seem a riddle. Or rather, if you will, let us learn what the curse is, and then we will question him upon these points, and shall understand this unspeakable and extraordinary love. What then is the curse? Hear his own words, “If any man love not our Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed.” (anathema, 1 Cor. xvi. 22.) That is, let him be set apart from all, removed from all. For as in the case of a thing dedicated (ἀνάθημα), which is set apart for God, no one would venture so much as to touch it with his hand or even to come near it; so too with a man who is put apart from the Church, in cutting him off from all, and removing him as far off as possible, he calls him by this name (ἀνάθεμα) in a contrary sense,1461
Ver. 4, 5. “To whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the Law, and the service of God,and the promises; whose are the father’s, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, Who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.”
And what is this? one asks. For if with a view to the belief of others he was willing to become accursed, he ought to have also wished for this in the Gentiles’ behalf. But if he wishes it in the Jews’ behalf only, it is a proof that he did not wish it for Christ’s sake, but for his own relationship to them. But in fact if he had prayed for the Gentiles only, this would not have been equally clear. But since it is for the Jews only, it is a clear proof that it is only for Christ’s glory that he is thus earnest. And I am aware that what I am saying will seem a paradox to you. Still if ye do not make a disturbance,1464
To show that he had courage (Mar. and 4 mss. wished) to bear all these things for the word of God, that is, the promise made to Abraham. For as Moses seemed to be pleading for the Jews, yet was doing everything for God’s glory (for he says, “Lest they say, Because He was not able to save them, He led them forth to destroy them in the wilderness” (Deut. ix. 28); stay Thy wrath), so also does Paul, That they may not say (he means) that the promise of God has fallen to the ground, and He has disappointed us of that He vouched to us, and this word has not issued in deed, I could wish to be accursed. This then was why he did not speak of the Gentiles (for to them no promises had been made by Him, nor had they worshipped Him, wherefore neither did any blaspheme Him on their account), but it was for the Jews who had both received the promise, and had also been brought into closer connection with Him than others, that he expressed this wish. Do you see, that if he had expressed it for the Gentiles, he would not have been shown to be doing this so purely for Christ’s glory? But since he was willing to become accursed in the Jews’ behalf, then it was most evidenced that it was for Christ’s sake only that he desired this.1465
For the Law, he means, which speaks of Christ, comes from thence, and all the covenants made with them, and Himself came from them, and the Fathers who received the promises were all from them. Yet still the opposite has resulted, and they have fallen from all their good things. Hence, he means, I am vexed, and if it were possible to be separated from the company about Christ, and to be made an alien, not from the love of Him (that be far from him; for even all this he was doing through love), but from all that enjoyment and glory, I would accept that lot, provided my Master were not to be blasphemed, that He might not have to hear some saying, that it has been all for stage-effect; He promises to one, and gives to another. He was sprung from one race, He saved another. It was to the forefathers of the Jews that He made the promises, and yet He has deserted their descendants, and put men, who never at any time knew Him, into their good things. They labored in the practice of the Law, and reading the Prophets, while men who have come but yesterday from heathen altars and images have been set up above them. What foresight is there in all this? Now that these things may not be said of my Master, he means, even if they are said unjustly, I would willingly lose even the kingdom and that glory unutterable, and any sufferings would I undergo, as considering it the greatest consolation possible no longer to hear Him Whom I so long for, so blasphemed. But if you be still against allowing this explanation, just reflect that many fathers have at many times taken up with thus much for their children, and have chosen to be separated from them, and rather to see them in honor, considering their honor dearer to them than their company. But since we are so short of love like this (Bacon, N. O. Aph. lib. 2, §7), we cannot even form an idea of what is here meant. For there be some that are so wholly unworthy even to hear the name of Paul, and that stand at such an interval and distance from that vehemency of his, as to fancy that he says this of temporal death. Who I should say were as ignorant of Paul, as the blind of the sun’s rays, or even much more so. For he that died daily, and set before him dangers thick as a snow-storm, and then said, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine?” and still unsatisfied with what he had said, and after going above the heaven and the heaven of heavens, and running through the Angels and Archangels, and all the higher orders of beings, and taking in at once things present, things to come, things visible, things intelligible, things grievous, and things good, that were on either part, and leaving nothing out at all, yet not even thus satiated, but even bodying forth another non-existing creation, how should he, by way of saying some great thing after all those things, make mention of a temporal death? It is not so, surely it is not! But such a notion is that of worms nestling in their dunghill. For had he said this, in what sense would he be wishing himself accursed from Christ? For death (Phil. i. 23) of that sort would have joined him more closely with the band of Christ, and made him enjoy that glory the more. Yet some there are who venture to say things different from these, even more ridiculous. It was not then, they say, death that he wished to have, but to be a treasure, a thing set apart, of Christ’s. And who even of the most worthless and indolent that would not wish for this? And in what way was this likely to be in his kinsmen’s behalf? Let us then leave these fables and trifles (for it is no more worth while making a reply to these things than to children babbling at play), and let us go back again to the words themselves, luxuriating in this very ocean of love, and fearlessly swimming there in every direction, and reflecting upon the unspeakable flame of love—or rather say what one may, one shall say nothing worthy the subject. For there is no ocean so wide, no flame so intense, as this. And no language can set it forth as it deserves, but he alone knew it who in good earnest gained it. And now let me bring the words themselves before you again.
“For I could wish that I myself were accursed.” What does the “I myself” mean? It means I that have been a teacher (1 Cor. ix. 27) of all, that have gathered together countless good deeds, that am waiting for countless crowns, that desired Him so much, as to value His love above all things, who all my days am burning for Him, and hold all things (Phil. iii. 8) of second importance to the love of Him. For even being loved by Christ was not the only thing he cared for, but loving Him exceedingly also. And this last he cared most for (τούτου μάλιστα ἦν). So it was that he looked to this only, and took all things light-heartedly. For he kept one aim in view in all circumstances, the fulfilling of this excellent love. And this he wishes for. But since things were not to take this course, nor he to become accursed,1466
So himself offering up thanksgiving for all men unto the Only-Begotten of God. What, he says, if others do blaspheme? Still we who know His mysteries, and His unspeakable Wisdom, and great Providence over us, know well that it is not to be blasphemed, but to be glorified, that He is worthy. Still not satisfied with being himself conscious of it, he endeavors next to use arguments, and to use a sharper way of speech against them. And he does not direct his aim at them, without first divesting them of a suspicion they had. Lest then he should seem to be addressing them as enemies, further on he says “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.” (Rom. x. 1.) And here, along with other remarks, he so ordered things, as not to seem to be saying what he was going to say out of enmity against them. Hence he does not decline calling them even kinsmen and brothers. For even if it was for Christ’s sake that he said what he did, still he is for drawing (ἐπισπἅται) their mind to him also,1468
And observe the judgment and depth of Paul’s mind. For in interpreting, he does not say, “they which are the children of the flesh, these are not” the children of Abraham, but, “the children of God:” so blending the former things with the present, and showing that even Isaac was not merely Abraham’s son. And what he means is something of this sort: as many as have been born as Isaac was, they are sons of God, and of the seed of Abraham. And this is why he said, “in Isaac shall thy seed be called.” That one may learn that they who are born after the fashion of Isaac, these are in the truest sense Abraham’s children. In what way was Isaac born then? Not according to the law of nature, not according to the power of the flesh, but according to the power of the promise. What is meant then by the power of “the promise?”
This promise then and word of God it was that fashioned Isaac, and begat him. For what if a womb was its instrument and the belly of a woman? Since it was not the power of the belly, but the might of the promise that begat the child. Thus are we also gendered by the words of God. Since in the pool of water it is the words of God which generate and fashion us. For it is by being baptized into the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost that we are gendered. And this birth is not of nature, but of the promise of God. (John iii. 3; Eph. v. 26; James i. 18; 1 Pet. iii. 21.) For as after first foretelling the birth of Isaac, He then accomplished it; so ours also He had announced before, many ages ago by all the Prophets, and afterwards brought it to pass. You know how great He has set it forth as being, and how, as He promised a great thing, He furnished it with abundant ease! (Hos. ii. 1, etc.) But if the Jews were to say, that the words, “In Isaac shall thy seed be called,” mean this, that those born of Isaac should be reckoned to him for a seed, then the Edomites too, and all those people, ought to be denominated his sons, since their forefather Esau was a son of his. But now so far are they from being called sons, that they are the greatest possible aliens. You see then that it is not the children of the flesh that are the children of God, but that even in nature itself the generation by means of baptism from above was sketched out beforehand. And if you tell me of the womb, I in return have to tell you of the water. But as in this case all is of the Spirit, so in the other all was of promise. For the womb was more chilled than any water owing to barrenness and to old age. Let us then gain accurate knowledge of our own nobility, and display a life worthy of it. For in it is nothing fleshly or earthy: hence neither let there be in us. For it was neither sleep, nor the will of the flesh (John i. 13), nor embraces, nor the madness of desire, but “God’s love toward man,” which wrought the whole. (Tit. iii. 5.) And as in that case it was when the age was past hope, so in this also it was when the old age of sins had come over us, that Isaac1470
The subject in question was an important one. Hence he turns to several arguments, and endeavors by all means to solve the difficulty. For if it was at once strange and new for them to be cast out after so great promises, it is much more strange that we even should come into their good things, who did not expect anything of the kind. And the case was the same as if a king’s son, who had promises made him that he should succeed to the power he had, were to be cast into the level of disreputable men, and in his place a condemned man, and one laden with evils unnumbered, after being taken out of prison, were to come into the power, which properly was the other’s. For he means, what have you to say? that the son is unworthy? Well, but so is this man unworthy, and much more so. Hence he ought either to have been punished along with the former, or to have been honored along with him. Now it was something of this sort which befel the Jews and the Gentiles, or something far more strange than this. Now that all were unworthy, he has shown above, where he says, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Rom. iii. 23.) But the new thing is, that when all were unworthy, the Gentiles were saved alone. And beside this there is another difficulty that some one may start, he says. If God had no intention of fulfilling the promises to them, why make them at all? For men who know not the future, and are many times deceived, do promise even the undeserving that they shall have their largesses. But He Who knoweth beforehand things to come as well as things present, and hath a clear knowledge that they will make themselves undeserving of the promises, and therefore will not receive any of the things specified,—why should He promise at all? Now what is Paul’s way of meeting all this? It is by showing what the Israel is to whom He made the promise. For when this has been shown, there is at the same time demonstrated the fact that the promises were all fulfilled. And to point this out he said, “For they are not all Israel that are of Israel.” And this is why he does not use the name of Jacob,1471
Ver. 11–13. “For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth, it was said unto her, the elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.”
This one may see also in the case of those who are punished, for what would you say of Pharaoh who was punished, and had to pay so heavy a penalty? You say he was hardened and disobedient. Was he then alone such, and not even one person else? How came he then to be so severely punished? Why even in the case of the Jews did he call that a people which was no people, or again, why not count all worthy of equal honor? “For if they be” (it says) “as the sand of the sea, yet shall a remnant be saved.” (Is. x. 22.) And why is it to be only a remnant? You see what difficulty he has filled the subject with. And with great propriety. For when you have power to throw your adversary into perplexity, do not at once bring forward the answer, because if he be found himself responsible for the same ignorance, why take unnecessary dangers upon yourself? Why make him more bold, by drawing it all upon yourself? Now tell me, O thou Jew, that hast so many perplexing questions, and art unable to answer any of them, how thou comest to annoy us on account of the call of the Gentiles? I, however, have a good reason to give you why the Gentiles were justified and ye were cast out. And what is the reason? It is that they are of faith, ye of the works of the Law. And it is owing to this obstinacy of yours that ye have in every way (Mar. and several mss. all) been given up. For, “they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.” (Rom. x. 3.) The clearing up then of the whole passage, to give the whole sense summarily, is here brought out by that blessed person. But that this may be clearer, let us investigate the things he says also one by one; this knowing, that what the blessed Paul aimed at was, to show by all that he said that God only knoweth who are worthy, and no man whatever knoweth, even if he seem to know ever so well, but that in this sentence of his there are sundry aberrations. For He that knoweth the secrets of the hearts, He only knoweth for a certainty who deserve a crown, and who punishment and vengeance. Hence it is that many of those, by men esteemed good, He convicts and punishes, and those suspected to be bad He crowns, after showing it not to be so; thus forming his sentence not after the judgment of us slaves, but after his own keen and uncorrupt decision, and not waiting for the issue of actions to look at the wicked and him who is not so therefrom. But that we may not make the subject more obscure, again let us go to the very words of the Apostle.
Ver. 10. “And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one.”
I might, he implies, have mentioned the children by Keturah besides, but I do not. But to gain the victory from a vantage ground it is those born of one and the same father, and mother too, that I bring forward. For they were both sprung from Rebecca, and from Isaac the true-born, the elect, the son honored above all, of whom He said, “In Isaac shall thy seed be called,” who became “the father of us all;” but if he was our father, then should his sons have been our fathers; yet it was not so. You see how this happens not in Abraham’s case only, but also in that of his son himself, and how it is faith and virtue in all cases that is conspicuous, and gives the real relationship its character. For hence we learn that it is not only from the manner of birth, but owing to their being worthy of the father’s virtue, that the children are called children of him. For if it were only owing to the manner of the birth, then ought Esau to have enjoyed the same as Jacob did. For he also was from a womb as good as dead, and his mother was barren. Yet this was not the only thing required, but the character too, which fact contributes no common amount of practical instruction for us. And he does not say that one is good and another bad, and so the former was honored; lest this kind of argument should be wielded against him, “What, are those of the Gentiles good men rather than those of the circumcision?” For even supposing the truth of the matter was so, still he does not state it yet, as that would have seemed to be vexatious. But it is upon God’s knowledge that he has cast the whole, and this no one would venture to gainsay, though he were ever so frantic. “For the children being not yet born,” he says, “it was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger.” And he shows that noble birth after the flesh is of no avail, but we must seek for virtue of soul, which even before the works of it God knoweth of. For “the children,” he says, “being not yet born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose1475
Hence there is no such thing in the case of us and the Jews. And then he goes on with another thing, a more clear than this. And of what sort is it?
Here again he adds force to the objection by dividing it in two and meeting it, and starting another fresh difficulty. But to make what I have said clearer, one must needs explain it. God, he means, said that “the elder shall serve the younger,” before the travail. What then? “Is God unrighteous?” By no means. Now listen to what follows also. For in that case the virtue or the vice, might be the decisive thing. But here there was one sin on which all the Jews joined, that of the molten calf, and still some were punished, and some were not punished. And this is why He says, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” (Ex. xxxiii. 19: observe context.) For it is not thine to know, O Moses, he means, which are deserving of My love toward man, but leave this to Me. But if Moses had no right to know, much less have we. And this is why he did not barely quote the passage, but also called to our minds to whom it was said. For it is Moses, he means, that he is speaking to, that at least by the dignity of the person he might make the objector modest. Having then given a solution of the difficulties raised, he divides it in two, by bringing forward another objection besides, as follows:
See what pains he takes to embarrass the subject in every way. And the answer he does not produce forthwith, it being a useful thing not to do so, but he first stops the disputant’s mouth, saying as follows,
This he does to take down the objector’s unseasonable inquisitiveness, and excessive curiosity, and to put a check upon it, and teach him to know what God is, and what man, and how incomprehensible His foreknowledge is, and how far above our reason, and how obedience to Him in all points is binding. So when he has made this preparatory step in his hearer, and has hushed and softened down his spirit, then with great felicity he introduces the answer, having made what he says easy of admittance with him. And he does not say, it is impossible to answer questions of this kind, but that (5 mss. No, but what? that) it is presumptuous to raise them. For our business is to obey what God does, not to be curious even if we do not know the reason of them. Wherefore he said, “Who art thou that repliest against God?” You see how very light he makes of him, how he bears down his swelling spirit! “Who art thou?” art thou a sharer of His power? (compare Job xxxviii.) nay, art thou sitting in judgment upon God? Why in comparison with Him thou canst not have a being even! nor this or that sort of being, but absolutely none! For the expression, “who art thou?” doth much more set him at naught than “thou art nothing.” And he takes other ways of showing further his indignation in the question, and does not say, “Who art thou that” answerest “God?” but, “that repliest against,” that is, that gainsayest, and that opposest. For the saying things ought to be so, and ought not to be so, is what a man does that “replieth against.” See how he scares them, how he terrifies them, how he makes them tremble rather than be questioning and curious. This is what an excellent teacher does; he does not follow his disciples’ fancy everywhere, but leads them to his own mind, and pulls up the thorns, and then puts the seed in, and does not answer at once in all cases to the questions put to him.
Ver. 20, 2l. “Shall the thing formed say to Him that formed it, Why hast Thou made me thus? Hath not the potter (Read Jer. xviii. 1–10) power, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor?”
Here it is not to do away with free-will that he says this, but to show, up to what point we ought to obey God. For in respect of calling God to account, we ought to be as little disposed to it as the clay is. For we ought to abstain not from gainsaying or questioning only, but even from speaking or thinking of it at all, and to become like that lifeless matter, which followeth the potter’s hands, and lets itself be drawn about anywhere he may please. And this is the only point he applied the illustration to, not, that is, to any enunciation of the rule of life, but to the complete obedience and silence enforced upon us. And this we ought to observe in all cases, that we are not to take the illustrations quite entire, but after selecting the good of them, and that for which they were introduced, to let the rest alone. As, for instance, when he says, “He couched, he lay down as a lion;” (Numb. xxiv. 9) let us take out the indomitable and fearful part, not the brutality, nor any other of the things belonging to a lion. And again, when He says, “I will meet them as a bereaved bear” (Hos. xiii. 8), let us take the vindictiveness. And when he says, “our God is a consuming fire” (Deut. iv. 24; and Heb. xii. 29), the wasting power exerted in punishing. So also here must we single out the clay, the potter, and the vessels. And when he does go on to say, “Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor?” do not suppose that this is said by Paul as an account of the creation, nor as implying a necessity over the will, but to illustrate the sovereignty and difference of dispensations; for if we do not take it in this way, divers incongruities will follow, for if here he were speaking about the will, and those who are good and those not so, He will be Himself the Maker of these, and man will be free from all responsibility. And at this rate, Paul will also be shown to be at variance with himself, as he always bestows chief honor upon free choice. There is nothing else then which he here wishes to do, save to persuade the hearer to yield entirely to God, and at no time to call Him to account for anything whatever. For as the potter (he says) of the same lump makes what he pleaseth, and no one forbids it; thus also when God, of the same race of men, punisheth some, and honoreth others, be not thou curious nor meddlesome herein, but worship only, and imitate the clay. And as it followeth the hands of the potter, so do thou also the mind of Him that so ordereth things. For He worketh nothing at random, or mere hazard, though thou be ignorant of the secret of His Wisdom. Yet thou allowest the other of the same lump to make divers things, and findest no fault: but of Him you demand an account of His punishments and honors, and will not allow Him to know who is worthy and who is not so; but since the same1479
Ver. 22, 23, 24. “What if God, willing to show His wrath, and to make His power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had afore prepared unto glory, even us, whom He hath chosen, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles.”
What he means is somewhat as follows. Pharaoh was a vessel of wrath, that is, a man who by his own hard-heartedness had kindled the wrath of God. For after enjoying much long-suffering, he became no better, but remained unimproved. Wherefore he calleth him not only “a vessel of wrath,” but also one “fitted for destruction.” That is, fully fitted indeed, but by his own proper self.1480
Here to prevent their saying, that you are deceiving us here with specious reasoning, he calls Hosea to witness, who crieth and saith, “I will call them My people, who were not My people.” (Hos. ii. 23.) Who then are the not-people? Plainly, the Gentiles. And who the not-beloved? The same again. However, he says, that they shall become at once people, and beloved, and sons of God.
But if they should assert that this was said of those of the Jews who believed, even then the argument stands. For if with those who after so many benefits were hard-hearted and estranged, and had lost their being as a people, so great a change was wrought, what is there to prevent even those who were not estranged after being taken to Him, but were originally aliens, from being called, and, provided they obey, from being counted worthy of the same blessings? Having then done with Hosea, he does not content himself with him only, but also brings Isaiah in after him. sounding in harmony with him.
That is, speaks out boldly, and uses no dissimulation. Why then lay a charge against us, when they afore declared the same thing with more than trumpet’s loudness? And what does Isaiah cry? “Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved.” (Is. x. 22.)
Do you see that he too does not say that all are to be saved, but that those that are worthy shall? For I regard not the multitude, he means, nor does a race diffused so far distress me, but those only do I save that yield themselves worthy of it. And he does not mention the “sand of the sea” without a reason, but to remind them of the ancient promise whereof they had made themselves unworthy. Why then are you troubled, as though the promise had failed, when all the Prophets show that it is not all that are to be saved? Then he mentions the mode of the salvation also. Observe the accuracy of the Prophet, and the judgment of the Apostle, what a testimony he has cited, how exceedingly apposite! For it not only shows us that those to be saved are some and not all, but also adds the way they are to be saved. How then are they to be saved, and how will God count them worthy of the benefit?
What he means then is somewhat of this sort. There is no need of fetching a circuit, and of trouble, and the vexation of the works of the Law, for the salvation is by a very short way. For such is faith, it holds salvation in a few short words. “For if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” (Rom. x. 9.) Now you see what this, “the Lord shall make a short word (LXX. lit.) upon earth,” is. And what is indeed wonderful is, that this short word carries with it not salvation only, but also righteousness.
Here again he shows another thing, that not even those few were saved from their own resources. For they too would have perished, and met with Sodom’s fate, that is, they would have had to undergo utter destruction (for they (of Sodom) were also destroyed root and branch, and left not even the slightest remnant of themselves,) and they too, he means, would have been like these, unless God had used much kindness to them, and had saved them by faith. And this happened also in the case of the visible captivity, the majority having been taken away captive and perished, and some few only being saved.
Ver. 30, 31. “What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith. But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness.”
Here at last is the clearest answer. For since he had used a proof as well from facts (“for they are not all Israel that are of Israel”) as from the case of the forefathers Jacob and Esau, and from the prophets Hosea and Isaiah, he further gives the most decisive answer, after first adding to the perplexity. The points discussed, then, are two; one that the Gentiles attained, and the other that they attained it without following after it, that is, without taking pains about it. And again in the Jews’ case also there are two difficulties of the same kind; one that Israel attained not, the other that, though they took pains, they attained not. Whence also his use of words is more emphatical. For he does not say that they had, but that they “attained to righteousness.” For what is especially new and unusual is, that they who followed after it attained not, but they which followed not after it attained. And he seems to be indulging them by saying, “followed after.” But afterwards he strikes the blow home. For since he had a strong answer to give them, he had no fear of making the objection a little harsher. Hence he doth not speak of faith either, and the righteousness ensuing thereon, but shows that before the faith even, on their own ground they were worsted and condemned. For thou, O Jew, he says, hast not found even the righteousness which was by the Law. For thou hast transgressed it, and become liable to the curse. But these that came not through the Law, but by another road, have found a greater righteousness than this, that, namely, which is of faith. And this he had also said before. “For if Abraham was justified by works, he hath whereof to glory, but not before God” (Rom. iv.): so showing that the other righteousness was greater than this. Before, then, I said that there were two difficulties, but now they have even become three questions: that the Gentiles found righteousness, and found it without following after it, and found a greater than that of the Law. These same difficulties are again felt in the Jews’ case with an opposite view. That Israel did not find, and though he took pains he did not find, and did not find even the less. Having then thrust his hearer into perplexity, he proceeds to give a concise answer, and tells him the cause of all that is said. When then is the cause?
This is the clearest answer in the passage, which if he had said immediately upon starting, he would not have gained so easy a hearing. But since it is after many perplexities, and preparations, and demonstrations that he sets it down, and after using countless preparatory steps, he has at last made it more intelligible, and also more easily admitted. For this he says is the cause of their destruction: “Because it was not by faith, but as it were by the works of the Law,” that they wished to be justified. And he does not say, “by works,” but, “as it were by the works of the Law,” to show that they had not even this righteousness.
You see again how it is from faith that the boldness comes, and the gift is universal; since it is not of the Jews only that this is said, but also of the whole human race. For every one, he would say, whether Jew, or Grecian, or Scythian, or Thracian, or whatsoever else he may be, will, if he believes, enjoy the privilege of great boldness. But the wonder in the Prophet is that he foretells not only that they should believe, but also that they should not believe. For to stumble is to disbelieve. As in the former passage he points out them that perish and them that are saved, where he says, “If the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, the remnant shall be saved. And, If the Lord of Sabaoth had not left us a seed, we should have been as Sodoma.” And, “He hath called not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles;” so here too he implies that some will believe, and some will stumble. But stumbling comes of not taking heed, of gaping after other things. Since then they did give heed to the Law, they stumbled on the stone, “And a stone of stumbling and rock of offence” he calls it from the character and end of those that believe not.
Is then the language used made plain to you? or does it still want much in clearness? I think indeed that, to those who have been attending, it is easy to get a clear view of it. But if it has slipped anybody’s memory, you can meet in private, and learn what it was. And this is why I have continued longer upon this explanatory part of the discourse, that I might not be compelled to break off the continuity of the context, and so spoil the clearness of the statements. And for this cause too I will bring my discourse to a conclusion here, without saying anything to you on the more immediately practical points, as I generally do, lest I should make a fresh indistinctness in your memories by saying so much. It is time now to come to the proper conclusion, by shutting up the discourse with the doxology to the God of all. Let us then both pause, me that am speaking and you that are hearing, and offer up glory to Him. For His is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.