« AnteriorContinuar »
were marked men in is estimation--no- | "sporting themselves with their own de torious in the sinister sense of the term:ceivings, while feasting " with the de And it strongly evinces the value that he ceived-and "speaking great swelling | had for unbroken concord in every Chris- words of vanity."* And so also Jude, in tian society-when, in point both of exhorting the disciples to whom he wrote, reckoning and treatment, he puts these that "they should earnestly contend for disturbers of the peace on the same level the faith which was once delivered to the with those profligates whom he would saints," describes to us the men against cast out from the attentions of all the whom that contest had to be maintained brethren.* -"men crept in unawares," and "who run greedily after the error of Balaam for reward"-who having insinuated themselves into the society of the faithful, feasted among them without fearwho with their mouths spake great swelling words, and flattered men for their own advantage.t Ver. 19. For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil.' What he had before said of their faith, he now says of their obedience, that it was spo ken of everywhere. He is anxious therefore that they should not tarnish their fair fame--for certain it is that from the ready and general intercourse which subsisted between Rome and all parts of the empire, the story of their degeneracies would as speedily go abroad as did that of the virtues and graces by which they adorned their profession of the gospel. He rejoices in the praise which they had earned from all the churches; but proportional would be his grief should they ever forfeit the reputation which they had acquired. He does not express, however, the same doubt or diffidence of them which he did of the Galatians--yet for their greater security he cautions them to be wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil.'
Ver 18. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.' He obviously refers here to the judaising teachers—because to them who deceived the hearts of the simple, that is, of the scrupulous or weak, who refrained from meats, and attached a religious importance to the eating of herbs. There were false eachers in these days, to whose inroads the earlier churches stood peculiarly exposed. They practised on those of a ender conscience, making a trade as it were of their superstitious fears; and made unhallowed use of the ill-gotten ascendency which they obtained over hem. Their object, as the apostle here tells us, was not to serve the Lord Jesus Christ, but to make out a lazy and luxurious livelihood for themselves-and that at the expense of those, whom by good works and fair speeches they had deceived. No wonder that the noble, manly, disinterested Paul, and withal so jealous as he was for the maintenance of the pure truth of the gospel, should, on so many occasions, have protested with such vigour and vehemence against them. It is of such that he seems to speak in Philippians, iii, 18, 19, where he denounces the enemies of the cross of Christ, "whose God is their belly ;" and in Gal. vi, 12— where he tells of those who "desire to make a fair show." They were the troublers of whom he desired that they should even be cut off t-the perverters of the gospel of Christ, who preached another gospel, and whom he pronounces to be accursed.§ These deceivers were specially of the circumcision, who subverted whole houses, and taught things which they ought not, for filthy lucre's sake. We can quite imagine them to be of that sort who entered into houses and led captive silly women. T Our knowledge of such characters and such doings furnishes a clue to the explanation of other passages. They were of such imposters that Peter speaks, and who seem to have taken a most shameful advantage over their dupes or victims—“ beguiling beguiling unstable souls"—given to "covetous practices
This last injunction is analagous to that given by our Saviour to those disciples whom he sent forth as "lambs in the midst of wolves." "Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves." But thoughanalogous, it does not seem to be identical. The apostles of our Lord needed the wisdom of the serpent for their protection from the wiles of their skilful and practised adversaries, who knew, for they had made a study of it, how best to circumvent and distress their victims. And they were harmless as doves, because they neither felt the disposition, nor had ever cultivated the art of malice. It is thus that men might be wise in one thing and simple in another; and the application of these qualities to the case before us seems to have_lain-First in ability to discriminate what was really and essentially good from that which but claimed
2 Peter, ii, 13, 14, 18, 19. † Jude, 4, 11, 12, 16,
we find the apostle or pretended to be so, in virtue of which | something more, they cleaved to the one and rejected the adding the salutations of the 16th chapother-Secondly in abstaining from all ter, from the first to the sixteenth verse. fe lowship, and so having no knowledge As he had recurred to the letter for the of their ways, with those deep and mis- purpose of sending these salutations, he chievous designers who could so sophis-is revisited while in the act of penning ticate and so counterfeit evil as to make or rather of dictating them, with that deit pass for that which was good-imposing sirousness which he felt so strongly for on their deluded followers, by a show of the peace of the church at Rome: And will-worship and zeal for the law, to the this occasions a prolongation of the letter utter subversion of the gospel of Christ. from the 16th to the 20th verse, which he By the first they were men in understand-concludes with a second farewell salutaing-proving all things, and holding fast tion-The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that which is good.' By the second they be with you. Amen.' After this, and with were children in malice-strangers to its the benefit of a further allowance of time will, and therefore unskilled in its methods ere the messenger was despatched, there or its ways. seems to be a second postscript of more salutations which occupy three verses, from the 20th to the 24th-where a third valedictory, the last of all, concludes the epistle.
Ver. 20. And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly.' A good many manuscripts, and even a warrantable translation of the received readVer. 21-23. Here follow the salutations, ing, would authorise our turning this clause from a prophecy into a prayer- not from Paul himself to the individuals 'May the God of peace bruise Satan whom he names-these he had finished under your feet shortly.' The reference already; nor yet from the churches a by the apostle to the great adversary of large, which also had been given; bu human souls was very naturally suggested from certain Christian friends who were by the view he was then taking of those with him, and were desirous of sending false teachers, whom he eisewhere desig-through him their respects to the whole nates as the ministers of Satan trans- church at Rome. formed into angels of light. And the terms in which the prayer or prophecy is couched, is precisely such as would be suggested by the prediction in Genesis, iii, 15, “It shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel." He is the great author of all confusion and controversy in our churches: And the achievement proper to the God of peace, or to His Son, who came to destroy the works of the devil, would be to trample them under foot, and so evolve harmony and order out of all the disturbances by which he retards, though unable to prevent, the final establishment of the triumph of Christ over all His enemies. The invocation for His grace to be with them comes in most appropriately-seeing that this is indeed the great instrument of Satan's overthrow-the Spirit who is at the giving of Christ, being the alone victor over the spirit which worketh in the children of disobedience-the spirit of him who is the god of this world. "Greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world."
It is not unworthy of notice that this Epistle to the Romans seems to have had three distinct conclusions. The first is at the end of the 15th chapter, where the last verse is quite in the form of a valedictory invocation; but, just as if before the letter had been sent off, there had occurred time enough for the subjoining of
* 1 Thessalonians, v, 21.
In the 21st verse, there occur two reTimothy, markable scriptural names who by the consent of all is he to whom he addressed the two epistles; and Lucius, who though regarded by some as Lucius of Cyrene, is, by far the greater number of critics, and with more probability, reckoned to be Luke the Evangelist, author of the Gospel and Acts, and the fellow-traveller of Paul. We leave the question undecided, whether the kinsmen here mentioned were nearer relatives, or only Israelites, whom the apostle elsewhere calls his kinsmen according to the flesh.
In the 22d verse Paul suspends his dictation, and lets his own amanuensis interpose a salutation for himself to the church at Rome. In his first epistle to the Corinthians he also suspends his dictation; and, taking up the pen himself, writes"The salutation of me Paul with mine own hand."
'Gaius mine host, and of the whole church,' mentioned in the 23d verse, is with good reason conceived to be the Gaius of Corinth whom Paul had baptized ;* from which city this epistle was written. Paul was at that time an inmate of his house; and he takes occasion to make honourable mention of his hospitality to Christians at large-a frequent and most useful virtue, being much called for by the exi │gencies of the times. Erastus the cham.
* 1 Corinthians, i, 14.
berlain, or city treasurer of Corinth, is an example, that though not many of wealth or high station, yet that some such had become obedient to the faith. As we have just stated that this epistle was written from Corinth, we might give a specimen of the way in which this is reasoned out --or of the kind of data on which such a conclusion is supported.-Paul commends Phebe, who seems to have been sent with the epistle, to the church at Rome. She was a deaconess of the church at Cenchrea, the port of Corinth, and a few miles distant from it. Then Gaius is the host of Paul; and Gaius was baptized by Paul at Corinth. Then Erastus is chamberlain of the city, which he does not name. It must have been a well-known city therefore, and in all likelihood this capital of Achaia. Lastly, Erastus, we are told in 2 Tim. iv. 20, abode at Corinth According to my gospel and the -though probably often absent from it, preaching of Jesus Christ.' May He stabas to all appearance he was a fellow-lish you in the truths and principles of helper of Paul, and at times accompanied that system which is agreeable to, so him in his travels.f agreeable as to be identical with my gospel or with the gospel which I preach, and which Christ also preached-Paul thus affirming his doctrine and Jesus Christ's doctrine to be at one.
Ver. 24-27. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen. Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, but now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith: to God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen.' The final benediction of Paul comes at last, and closes the epistle. It begins with a repetition of the same which he had already given in the 20th verse-imploring upon them all the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. What remains is in the general an ascription of glory to the Father of our Lord-but it is of such a complicated and parenthetic structure, as to require some attention for unravelling the several topics which are involved in it.
To him that is of power to stablish you.' This clause is suspended in Paul's own frequent and characteristic way, by the interposal of other matter suggested at the time; and which if removed would connect immediately the words now given with those of the 27th verse. To him that is of power to stablish you...... to God only wise,' &c. The contiguity only, not the connection, of these two clauses, is broken up, by what comes between them. To him that is of power;' or as Jude says in his closing benediction"To him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless." To
establish a man in the faith is to maka him stand fast therein-so that he shall not fall, or "fall away."* It is well thus to connect our perseverance with the power of God. He who hath begun the good work, can alone confirm and perfect it. It is by a perpetual reference there. fore, in prayer to Him, and for the strengthening influences of His Spirit, that grace is alimented in the heart. Let him who thinketh he standeth, thus take heed lest he fall. Let him work out his salvation with fear and trembling, because sensible of his own weakness, and sc having no confidence in himself. Yet let him mix with his trembling mirth-because rejoicing in the Lord Jesus, and looking upward to that God who alone worketh in him to will and to do of His own good pleasure.
'According to the revelation of the mystery which was kept secret since the world began,' or kept secret in ancient times. He had before said-according to my gospel;' and when he now saysaccording to the revelation of the mystery,' he but substitutes one method of expression for another-The subject-matter in both being the same, only amplified or expressed otherwise. This gospel was kept secret,' or held back in silence from the eartht-there having been little or nothing said of it to the earlier generations of our species.-It has been made a matter of discussion what the mystery here spoken of precisely is. Some would have it specifically to be the calling of the Gentiles, and for countenance to this their explanation of it, would refer to Ephesians, iii, 9, and Colossians, i, 26. We have no doubt ourselves, that generally it is the subject matter of the gospel.
But now is made manifest.' That which was profoundly hidden before is now made manifest-first in a dimmer and lesser degree by the prophets to the Jews; and afterwards in the fuller light of gospel times made known to all nations. We are not to wonder that the revelation made to the prophets should be spoken of as only made now. At the time when this revelation was first given its meaning was little known even to the prophets through whom it passed. Though ministered by
only wise God, be glory for ever, through Jesus Christ our Lord."
them it was not unto themselves but unto us. It had been given in words to the world centuries before the appearance of We may be assured that there is noour Saviour-yet was only made known thing misplaced or inappropriate in the for the first time to the disciples of Em- epithets employed by the apostle; and maus, when he opened their understand-more especially those which he applies tc ings to understand the Scriptures-begin- the Divinity. In particular, when he apning with Moses and the Prophets. What plies different epithets to Him at different our Saviour did in person to these disci-times, there must, we apprehend, be a ples upon earth, He afterwards did to be- discriminative reason for his so doing. In lievers in general by the Holy Spirit sent the 26th verse he denominates Him the down from heaven, and whose office it is everlasting God; and in the 27th, the God to make the sure word of prophecy obvi- only wise. The epithet everlasting seems ous to their view, by causing the day to to have been suggested to the mind of the dawn and the day-star to arise in their apostle, when he had in view the differ hearts. The gospel might well have been ent and distant ages at which God had said by the apostle to be manifest by the His different dealings with men from the Scriptures of the prophets only now-for beginning of the world--as keeping them only now were these Scriptures made in ignorance at its earlier periods, and at length in due time making known the scheme of His salvation. He, the King Eternal, who knows the end from the beginning, knows what is best and fittest to be done at each of the successive stages in the process of that great administration whose goings forth have been of old, and whose issues are from everlasting to everlasting. And He is denominated the only wise, that we, the short-lived creatures of a day, might learn to receive with unquestioning silence all the intimations which He has been pleased to have given us. In particular, it should recon
• According to the commandment of the everlasting God made known unto all nations for the obedience of faith.' To perfect the revelation of the gospel, the work of apostles had to be superadded to that of prophets. The gospel had been witnessed to by the Law and the Prophetswhen it lay in enigma till cleared up by the more explicit statements of those who were commissioned to go and preach it unto every creature.
These three verses (23, 24, and 25) might be rendered thus.-'Now to Him who is able to establish you in the disci-cile the Jews to the termination of that pleship of my gospel, which is nothing economy under which they had hitherto else than the gospel of Jesus Christ Him-lived, and under which they had vainly self-or in the discipleship of that revela- arrogated to themselves an exclusive and tion whereby there has been divulged the ever-during superiority over the rest of truth that was before hidden, and kept the species-whereas it appeared that the back from men in the earlier ages of the middle wall of partition was now to be world; but is now made manifest, both broken down; and that their fancied by the prophetic writings which we in monopoly of the divine favour was but a these days have been made more fully to temporary evolution in the history of the understand and also by the proclama- divine government. And so he concludes tion of the same agreeably to the com- his epistle, by calling on both parties in mandment of the everlasting God, amongst the church to which he writes it, to unite all nations, for the purpose of obtaining with him in the one ascription of glory their submission to the faith-To Him, the to the Father through the Son; and thi verily a glory which shall never end
* 1 Peter, i, 12.