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ROMANS i, 18-24.
For the wrath of God is revealed from Heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; because that which may be known of God is manifest in them: for God hath showed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse; because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imagina tions, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves."
They chain it, as it were, in the prisonhold of their own corruptions. They throw the troublesome adviser into a dungeon-just like a man who has a conscience to inform him of what is right, but who stifles its voice, and brings it under bondage to the domineering ascendancy of passion and selfishness and all the lawless appetites of his nature. Thus it is with men who restrain the truth, or suppress the truth in unrighteousness.
V. 19. "That which is knowable of God, is manifest among them."
THE word translated here to hold,'|eousness. They have the truth-they are signifies not merely to hold, but to hold in possession of it. But they keep it down. fast. Now this may be done for the purpose of keeping in secure possession that which you wish to retain. And so this is the word in that place where they who receive the word are said to "keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience"* and where the Corinthians are praised by Paul because they observed "to remember him in all things, and to keep the ordinances which he had delivered them;" and where he tells them, that they are saved if they "keep in memory, that which he had preached unto them ;" and where he bids the Thessalonians "hold fast that which is good;"; and where he informs the Hebrews, that Christ dwelleth in them, if they "hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end ;"|| and also that we are made partakers of Christ, if "we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end;"T and finally, where he encourages them to "hold fast the profession of their faith without wavering."** It is not in the sense of the word in any of these passages that we are to understand it here. They who hold the truth in unrighteousness, do not hold it for the sake of keeping it in possession, as an article which they valued; and therefore were desirous of retaining in safe and cherished custody.
V. 20. "For ever since the creation of the world, that great manifestation of God's power and Godhead, these invisible things of Him are clearly seen." V. 21. "In their reasonings."
The following then is the paraphrase of this passage. For the wrath of God is revealed from Heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who stifle the truth in unrighteousness. Because that which might be known of God is manifest among them-for God hath shown it to them. For the invisible things respecting Him, even His eternal power and Godhead, are clearly seenbeing discernible from the things that are made, so as to render them inexcusable. Because when they did know God, they Or one may hold fast for the pupose of did not do Him glory as to God, neither confining or keeping down, so as to im- were they thankful to Him; but departpede and repress that which is thus con- ing from the grave and solemn and simfined, from the putting forth of its ener-ple reliance that was due to the Creator, gies. And accordingly this is the very they went into vain reasonings about word which Paul uses, when he says to Him, and so changed the truth into a dethe Thessalonians, “And now ye know ceitful imagination, and their foolish heart what withholdeth that he might be revealed was darkened. In the profession, and in in his time. For the mystery of iniquity the prosecution of wisdom, they became doth already work; only he who now fools: And changed the glory of the inletteth will let until he be taken out of the corruptible God into an image made like way." He alludes to something that so to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourconfined Antichrist, as to keep him back-footed beasts and creeping things.' so that he came not out into full and immediate manifestation. It is in this second sense that men hold the truth in unright
Our first remark on the subject matter of this passage, is founded on the way, in which the revelation of the righteousness of God unto faith, stands as a counterpart to the revelation of the wrath of God unto all ungodliness and unrighteousness of
men. The wrath is not an element framed | magnified that law and made it honouraor fermented upon earth. It is conceived ble. And all this apart from any obediin Heaven; and thence it cometh down ence of ours. All this the produce of a on the unrighteousness of men, as the sub- transaction in which we had no share. ject of it. And as with the wrath of God, All this a treasure existing in the reposiso it is with the righteousness of God. It tories of that place, where the Father and too cometh down from Heaven in the the Son hold their ineffable communionshape of a descending ministration. It is a righteousness not rendered by us, but no more the righteousness of man in the rendered to us; and which is the only one case, than it is the wrath of man in one that God can look unto with complathe other. It is affirmed here, and most cency. This is the righteousness of God, prominently referred to in other parts of standing altogether aloof and separable the epistle, as the righteousness of God. from the righteousness of man; and which The wrath has its origin in the breast of He offers to administer to us all, in place the Divinity; and it goeth forth from an of that wrath which, upon our refusal of upper store-house, from a quarter above His better offer, He will administer. And our world and foreign to our world; and the way in which both the wrath and the all that the world furnishes is the reser-righteousness are set before us in this voir into which it is poured-the unright- passage, as being each of them a descendeousness and the ungodliness of men, ing ministration-the one of them being which form the fit subjects for its application. And there is not an individual man who is not a fit subject of it. The wrath is unto all unrighteousness; and there is none who has not fallen into some unrighteousness. All who do these things are worthy of death; and there is not a human creature who has not done one or more of these things.
as purely a dispensation from Heaven as the other-should prepare us for the still more pointed asseverations of the apostle, when he tells us that the righteousness upon which we are accepted is altogether of God, and borrows not one particle of its worth from the obedience of man; that it comes upon us in the shape of a previous and a prepared grant, which we are simply to lay hold of; that we are not the authors of it, but simply the subjects of it: And much is to be gathered from the information, that, like as the wrath of God is unto man's unrighteousness, so the righteousness of God is unto man's faith.
But there is a way, it would appear, in which they who are thought worthy of death and are under the wrath of God, may nevertheless be made to live. They die by the wrath of God being inflicted on them. They live by the righteousness of God being administered to them. The The question is, Whether that thing on one is just as much the rendering of a which we are justified is the righteousness foreign application as the other. In the of Christ alone accepted by God, and one case there is a displacency at sin on therefore called the righteousness of God, the part of the Godhead; and this bodies and rendered ours upon our receiving it itself into a purpose of vengeance against by faith-or, Whether it be the righteousthe sinner; and the infliction of it is sent ness of man as alone or in part the plea forth from God's remote and lofty sanctu- of man's justification. It will be found in ary, originating there, and coming down the sequel, how strenuously and how unfrom thence upon the unrighteousness of reservedly the apostle cleaves to the formman. And as with the wrath of God min- er term of this alternative; and in this istered unto the world, so it is with the opening passage of his Epistle, does he righteousness of God which is ministered afford us no obscure or unsatisfying unto the world. It has all a separate ex-glimpse of that doctrine, on which lie susistence in the upper courts of Heaven. It pended the firmest securities of our peace is no more man's righteousness in the one in this world, and the dearest hopes of our case, than it is man's wrath in the other. eternity. There was a ransom found out by God. There was a surety accepted by God. There was a satisfaction which that surety rendered. There was an obedience undertaken for us by one who inhabited eternity; and with this obedience God was well pleased. There was a righteousness which He could acknowledge. There was a duteous and devoted offering, which to Him was the incense of a sweet-smelling savour. There was a virtue which shone in spotless lustre even to His pure and penetrating eye; and a merit which not only met the demand of His holy law, but
The next thing to which we direct your attention, is the precise reason that is intimated to us here, of God's provocation with man. There is something in the principle of His anger, which accords with what we experience of the movement of anger in our own bosoms. An infant or an animal may do an action which is materially wrong, without calling forth our resentment. It is the knowing it to be wrong, on the part of the doer, which is indispensable to our anger against him being a rightful emotion; and it is neither the acting nor the thinking erroneously
an outcast of condemnation there, who will not feel an echo in his own conscience to the righteousness of the sentence under which he has fallen; and who, though living in the midst of thickest heathenism, will not remember the visitations of a light which he ought to have followed, and by resisting which he has personally deserved the displeasure of God that shall then be over him, the doom of the eternity that shall then be before him.
In the 19th and following verses, the apostle, aware that to establish the guilt of the world's unrighteousness it was necessary to prove that it was unrighteousness committed in the face of knowledge,
on the part of man, which in itself brings down upon them the wrath of God. It is their doing so intelligently. It is their stifling the remonstrances of truth in the work of unrighteousness. It is that they voluntarily bid it into silence; and, bent on the iniquity that they love, do, in the wilful prosecution of it, drown its inward voice-just as they would deafen the friendly warning of any monitor who is standing beside them; and whose advice they guess would be on the side of what is right, and against the side of their own inclinations. Were there no light present to their minds, there would be no culpability. On the other hand, should it shine clearly upon them, this makes them re-affirms what it was that man knew origisponsible for every act of disobedience to nally, and how it was that the light which its lessons. But more, should it shine but was at one time in them became darkness. dimly, and it be a dimness of their own That which it was competent to know bringing on-should they land in a state about God, was manifest among men. of darkness, and that not because any God himself had showed it unto men. outward luminary has been extinguished; He had either done so by the wisdom that but because, in hatred of its beams and shone in creation, making it plain to loving the darkness, they have shut their man's natural discernment that it was the eyes or should it be a candle within product of a supreme and eternal intelliwhich has waned and withered to the very gence; and this is one way in which we border of extinction, under their own de- may understand how the invisible propersirous endeavours to mar the brilliancy ties of the Godhead are clearly seen, even of its flame-should there be a law of our from the impress of them, stamped and nature, in virtue of which every deed of evident to the reflecting eye on the face opposition to the conscience causes it to of creation itself. Or He had expressly speak more faintly than before, and to revealed the fact to man that the world shine more feebly than before, and should was created, and that He was the Author this be the law which has conducted every of it. Instead of leaving them to find this human being on the face of our earth to out, He had made it known to them by the uttermost depths, both of moral blind- actual communication. It is not necessary ness and moral apathy-Still he is what to conceive from these verses, that the he is because he willed against the light, doctrines of the existence and perfections and wrought against the light. It is this of God are the achievements of man's which brings a direct criminality upon unaided discovery at first. In that age of his person. It is this which constitutes a extraordinary manifestations, when God clear principle for his condemnation to put forth the arm of a creator, He may rest upon; and it is enough to fasten also have put forth the voice of a revealer; blame-worthiness upon his doings, that and simply announced to men that the they were either done in despite of the world they lived in was a piece of workconvictions which he had, or done in de-manship, and that He Himself was the spite of the convictions which but for his own wilful depravity he might have had.
The Bible, in charging any individual with actual sin, always presupposes a knowledge, either presently possessed or unworthily lost or still attainable on his part, of some rightful authority, against which he hath done some act of wilful defiance. The contact of light with the mind of the transgressor, and that too in such sufficiency as, if he had followed it, would have guided him to an action different from the one he has performed, is essential to the sinfulness of that action -insomuch that on the day of reckoning, when the men of all nations and all ages shall stand around the judgment-seat, here is not one who will be pronounced
builder and the maker of it. With the simple information that the world made not itself, but had a beginning, they could rise to the perception of Him who had no beginning. They could infer the eternity of that Being who Himself was uncreated. They could infer the magnitude of His power, seeing it to be commensurate to the production of that stupendous mechanism which lay visibly around them. They could infer his Godhead, or in other words His supremacy-the subordination of all that existed to His purpose and will -His right of property in this universe, and in all those manifold riches which fill and which adorn it—and more particularly that He originated all their faculties; that He provided them with all their enjoyments; that every secondary source and
agent of gratification to them, was a mere diately good, was sought after for itself, channel of conveyance for His liberality; was valued on its own account, was en that, behind all which was visible, there were a power and a Godhead invisible which had been from eternity, and were now put forth in bright and beautiful development on a created expanse, where everything was that could regale the senses, and be exuberant of delight and blessedness to the living creatures by whom it was occupied.
joyed without any thankful reference to Him who granted all and originated all; and this too in the face of a distinct knowledge, that every thing was held of God— in the face of an authoritative voice, claiming what was due to God-in the face of a conscience powerful at the outset of man's history, however much it may have been darkened and overborne It is not necessary to enter into a con- in the subsequent process of his alienation. test about the powers or the limits of the And thus the tenure of his earthly enjoyhuman faculties-though we shall after- ments was gradually lost sight of altowards attempt to make it evident, that, gether; and the urgencies of sense and debased and darkened as we are by sin, of the world got the better of all impres there is enough of light in the human con- sions of the Deity; and man at length science to render inexcusable human un- felt his portion and his security and his godliness. But let us at present confine all to be, not in the Author of creation, ourselves to the circumstances adverted but in the creation itself with all its gay to by the apostle, according to the histori- and goodly and fascinating varieties. His cal truth of them. He is evidently des- mind lost its hold of a great and subordicribing the historical progress of human nating principle, by which he could have degeneracy; and begins with the state of assigned its right place, and viewed acmatters at the commencement of a dark-cording to its just relationship, all that ening and deteriorating process, which was around him. The world in fact, by took place on the character of man. And, a mighty deed of usurpation, dethroned without resolving the metaphysical ques- the Deity from the ascendancy which betion How far man without a direct com- longed to him; and thus the rule of estimunication from Heaven could have found mation was subverted within him, and his his way to the Being and attributes of the foolish heart was darkened. This disorder Divinity, let us just take up with the com- in the state of his affections, while it mencement of matters as it actually stood. clouded and subverted his discerning faIt was a period of extraordinary manifes-culties, did not at the same time restrain tations; and God made Himself directly the exercise of them. The first ages of and personally known, as the one Creator the world, as is evident from the history of all things; and men had only to look with the eye of their senses to these things, and to conclude how much of power, how much of wisdom, how much of rightful Sovereignty and ownership, belonged to Him that framed all and upholds all. We may not be sure, in how far man could, on the strength of his own unborrowed resources, have steered his ascending way to the knowledge of a God. But the communicated fact that God did exist, and that He was the framer and the architect of all, put him on high vantage groundfrom which might be clearly seen the eternal power of the Supreme, and His eternal Godhead.
of Babel, were ages of ambitious speculation; and man, with his love strongly devoted to the things of sense, still dreamed and imagined and theorized about hidden principles; and, with his sense of the one presiding Divinity nearly as good as obliterated, he began to fancy a distinct agency in each distinct element and department of nature; and, to make use of the strong phrases of God giving them up and giving them over, we may infer a law of connection between a distempered state of the heart, and a distempered state of the understanding; and thus their very wisdom was 'turned into folly; and to their perverted eye, the world was turned We have only time to advert, shortly, to into one vast theatre of idolatry; and the way in which the truth respecting God they personified all that they loved and was changed into a lie. The creature be-all that they feared-till by the affections came more loved and more depended on, than the Creator. He was not glorified as the giver, and the maker of all created good. But what was sensibly and imme
and the judgment acting and reacting, the one upon the other, they sank down into the degrading foolerics of Paganism.
ROMANS i, 28.
"And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to de those things which are not convenient."
BEFORE proceeding to enforce the lesson in a state of progressive corruption. But that may be educed from this text, let us he rather sketches out to us in this chapter shortly remark, that the not liking to re- the progress of the world's degeneracy tain God in our knowledge, might have from one age to another; and we would been rendered by the not trying to do so, infer from his account that men, in the not exercising our minds on the proof and first instance, had a far more clear and information that were before them-so as convinced sense of God; but, not liking to fix the right belief about God, and to to retain it, committed the sin of a perperpetuate the right view and perception verse disposition against the light which of Him. At the same time it is very true they had, and in part extinguished itthat not to try the evidence, and not to that they of course left their own immeprosecute the guidance of the light which diate posterity, in a light more shaded and we have about any doctrine, argues either reduced than that which shone around the a dislike to that doctrine, or an indiffer- outset of their own progress through the ence about it-so that any slight amend-world-that these still disliked the rement which may be made of the English mainder of truth which they enjoyed; translation upon this score does not affect and, by their wilful resistance to its lesthe truth which it here sets before us, that God gives over to a reprobate mind, those who do not like to retain Him in their knowledge.
sons inflicted upon it a further mutilation, and transmitted it to their descendants with a still deeper hue of obscurity thrown over it-that thus, by every sucBut the term 'reprobate' too, admits of cessive step from one generation to anosome little remark in the way of explana- ther, the light of divine truth went down tion. In its prevailing acceptation, it sug-in this world's history more tarnished and gests to our minds a hopeless and aban-impaired than ever; but still with such doned wickedness of character; and so is glimpses as, however feeble and however expressive of a diseased state of the moral faded, were enough at least to try the principles. In its primary sense it was affection of man towards it, were enough equivalent to the term undiscerning, or to stir up a distinct resistance on the part undistinguishing; and so is expressive of of those who disliked it, were enough tc a darkened state of the understanding. keep up the responsibility of the world, In your larger Bibles, you will find a re- and to retain it in rightful dependence on probate mind rendered on the margin into the judgment of Him who made the world a mind void of judgment. But still it is -so as to make it clear on the day of judgment, not exercised on any secular or reckoning, that men, even in their state philosophical question, but the judgment of most sunken alienation from the true of what is moral and spiritual-that kind God, were never, like the beasts that of judgment where error leads necessarily perish, so helplessly blind, and so destiand immediately to practical unrighteous-tute of all capacity for discerning between ness; and where therefore the love of the the good and the evil, as to render them unrighteousness disposes us to prefer the the unfit subjects of a moral sentence and darkness rather than the light. It is thus a moral examination. With every huthat the understanding and the affections man creature who shall be pronounced act and react upon each other; and that worthy of death on that day, will it be we read of men of corrupt minds having seen that there was either a light which no judgment, or being reprobate concern- he actually had and liked not to retain, or ing the faith; and of those who are abomi-a light which he might have had and nable and disobedient, being also void of judgment about every good work, or unto every good work being reprobate.
In the sad narrative of the apostle in this chapter, he appears to refer not to the history of one individual mind, or of one individual conscience-the defilement of which two provinces in our moral and intellectual nature, goes on contemporaneously, with every human being who is
liked not to recover. To whom much is given of him much shall be required; and there will be gradations of punishment in hell; and in that place where the retributions of vengeance are administered, will there be the infliction of many stripes upon some, and of few stripes upon others; and it will be more tolerable for those who lived in a darkness that was not wilfully of their own bringing on, than for