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Romans 12:1 . I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God. Under the form of entreaty he now tenderly exhorts them, in return for all the glory of redeeming love, to present their bodies to God, in chastity and in temperance, as temples of the Most High. Herodotus, the Greek priest, confesses that in the festival of Venus, the better sort of folks presented themselves to pay their respects to the goddess, while the lower sort indulged in crimes that cannot be named. Romans 1:24. The spirit of the exhortation is, seeing that God had called the Roman saints to all the glory of his covenant, they should now be a holy nation, consecrated to the living God, serving him daily with prayer and praise. Such a sacrifice must be presented without spot; and acceptably, for servants should be employed in services most acceptable to their master. It is a rational oblation, that a creature should live to the glory of his Creator; and especially with regard to spiritual endowments, which the sequent arguments seem to indicate as here intended.
Romans 12:2 . Be not conformed to this world. This was once your all; but the world is now only the land of your pilgrimage. The anguish of heart, because my dress, my house and style, are not equal to my neighbour’s, ceases when Christ is all and in all. Renovation of soul into all the image and glory of God is now the one desire of the saints.
Romans 12:4 . All the members have not the same office. The greater part of the churches consisted at first of gifted persons, among whom it was proper to preserve order, that each might officiate in a manner acceptable to God, and useful to the saints.
Romans 12:5 . So we being many, are one body in Christ. Whether jews or greeks, bond or free, all are baptized by the Holy Spirit into one body. Love makes all one. St. Cyprian has left us an essay on the unity of the church; but after all, Unitas Ecclesiæ est tantum in Christo, the unity of the church is only in Christ. Rome claims it, and kindly sends to perdition all without her pale. What unity can we have with tyranny like hell, with murders without number, with idolatry wide as the world. Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her plagues.
Romans 12:6 . Having then gifts differing according to the grace given to us, let every official person in the church be in his proper place. The pastor prophesying in the sanctuary, the deacon exercising his spiritual and temporal ministry, the teacher edifying the body in love. The exhorter among his catechumens, and the almoners distributing to the necessities of the saints.
Romans 12:9 . Let love be without dissimulation. Court compliments are very unlike the divine goodness, the ease and grace which reign in regenerate hearts. Love is the bond of perfection. Earthly societies associate and obey by interest, by custom or by fear; but love, the pure and perfect charity of Christ, actuates the saints. They visit the sick, and help the needy with true benevolence of heart.
Romans 12:10 . Be kindly affectioned, or as the Mons version reads, “Let each have for his neighbour an affection, and a tenderness truly fraternal.” Be full of urbanity, dwelling in God, and dwelling in love. Chrysostom observes, that the members of the spiritual body should do the same good offices for one another as the members of the natural body.
Romans 12:11 . Not slothful in business. The duties of life must be discharged, and so discharged as that we may at the same time be fervent in spirit, serving the Lord. The plough must move, in order to harvest joy; and the labours of life should often be cheered with hymns of praise, indicative of a happy and contented mind. The contrary is often the introduction to all the miseries of poverty and vice. It is good for a man to have before him a plan of the duties of the day, that he may have time for devotion, and time for all other necessary duties. The lounger who wastes his precious time in improper habits, is alike ignorant of God and of himself.
Romans 12:17 ; Romans 12:21 . Recompense to no man evil for evil. That would occasion two evils, where there was but one before. Ye would deprive yourselves of a fine opportunity of doing good, and would obstruct the conversion of your neighbour. He thought you a good man before, but now he would have a sad proof that you too are wicked like himself. You invade the rights of God, to punish in season, in manner, and degree. He punishes to educe good out of evil; but you would heap one sin upon another. Rather obey the scriptures, and overcome evil with good. Saul had virtually set a price on David’s head; but when David had taken his spear, and spared his life, there was a change of sentiment. “Is this thy voice, my son David? Thou art more righteous than I.”
St. Paul having set before the Roman saints the glorious gospel of the blessed God, and with a force of argument which no human wisdom could have conceived, proceeds to trace the influence it should have on their lives, in chastity, piety, and morals of heavenly birth. He beseeches them by the mercies of God in creation, providence and grace, that they should now present their bodies to God, a holy and a living sacrifice; and no longer offer beasts on the altar, as the jews were wont to do. And the more so, as the idolaters did most awfully present their bodies to devils, bearing the marks of their idols in punctures and painting in the flesh. Alas, what scenes of drunkenness, prostitution, and shame followed the feasts of their idols. No man can now believe those enormities, but those who have read Augustine’s City of God, and other writings of the fathers against the gentiles.
Satan being the god of this world, working in the children of disobedience, christians must not be conformed to this fading world in feasts and toasts, in the monthly fashions of dress, and in the vanities of the age. We are not of the world, but are seeking a better country; let us then so dress that we may be the least noticed either as belles and beaux, or as whimsical and odd. It is godlike to save from luxury, and devote the money to feed the poor, and clothe the naked.
The train of virtues here pressed are in reality a celestial constellation of graces adorning the mind and character of a saint. A wise man will often read them, and daily strive to copy them in his life. The glorious sublimity of the christian doctrine must, when so studied, produce a temper of mind and a line of conduct superior to all that earth can boast. And the adorning of gifts which Christ has conferred on his body, the church, augments her lustre.
The prohibitions from revenge, and the requital of evil for evil, are highly ornamental to the christian code. Do the dueller, and the implacable say, that such a conduct is unmanly? We think it is a godlike mind; for God himself, holding thunderbolts in his hands, forbears to strike offenders with death. We think the temper noble beyond what nature can boast; and we account it wise and laudable in the extreme, that David twice spared the life of Saul. These two generous deeds won the hearts of all Israel to place him on the throne. Whereas the revengeful take the sword out of the hand of God, and of the magistrate. They miss the proper time, and disproportion the measure of punishment; they often overwhelm the innocent branches of families with a cloud of gloomy grief, and visit them with tremendous catastrophes. Oh amiable christianity, mild in its morals, sublime in its doctrines, and divine in all its virtues. Let gentilism hide her face when revelation unfolds its beauty. May its grace reign in my heart, and righteousness prevail in my life to the glory of God.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Romans 12". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13