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Paul's sorrow for the Jews. All Abraham's seed were not the children of the promise. The calling of the Gentiles, and rejection of the Jews. The cause why so few Jews embraced the righteousness of faith.
Anno Domini 58.
THE Apostle having insinuated, chap. Rom 3:3 that God would cast off the Jews, because they refused to believe on Jesus, a Jew was there introduced replying, that their rejection would destroy the faithfulness of God. To this the Apostle answered, that the faithfulness of God would be established, rather than destroyed, by the rejection of the Jews for their unbelief; because God had expressly declared, Gen 18:19 that Abraham's children were to keep the way of the Lord, in order to their obtaining the promised blessings; and thereby insinuated, that if they did not keep the way of the Lord, they would lose these blessings, of which their being made the visible church of God was one. This was all the answer the Apostle thought proper to make, in that part of his letter. But the objection being specious, and much insisted on by the unbelieving Jews, he introduced it a second time in this place, that he might reply to it more fully. His answer the Apostle introduced with a solemn asseveration, that he felt the bitterest grief when he considered the induration and rejection of the Jewish nation, and the many miseries that were coming on them, Romans 9:1-2.—Insomuch that he could have wished to be cut off from the visible church of Christ on earth, by excommunication and even by death, if it could have prevented these evils, Romans 9:3.—For he loved the Jews as his kinsmen, respected them as the ancient people of God, and thought highly of their privileges, which he enumerated on this occasion as just matter of glorying to them, Romans 9:4-5.—Having therefore such a love and respect for his brethren, they could not suspect that, in speaking of their rejection, he was moved either by ill-will or envy.
Having thus endeavoured to gain the good opinion of the Jews, the Apostle proceeded to give a full answer to the objection above mentioned. He told them, that the promises in the covenant would not fall to the ground, though the whole natural seed of Abraham should be cast off. For, said he, all who are descended of Israel according to the flesh, meaning the twelve tribes, these are not the whole Israel of God. There is a spiritual Israel, to whom likewise the promises belong, Romans 9:6.—To shew this, he observed, that because persons are the seed of Abraham according to the flesh, it does not follow that they are the children of Abraham, to whom the promises in their first and literal meaning were made. His children according to the flesh, who are heirs of the promises in their first meaning, were limited to Isaac, by the declaration, In Isaac shall thy seed be called, Romans 9:7.—That is, Abraham's children according to the flesh are not all of them heirs of Canaan; but only those who were given to him by promise, are counted to him for seed, Romans 9:8.—Now the promise by which they were given to Abraham for seed, was this, Lo, Sarah shall have a son, Romans 9:9.
The limitation of the natural seed to the children of promise the Apostle has mentioned, without applying it to the spiritual seed, as his argument seemed to require. The reason was, that his readers could easily make the application in the following manner: Since, in the covenant with Abraham, those only of his natural progeny are counted to him for seed, and made heirs of Canaan, who were given to him by promise, namely, Isaac and his descendants by Jacob, and since bythis limitation all his other children according to the flesh were excluded from being the children of God, and heirs of the promises in their first and literal meaning, it follows by parity of reason that none of the children of Abraham, not even his descendants by Isaac, are the children of God, and heirs of the promises, in their secondary, spiritual, and highest meaning, but those who were given to Abraham by the promise, A father of many nations I have constituted thee. These are believers of all nations and ages; as is plain from what the Apostle told the Galatians, Galatians 4:28. We, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. And because believers are counted to Abraham for seed, in respect of their faith, they are called his seed by faith, Romans 4:16. For by partaking of his dispositions, they are more really his children, than those whose only relation to him is by natural descent—Thus it appears, that Abraham's natural descendants by Isaac are not the whole of his seed, who are the heirs of the promises. He has a seed also by faith, who are far more numerous than his natural seed by Isaac. And, they being the seed principally spoken of in the covenant, if the promises are fulfilled to them, the faithfulness of God will not be destroyed, though the whole of the natural seed should be rejected for their unbelief.
These things the Jews might easily have understood. Nevertheless, privileges conferred on them by a covenant with their progenitor, and which were solemnly confirmed to them at Sinai, they persuadedthemselves could not be taken from them, and given to the Gentiles, without destroying God's veracity. But, to shew them their error, the Apostle put them in mind, that as Isaac was chosen to be the root of the people of God, in preference to Ishmael, by mere favour; so afterwards Jacob had that honour conferred on him, in preference to Esau, by a gratuitous election before Jacob and Esau were born. As therefore the Jews, Jacob's posterity, were the church of God by mere favour, God might, without any injustice to them, or violation of his covenant with Abraham, admit the Gentiles into his church at any time he pleased, Romans 9:10-13.
To enforce this argument, the Apostle observed, that in preferring Jacob the younger brother, to Esau the elder, God neither acted unjustly towards Esau, nor violated his promise to Abraham, because he might bestow his favours on whom he pleased, Romans 9:14.;—as appears from what he said to Moses, when he forgave the Israelites their sin respecting the golden calf: I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, &c.: for this implies, that, as in pardoning national sins, so also in conferring national favours, God acts according to his own good pleasure, Romans 9:15.—So then, it did not depend on Isaac, who willed, to make Esau the heir of the promises, by giving him the blessing; nor onEsau, who ran to bring venison, that his father might eat and bless him; but on the good pleasure of God, who willed to confer that honour on Jacob, preferably to Esau, Romans 9:16.—He might therefore, without any injustice, admit the believing Gentiles to share with the Jews, in those privileges which he had gratuitously bestowed on the descendants of Jacob, in preference to those of E
But the Apostle, in his discourses to the Jews, had on different occasions carried this matter farther, and had declared to them that they were to be deprived of their privileges, and driven out of Canaan, for their sin in crucifying Jesus of Nazareth. To this it seems they replied, that the unbelief, and even the rebellion of their fathers, had not been so punished; and inferred that, although the present generation, in crucifying Jesus, had really disobeyed God, it was not to be thought that he would now cast off and destroy his people on that account. In answer, the Apostle told them that, in punishing nations, God exercises the same sovereignty as in conferring favours. Of the wicked nations which deserve to be punished, he chooses such as it pleases him to make examples of; and he defers punishing them, until the measure of their iniquity is full, that their punishment may be the more conspicuous. This appears from God's words to Pharaoh: I have upheld thee and thy people hitherto, that, the measure of your iniquity, as a nation, becoming full, I might shew my power and justice in punishing you the more severely, Romans 9:18.—If so, God's upholding the Jews so long was no proof that he would not at length cast them away, and drive them out of Canaan, for their sin in crucifying the Christ.—But thou wilt reply, since God hath determined to destroy the Jewish nation for its wickedness,why has he not done it ere now, and thereby put an end to his still finding fault with them, on account of their repeated rebellions, to which his sparing them so long has given occasion: for who hath resisted his will? Romans 9:19.—To this the Apostle answers, Who art thou that presumest to find fault with God's government of the world? Shall the thing formed say to him that formedit, Why hast thou made me thus? Romans 9:20.—Hath not the potter power over the clay? &c. Romans 9:21.—But, said he, not to rest my answer wholly on the sovereignty of God, what can be said against God's forbearing for so long a time to destroythe Jewish nation, if it was done to shew more fully his displeasure against the greatest national abuseof religious privileges long continued in it, and the more signally to punish the nation guilty of such an abuse, Romans 9:22.—Also, that he might take in their place believers of all nations, whom by his dispensations towards the Jews he had been preparing for that great honour? Romans 9:23-24.—Which calling of the believing Jews and Gentiles was long ago foretold by Hosea, Romans 9:25-26.—Besides, the destruction of the greatest part of the Jewish nation for crucifying the Christ is not more contrary to the covenant with Abraham, than their almost total subversion by the Assyrians and Babylonians for their repeated idolatries, Romans 9:27-29.—Thus it appears, that the believing Gentiles were called into the visible church of God, and received the great blessing of faith counted for righteousness, promised to Abraham's spiritual seed, agreeably to God's covenant with him, and to the predictions of the prophets, Romans 9:30.—But the unbelieving Jews who sought to become righteous by obeying the law of Moses, have not attained righteousness, Romans 9:31.—because they sought it not by faith, according to the tenor of the covenant with Abraham, but by works of law, and stumbled at the promised Seed as at a stumbling-stone, Romans 9:32.;—agreeably to what Isaiah had foretold concerning them, Romans 9:33.: so that they are now justly cast off.
I shall finish this illustration with two remarks. The first is, that indiscoursing of the election of the Jews to be the people of God, and of their degradation from that high honour, the Apostle has established such general principles, as afford a complete answer to all the objections which deists have raised against revelation, on account of its want of universality. They affirm, that if the ancient revelations, of whichthe Jews are said to have been the keepers, had been from God, the knowledge of them would not have been confined to an inconsiderable nation, pent up in a corner of the earth, but would have been universally spread. In like manner they assert, that if the Christian religion were from God, it would long ago have been bestowed on all mankind. To these, and every objection of the like nature, the Apostle has taught us to reply, that God has an indisputable right to bestow his favours on whom he pleases. And therefore, without unrighteousness, he maywithhold the benefit of revelation from whom he will, since he was under no obligation to bestow it on any; just as, in the distribution of his temporal favours, he bestows on some a more happy country and climate, or a better bodily constitution, or greater natural talents, or a better education, than on others. And if deists ask, Why God,in the distribution of his spiritual favours, has preferred one nation or person before another, the Apostle bids us answer, Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, to make out the same lump one vessel to honour, and another to dishonour? The very same right which entitled God to make some of his creatures angels, and some of them men, entitled him to place men in the endlessly various situations in which we see them. Nor can those who seem to be most unkindly treated, complain of the want of revelation or of any other advantage, which God has thought fit to withhold from them; since at the last day none shall be condemned for the want of these things: and in judging men, due regard will be had to the circumstances of each; so that the sentences passed, will all be according to truth, as the Apostle has taught in the second chapter. Wherefore since men may be saved, who have not enjoyed revelation, the giving or the withholding of that benefit is to be considered, not as an appointing of men either to salvation or damnation, but merely as a placing them in more or less advantageous circumstances of trial.—To conclude, God has been pleased, in many instances, to make the reasons of his conduct incomprehensible to us, on purpose to teach us humility. At the same time, from what we know, we may believe, that however unsearchable God's judgments are, and his ways past finding out, they are full of wisdom and goodness. We ought therefore to change our doubts into adoration, and should join the Apostle in crying out, O the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! chap. Romans 11:33.
Romans 9:1. I say the truth in Christ, &c.— The Apostle has proved by three special arguments, that the grace or favour of God in the Gospel extends to the Gentiles, as well as the Jews: this he has done in the first five chapters; in the three next, he has shewn the obligations which the Gospel lays upon Christians, both Gentile and Jewish, to a life of virtue and holiness; and lastly, the certainty of their salvation, in case they love God, and live not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. Now let it be well observed, that hitherto the Apostle has considered our being taken into the kingdom of God, and interested in the blessings of the covenant of grace, absolutely, or in itself, as it is the effect of grace, free to all who believe, whether Jews or Gentiles, in opposition to the merit of any works, or of conformity to any law whatever; and therefore hitherto he has pleaded and proved, that the Gentiles, by faith, have a good title to the blessings of God's covenant; and that the Jews themselves can have an interest in those blessings no other way than by faith. He has not yet considered the Jews as set aside, or rejected from the Messiah's kingdom, (except in a glance, and only by-the-bye,) but as having the same way opened to them to the Christian church under the kingdom of the Messiah, as the believing Gentiles, and as under a possibilityof continuing still in the visible church; and therefore he has only argued, that they ought not to exclude the Gentiles, but allow them to be sharers in the mercies of God under the reign of the Messiah. Hitherto his language has been, "Why may not they be admitted as well as you?" And therefore he has hitherto treated the subject (the reception of the Gentiles into the church) without mentioning their admission under the name and notion of CALLING or inviting; which, in the sense of all mankind, is understood to be a relative term; for whenever we hear of inviting to a feast, wedding, &c. it immediately gives us this idea,—that only some are admitted to it, while others are passed by, or left. Nor has he hitherto made any mention of elect or election, chosen or choice, which also supposes that some are taken, while others are left or rejected, in respect to the new dispensation.
But now in this chapter, and the two following, the Apostle writes in a different style, and considers our reception into the kingdom of the Messiah, under the relative notion of calling or invitation, and of election or choice; which shews, that he now views the two parties, Jews and Gentiles, in a light different from that in which he had hitherto placed them. Now he regards the Gentiles as invited into the peculiar kingdom of the Messiah, as chosen to be his peculiar people, and the Jews as left out, and rejected from this glorious privilege: for though the Jews were free to embrace the Gospel, as well as the Gentiles, yet he knew, by the Spirit of prophesy, that as the main body of them in fact rejected Christ and the Gospel, so they would in fact be quite unchurched and cast out of the visible kingdom of God,—not only by their own unbelief, but also by the just judgment of God; in the total overthrow of their polity, the destruction of their temple, their expulsion out of the land of Canaan, and dispersion over the face of the whole earth. Thus he knew they would be accursed, or anathematized from Christ in this national sense, and reduced to a level with the common or heathen nations of the world; and the event has proved him to be a true prophet. It is observable, that agreeably to his delicate manner of writing, and to his nice and tender treatment of his countrymen, he never mentions their rejection,—a subject extremely painful to his thoughts,—otherwise than in a wish that he himself wereaccursed from Christ for them, or to prevent their being accursed from Christ;—till he comes to the eleventh chapter, where, he has much to say in their favour, even considered as at present rejected. But it is very evident that his arguments in this chapter stand upon a supposition, that the main body of the Jewish nation would be cast out of the visible kingdom of God. For which reason, in this and the two following chapters he considers the reception of any people into the kingdom of the Messiah, under the relative notion of inviting and choosing.
From the latter part of the foregoing chapter we may observe, that St. Paul thought our calling or being invited into the kingdom of the Messiah a matter of great importance. For the unbelieving Jews levelled all their artillery against our being called or invited into the peculiar church or family of God, and laboured every argument to unhinge the believing Gentiles, and to persuade them that they were not duly taken into the church: alleging particularly that the Jews are, and for ever were to be, the only true church and people of God; that they could not be cut off, so long as God was true to his word and promise to Abraham: consequently, the Gentiles were miserably deceived, by supposing thatthey had a place and interest in God's kingdom by faith in Christ Jesus; when in fact, and as sure as God was true, there was no other wayof entering into the kingdom of God, or of gaining a right to its privileges, than by submitting to the law of Moses. To prove therefore that the Jews, by rejecting Christ and the Gospel, were themselves cast out of the visible church, consistently with the truth of God's promise to Abraham, was a matter of great moment for the establishment of the Gentile believers. The Apostle had touched upon this point at the beginning of chap. 3:; but an enlargement upon it there would have broken in too much upon the argument he was then pursuing; for which reason he suspended the particular consideration of it to this place: and accordingly, he first solemnly declares his tenderest affection for his countrymen, and his real grief of heart for their infidelity and rejection, Romans 9:1-5.; and this, most probably, to wipe off an aspersion which had been cast upon him, that he was so zealous for the Gospel out of a natural hatred and rancour against his own nation; or, however, it might be intended at least to guard against such an invidious construction. Secondly, he answers objections against the rejection of the Jews, Romans 9:6-23. Thirdly, proves from Scripture the calling of the Gentiles, Romans 9:24-30. Fourthly, gives the true state and reasons of the rejection of the unbelieving Jews and calling of the Gentiles, Romans 9:30.—chap. Rom 10:14.Fifthly, vindicates the mission of the Apostles, as expedient and necessary to the calling or invitation of the Jews, chap. Rom 10:14 to the end: and all this was intended at once to vindicate the divine dispensations; to convince the infidel Jew; to satisfy the believing Gentile, that his invitation into the church was well grounded, just, and valid; to arm him against the cavils and objections of the unbelieving Jews, and to dispose the Christian Jew to receive and own him as a member of the family and kingdom of God by a divine right, in all respects as good as he himself could pretend to. See Locke.
Romans 9:3. That myself were accursed, &c.— That I myself were to be devoted to death [or made a sacrifice] after the example of Christ. Pere Simon has it, For the sake of Christ:—Propter Christum. But the first is preferable. See also Dr. Waterland's Sermons, vol. 1: p. 77. The word rendered accursed is 'Αναθεμα, by which the LXX translate the Hebrew word חרם cherem, which signifies "persons or things devoted to destruction and extermination." The Jewish nation were now an anathema, destined to destruction. St. Paul, to express his affection to them, says, he could wish, to save them from it, to become an anathema, and be destroyed himself. Elsner, with Dr. Clarke, joins 'Απο του Χριστου with Ηυχομην, I could wish, or desire from, or of Christ, that, &c. And he shews well, as has been frequently done, how very absurd it would be to suppose that the Apostle meant, that he could be content to be delivered over to everlasting misery for the good of others. "I am so far from taking pleasure," says the Apostle, "in the rejection of the Jewish nation, that on the contrary it gives me continual pain to think of it; insomuch, that [as Moses formerly when God proposed to cut them off, and in their stead to make of him a great nation, begged that he himself might rather die, than the children of Israel be destroyed, so] I could even wish that the exclusion from the visible church, which will happen to the Jewish nation, might fall to my own share, if thereby they might be kept in it." See Locke, and Grotius, and the note on Exodus 32:32; Exodus 32:35.
Romans 9:4. Who are Israelites— The Apostle with great address enumerates these privileges of the Jews, both that he might shew how honourably he thought of them, and that he might awaken their solicitude not to sacrifice that divine favour by which they had been so eminently and so long distinguished. In the word adoption he alludes to the Horeb covenant, whereby the Israelites became the peculiar people of God, and he their supreme ruler and protector. See Exodus 4:22.Deuteronomy 14:1; Deuteronomy 14:1.Jeremiah 31:9; Jeremiah 31:9. Hosea 11:1. The glory means the Schechinah, which resided visibly among them on the mercy-seat. Hence the ark was called the glory. Compare Psalms 78:61. 1 Samuel 4:21-22.Ezekiel 10:4; Ezekiel 10:4; Ezekiel 43:2; Ezekiel 43:27. For the covenants, sees Genesis 17:14.Exodus 34:27; Exodus 34:27; Exodus 34:35. Whether the giving of the law, νομοθεσια, signifies the extraordinary giving of the law by God himself, or the exact constitution of their government, in the moral and judicial part of it, (for the next word λατρεια, the service, seems to comprehend the religious worship,) this is certain, that in either of these senses it was the peculiar privilege of the Jews, and what no other nation could pretend to. See Locke, and Doddridge.
Romans 9:5. Whose are the fathers, &c.— See Exodus 3:6-16. Acts 7:32. How ingenious soever the conjecture of Dr. Taylor may be thought, by which he would read Ων ο Θεος ο επι παντων, to answer to ων οι πατερες, whose are the Fathers, and whose is the God over all, it would doubtless be extremely dangerous to follow this, or any other reading of the like kind, unsupported by any critical authority of manuscripts or ancient quotations; nor does there appear any authority whatever for rendering the last clause, God be blessed for ever. We must therefore consider this text as a proof of Christ's proper divinity, which the opposers of that doctrine have never been able to answer. Proclus (de Fide, p. 53.) esteemed the verse before us so clear a proof of the divinity of Christ, that he says, "It shuts and walls up every avenue of calumny or reproach;" and Theophylact considers it as a passage which must put Arius to shame, as St. Paul expressly declares Christ to be God over all. This will appear still more plainly, if we recollect that it was a Jewish custom, whenever the priest mentioned the name of God in the sanctuary, for the people to say, "Blessed be the name and glory of his kingdom for ever and ever." The words used chap. Rom 1:25 are an abridgment of this form. Similar to it is the doxology at the end of the Lord's prayer, and chap. Rom 11:36 of this Epistle. In all these and in other places, the giving glory being an acknowledgment of the eternal God, and in several of them being applied peculiarly to Christ, is a convincing proof of his Godhead. See Hammond, Doddridge, and Locke.
Romans 9:6. The word of God— The word of promise. See Rom 9:9 and chap. Romans 3:3. St. Paul urges, that they are not all Israel which are of Israel, as a reason to prove that the promise of God failed not to have its effect, though the body of the Jewish nation had rejected the Lord Jesus Christ, and therefore were naturally rejected by God from being any longer his people. The reasoning stands thus: "The posterity of Jacob, or Israel, were not those alone who were to make that Israel, or that chosen people of God, who were intended in the promise made to Abraham, Genesis 17:7-8. Others, besides the descendants of Jacob, were to be taken into this Israel, to constitute the people of God under the Gospel; and therefore the calling and coming-in of the Gentiles was a completion of that promise:" and then he adds in the next verse, "Neither were all the posterity of Abraham comprehended in that promise; nor were those who were taken-in in the time of the Messiah to make the Israel of God, taken-in because they were the natural descendants from Abraham; nor did the Jews claim it for all his race:" and this he proves by the limitation of the promise to Abraham's seed by Isaac only. He does all this to shew the right of the Gentiles to that promise, if they believed; since that promise did not concern only the natural descendants either of Abraham or Jacob, but those only who were of the faith of their father Abraham, of whomsoever descended. See chap. Rom 4:11-17 and Locke. We may read the last clause of this verse, For not all they that are of Israel, are Israel.
Romans 9:7. But, In Isaac shall thy seed be called— It should be considered, and well noted, that the Apostle, in this and the following quotations, does not give us the whole of the text which he intends should be taken into his argument, but only a hint or reference to the passages to which they belong; directing us to recollect or peruse the whole passage, and there view and judge of the force of his argument. That he is so to be understood, appears from the conclusion he draws, Romans 9:16. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. In his arguments, Romans 9:7-8, &c. he says not one word of Abraham's willing Ishmael to be the seed in whom the promise might be fulfilled, nor of Isaac's willing Esau, nor of Moses's willing and interceding that the Israelites might be spared, nor of Esau's running for venison; butby introducing these particulars into his conclusion, he gives us to understand, that his quotations are to be taken in connection with the whole history of which they are a part. The same thing may be said concerning his conclusion, Romans 9:18. Whom he will, he hardeneth.—Hardeneth is not in his argument, but it is in the conclusion; therefore, &c. The generality of the Jews were well versed in the Scriptures, and a hint was sufficient to revive the memory of a whole passage.
Romans 9:11. Neither having done any good or evil— These words may possibly have been added by St. Paul, the more expressly to obviate an objection of the Jews, who might be ready to say, that Esau was rejected because he was wicked; as they did of Ishmael, that he was rejected, because he was the son of a bond-woman.
The principal thing which requires to be settled in this chapter is, what kind of election and reprobation the Apostle is here discoursing about? whether election, by the absolute decree and purpose of God to eternal life, and reprobation, by a like absolute decree, to eternal misery; or only election to the present privileges and external advantages of the kingdom of God in this world; and reprobation, or rejection, as it signifies the not being favoured with those privileges and advantages? And it appears demonstrably, that the Apostle is discoursing of the latter election and rejection, and not the former: for, I. The subject of his argument is manifestly the privileges enumerated Rom 9:4-5 from which he supposes the Jews were fallen or would fall; or that for a long time they would be deprived of the benefit of them: for it is with regard to the loss of those privileges that he is so much concerned for his brethren, and kinsmen according to the flesh, Romans 9:2-3.; and it is with reference to their being stripped of those privileges, that he vindicates the word and righteousness of God, Romans 9:6-24. Not as though the word of God had taken no effect, or failed, &c. proving that God, according to his purpose of election, was free to confer them upon any branch of Abraham's seed. Consequently those privileges were the singular blessings which, by the purpose of God, according to election, not of works, but of him that calleth, were conferred upon Jacob's posterity. But those privileges were onlysuch as the whole body of the Israelites enjoyed in this world while they were the church and people of God, and such privileges as they might afterwards lose, or be deprived of; therefore the election of Jacob's posterity to those privileges was not absolute election to eternal life. II. Agreeably to the purpose of God according to election, it was said to Rebecca, The elder shall serve the younger; meaning, the posterity of the elder and the younger. For, Gen 25:23 the Lord said unto her, two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people, and the elder shall serve the younger. These are the words which signify the purpose of God according to election. Therefore the election refers to Jacob's posterity, or the whole nation of Israel; but the whole nation of Israel were not absolutely elected to eternal life: therefore, &c.—III. Agreeably to the purpose of God according to election, it was said to Rebecca, the elder shall serve the younger; but to serve, in Scripture, never signifies to be eternally damned in the world to come; consequently the opposite blessing, bestowed upon the posterity of the younger, could not be eternal salvation, but some privileges in this life. Therefore the purpose according to election refers to such privileges. IV. The election here spoken of took place first in Abraham and his seed, before his seed were born; and then (secluding Ishmael and all his posterity) in Isaac and his seed, before they were born; and then (secluding Esau and his posterity) in Jacob and his seed, before they were born. But the Scripture never represents eternal life, as bestowed upon any family or race of men in this manner. Therefore, &c.—V. Vessels of mercy (Romans 9:23.) are manifestly opposed to vessels of wrath, Romans 9:22. The vessels of mercy are the whole body of the Jews and Gentiles, who were called or invited into the kingdom of God under the Gospel, Romans 9:24.; consequently the vessels of wrath are the whole body of the unbelieving Jews. So Rom 9:30-31 the whole body of believing Gentiles, who, according to God's purpose of election, had attained justification, are opposed to the whole body of the Israelites who came short of it:—but men shall not be received to eternal life, or subjected to eternal condemnation at the last day in collective bodies; but according as particular persons in those bodies have acted well or ill. Therefore, &c.—VI. Whoever carefully peruses chap. 9: Romans 10:11 : will find, that those who have not believed, chap. Rom 11:31 are the present rejected Jews, or that Israel to whom blindness hath happened in part, chap. Romans 11:25.;—the same who fell, and on whom God hath shewn severity, chap. Romans 11:22.; the same with the natural branches, whom God spared not, chap. Romans 11:21.; who were broken off from the olive-tree, chap. Romans 11:19; Romans 11:17.; who were cast away, chap. Romans 11:15.; who were diminished and fallen, chap. Romans 11:12.; who had stumbled, chap. Romans 11:11.; who were a disobedient and gainsaying people, chap. Romans 10:21.; who being ignorant of God's righteousness went about to establish their own, chap. Romans 10:3.—Because they sought righteousness, not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law, chap. Romans 9:32.; and they had not attained to the law of righteousness, chap. Romans 9:31. These same people, spoken of in all these places, are the vessels of wrath fitted for destruction, Romans 9:22.; and the same for whom St. Paul had great heaviness and continual sorrow in his heart, Romans 9:2-3. In short, they are the unbelieving nation, or people of Israel; and it is with regard to the reprobation or rejection of this people, from the peculiar kingdom of the Messiah, that he is arguing, and vindicating the truth, justice, and wisdom of God, in the present chapter. Now if we turn back and review those three chapters, we shall find that the Apostle, chap. Rom 10:1 heartily desires and prays, that those same reprobated and rejected people of Israel might be saved; he affirms that they had not so stumbled as to fall finally and irrecoverably, chap. Romans 11:11.; that they should again have a fulness, Romans 9:12.; that they should be received again into the church, Romans 9:15.; that a holiness still belonged to them, Romans 9:16.; that if they did not still abide in unbelief, they should be grafted into their own olive-tree again, Romans 9:23-24.; and that blindness was happened to them only for a time, till the fulness of the Gentiles be come in, Romans 9:25.; and then he proves from Scripture, that all Israel, all this nation, at present under blindness, shall be saved, Romans 9:26-27. That as touching the [original] election, they were still beloved for the sake of the fathers, the patriarchs, Romans 9:28.; that in their case, the gifts and callings of God are without repentance, Romans 9:29.; and that through our, the believing Gentiles', mercy, they shall at length obtain mercy, Romans 9:31. All these things are spoken of that Israel or body of people, concerning whose rejection the Apostle argues in the 9th chapter; and therefore the rejection about which he here argues cannot be absolute reprobation to eternal damnation, but their being, as a nation, stripped of those honours and privileges of God's peculiar church and kingdom in this world, to which, at a certain period, they should again be restored. But once more, VII. Whoever carefully peruses those three chapters will find, that the people, who in times past believed not God, but have now obtained mercy, through the unbelief of the Jews, (chap. Romans 11:30.) are the whole body of the believing Gentiles; the same who were cut out of the olive-tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted, contrary to nature, into the good olive-tree, chap. Romans 11:24; Romans 11:17.; the same to whom God had shewn goodness, chap. Romans 11:22.; the world that was reconciled, chap. Romans 11:15.; the Gentiles, who were enriched by the diminishing of the Jews, chap. Romans 11:12.; to whom salvation came through their fall, chap. Romans 11:11.; who had attained to righteousness, or justification, chap. Romans 9:30.; who had not been God's people, nor beloved; but now are his people, beloved, and the children of the living God; Romans 9:25-26. See also Romans 9:24; Romans 9:23; Romans 9:21. He speaks of the same body of men in all those places, namely, of the believing Gentiles principally, but not excluding a small remnant of the believing Jews, who were incorporated with them. And it is this body of men, whose calling and election he is proving; in whose case the purpose of God according to election stands good; and who are the children of the promise counted for seed, Romans 9:8.—They are the election, or the elect. Now concerning this called, or elect body of the people, or any particular person belonging to this body, the Apostle writes thus, in chap. Romans 11:20-22.: "Well, because of unbelief, they, the Jews, were broken off, reprobated, rejected, and thou standest, in the church, among God's called or elect, by faith. Be not high minded, but fear; for if God spared not the natural branches, take heed, lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God, on them, the Jews, which fell, severity; but towards thee, goodness; if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off, rejected and reprobated." This proves, that the calling and election, which the Apostle is here urging, is not absolute election to eternal life, but to the present privileges of the church;—the honours and advantages of God's peculiar people: which election, through unbelief and misimprovement, may be rendered void, and come to nothing.
Romans 9:12-13. The elder shall serve the younger— These words, the elder shall serve the younger, in Gen 25:23 are used only in a national sense, and not personally; for in this sense the proposition is not true: which makes it plain that the words, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated, Rom 9:13 are to be taken also in a national sense, for the preference which God gave to the posterity of one of them to be his people, and possess the promised land. See Deuteronomy 7:6-8. The word hated is often used in sacred Scripture comparatively, signifying only "to postpone in our esteem or kindness." I have loved Jacob, and hated Esau, therefore, can only mean, "I have greatly preferred the former to the latter." See Genesis 29:31.Luke 14:26; Luke 14:26. John 12:25. From the 7th to the 13th verse the Apostle proves to the Jews, that though the promise was made to Abraham and his seed, yet it was not to all Abraham's posterity, but God's first choice, Isaac and his posterity. And then again when Rebecca had conceived twins by Isaac, who was but one of the sons of Abraham, God, of his blessed pleasure, chose Jacob the younger, and his posterity, to be his peculiar people. See Locke and the preceding note. Dr. Doddridge upon the 13th verse observes, that the words there, in connection with the preceding and following, do indeed prove, that God acts with a sovereign freedom, accountable to none in the dispensation of his favours; and consequentially prove that it was not upon the foresight of the obedience and piety of Jacob on the one hand, or the profaneness of Esau on the other, that this preference was given; for then the argument taken from the having actually done neither good nor evil, would be very weak. The Doctor afterwards adds, Nevertheless it is certain, that the Apostle does not here speak of the eternal state of Jacob and Esau, (whatever some may suppose deducible from what he says,) nor does he indeed so much speak of the persons, as of their posterity, since it is plainly to that posterity that both the prophesies which he quotes in support of his argument refer; Genesis 25:23.Malachi 1:2-3; Malachi 1:2-3. His laying waste the heritage of the Edomites for the dragons of the wilderness, is so different a thing from his appointing the person of Esau to eternal misery by a mere act of sovereignty,—without regard to any thing done, or to be done, by him to deserve it,—that I will rather submit (says the Doctor) to any censure from my fellow-servants, than deal so freely with my Maker, as to conclude the one from the other.
Romans 9:14-15. What shall we say then?— So far the Apostle, in this chapter, has considered God's choosing or refusing any body of men in general, without supposing them to be corrupt, or to have forfeited the divine favour; but it is evident from the Scripture quotations, that from Rom 9:15-23 he considers them in another light; namely, as corrupt, and deserving of destruction, which brings his argument to the case of the rejected Jews: and it is observable, that the Apostle arguing here with the Jews, to vindicate the justice of God in rejecting them, uses three sorts of arguments. The first is, the testimony of Moses, concerning God's asserting this to himself by the right of his sovereignty, which was enough to stop the mouths of the Jews; the second, from reason, Romans 9:19-24.; and the third, from his predictions of it to the Jews, and the warning that he gave them of it beforehand, Romans 9:25-29. See Locke, and Exodus 33:19.
Romans 9:16. God that sheweth mercy— Shewing mercy, and obtaining mercy, are applied to the donation of extraordinary favours and privileges upon a people, chap. Romans 11:30. 1 Peter 2:10.; and that it is to be so understood here, appears from the context. One would imagine that this verse should have come in immediately after the 13th; but the reason why the Apostle inserted it here, most probably was, that he might take the affair of Moses's intercession for the Israelites into his conclusion, as well as the two foregoing instances relating to the sons of Abraham and Isaac; for, the instance of Moses's intercession, first, with respect to his will and earnest desire, has relation to the preceding cases of Abraham and Isaac; and so it comes into the conclusion in this verse; and secondly, with respect to the sovereign will and pleasure of God, in continuing to the Israelites the favour of being his peculiar people, it has also relation by way of contrast to the subsequent case of Pharaoh, Romans 9:17.; and so comes also into the conclusion, Romans 9:18. This is an example of the Apostle's consulting brevity in arranging and wording his arguments. The passage from Rom 9:14 may be paraphrased thus: "And now, what shall we say to these things? Shall we suggest that God's bestowing religious privileges in this unequal manner, upon those who otherwise are in equal circumstances, is inconsistent with equity and justice?—By no means; Romans 9:15. I gave a general answer to this objection, chap. Rom 3:6 which I now confirm by the words of God himself to Moses, Exo 33:19 after he had declared that he would spare the Jews of old, and continue them in the relation of his peculiar people, when they had deserved to be cut off for their idolatry. I will, says he, make all my goodness pass before thee, &c. as if he had said, 'I will make such a display of my perfections as shall convince you I am of a kind and beneficent nature: but know, that I am a debtor to none of my creatures; my benefits and blessings are merely from my own good-will; nor can any people, much less a rebellious people, challenge them as their due in justice or equity; and therefore I now spare the Jews, not because either you who intercede for them, or they themselves have any claim upon my favour; but of my own free and sovereign grace I choose to shew them mercy and compassion:' Romans 9:16. I conclude therefore, from these three several instances foregoing, that the making or continuing any body of men the peculiar people of God, in respect to spiritual or national privileges, is righteously determined, not by the judgment, hopes, or wishes of men, but by the will and wisdom of God alone. ForAbraham judged that the blessingought, and desired it might be given to his eldest son Ishmael; and Isaac also designed it for first-born Esau: and Esau, wishing and hoping it would be his, readilywent a hunting for venison, that he might receive it. But they were all frustrated; Abraham and Isaac who willed, and Esau who ran; for the blessing of being a great nation, and his peculiar people, God, of his mere good pleasure, originally intended first for Isaac, and then for Jacob and his posterity; and to them it was given. And when by their apostacy they had forfeited this privilege, it was not Moses's willing, nor any prior obligation that God was under, but his own sovereign mercy, which continued the enjoyment of it." See Locke, and Whitby.
Romans 9:17. For the Scripture saith, &c.— Moreover, &c. Doddridge. It is plain that this is no proof of what immediately goes before; and therefore γαρ is properly rendered bymoreover, which is consistent with makingit introductory to what proves something asserted at a distance, if it come in as a co-ordinate proof. The reader will observe, that the Apostle does not produce an instance of an innocent person being made and treated as an object of divine displeasure out of mere sovereignty; but one of the most hardened and notorious sinners the world ever knew. Instead of I have raised thee up, some would render the original, I have made thee stand, or held thee up: that is, "I have supported thee during the former plagues, that I might make thee a more remarkable example of vengeance." But though that may agree with the original Hebrew and with the version of the LXX, yet it does not seem to answer to the Greek word used by St. Paul. If, as some writers suppose, the Pharaoh here spoken of was an Egyptian king, who made his way to the throne by treason, incest, and murder, the words have a singular weight considered as referring thereto: "I have raised thee up to that height of eminence in which thou proudly gloriest, that I may more conspicuously shew forth my power in thee; and that my name, in consequence of distinguished judgments to be righteously inflicted upon thee,may be celebrated through all the earth, in the most distant nations and remotest ages." See Locke, Doddridge, and Whitby.
Romans 9:18. Therefore hath he mercy, &c.— "Therefore, that his name and power may be made known, and taken notice of in all the earth, he is kind and bountiful to one nation, and suffers another to go on obstinately in their opposition to him; that his taking them off by some signal calamity, and the ruin brought on them by the visible hand of his providence, may be seen and acknowledged to be an effect of their standing out against him; as in the case of Pharaoh. For this end, he is bountiful to whom he will be bountiful, and whom he will he permits to make such an use of his forbearance towards them, as to persist obdurately in their provocation of him, and draw on themselves exemplary destruction." See Locke, Whitby, and particularly the note on Exodus 9:34-35.
Romans 9:19. Why doth he yet find fault?— This objection is put a little differently, ch. Romans 3:7. There it is, "If God's faithfulness is glorified by my wickedness, why am I condemned as a sinner." Here it is, "If God for his own glory determines to suffer us to go on in hardness and infidelity, why does he find fault with us?" See the reply in the next verse.
Romans 9:20. Nay but, O man, &c.— St. Paul shews here, that the nations of the world, who are by a better right in the hands and disposal of God, than the clay in the power of thepotter, may, without calling his justice in question, "be made great and glorious, or be pulled down or brought into contempt, as he pleases." That he here speaks of men nationally, and not personally, in reference to their eternal state, is evident not only from the beginning of this chapter, where he expresses his concern for the rejection of the Jews, and from the instances that he brings of Isaac, Jacob, Esau, and Pharaoh: but it appears also very clearly from the verses immediately following; where, by the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction, (keeping up the metaphor of the potter,) he manifestly means the nation of the Jews; who were now grown ripe for the destruction which God would bring upon them; and by vessels of mercy, the christian church, consisting of a small number of converted Jews, and the rest made up of Gentiles; who, together, were thenceforwards to be the people of God in this general sense, instead of the Jewish nation, Romans 9:24. The sense therefore of this and the following verses is this: "How darest thou, O man, to call God to account, and question his justice, in casting off his ancient people the Jews? What if God, willing to punish that sinful people, and to do it so as to make his power known and taken notice of, (and why might not he raise them up for that purpose, as well as Pharaoh and the Egyptians?)—What, I say, if God bore with them a long time, even after they had deserved his wrath, as he did with Pharaoh, that his hand might be the more eminently visible in their destruction; and that also, at the same time, he might with the more glory make known his goodness and mercy to the Gentiles; whom, according to his purpose, he was ready to receive into the glorious state of being his people under the Gospel?" See Locke.
Romans 9:21. Hath not the potter power, &c.— See Jeremiah 18:0. It is observable, that Plutarch uses the very same similitude with this before us; and Aristophanes, among other contemptuous expressions, by which he describes the frailty of human creatures, calls them πλασματα πηλου, vessels of clay. A vessel unto honour, or to dishonour, signifies a thing designed by the maker to an honourable or dishonourable use: nor can any reason be given why it may not design nations, as well as persons; and honour and prosperity in this world, as well as eternal happiness and glory, or misery and punishment, in the world to come. In common reason this figurative expression ought to follow the sense of the context. But Jer 18:6-7 whence this instance of a potter is taken, shews the word vessel to have a temporal sense, and to relate to the nation of the Jews. See the preceding note, Locke, and Bos.
Romans 9:22. What if God, willing, &c.— See on ch. Romans 1:18. Immediately after the instance of Pharaoh, whom God declared that he raised up to shew his power in him, Rom 9:17 it is subjoined, Romans 9:18, And whom he will he hardeneth; plainly with reference to the history of Pharaoh, who is said to harden himself, and whom God is said to harden, as may be seen in the parallel places of Exodus. What God's part in hardening is, we find in the words, Endured with much long-suffering. God sends Moses to Pharaoh with signs; Pharaoh's magicians do the like; and so he is not prevailed with. God sends a plague:while the plague is upon him, Pharaoh is mollified, and promises to let the people go: but as soon as God takes off the plague, he returns to his obstinacy, and refuses; and this repeatedly. God's being intreated by him to withdraw the severity of hishand, and his gracious compliance with Pharaoh's desire, was what God did in the case; and this was all goodness and bounty. But Pharaoh and his people made such ill use of his forbearance and long-suffering, as still to harden themselves the more for God's goodness and gentleness to them;—till they brought on themselves exemplary destruction, from the visible power and hand of God employed in it. This behaviour of theirs God foresaw, and so made use of their obstinate temper for his ownglory, as he himself declares, Exodus 7:3-5; Exodus 8:18; Exodus 8:32. The Apostle, by the instance of a potter's power over his clay, having demonstrated that God, by his dominion and sovereignty, had a right to set up or pull down what nation he pleased, and might, without any injustice, take onerace into his favour to be his peculiar people, or reject them, as he thought fit, in this general sense of privileges—In this verse he applies it to the subject in hand; namely, the rejection of the Jewish nation; whereof he speaks here in terms, which plainly make a parallel betweenthis and his dealing with the Egyptians, mentioned Romans 9:17.: and therefore that history, will best explain this verse, which will thence receive its full light. For it seems, at first sight, a somewhat strange sort of reasoning to say that God, to shew his wrath, endured with much long-suffering those who deserved his wrath, and were fit for destruction. But he who will read in Exodus God's dealings with Pharaoh and the Egyptians,—and how he passed over provocation upon provocation, and patiently endured those who by their first refusal, nay, by their former cruelty and oppression of the Israelites, deserved his wrath, and were fitted for destruction, that by a more signal vengeance on the Egyptians, and glorious deliverance of the Israelites, he might make his power and his goodness known,—will easily see the strong and natural sense of this and the following verse. See Locke and Doddridge.
Romans 9:23. And that he might make known— Mr. Locke thinks the sense of the place requires, that the and should be left out, as it is in some manuscripts: but the and seems essential to the text, and to the Apostle's meaning; as it connects the second reason, why God delayed the destruction of the Jewish nation, with the first reason given, Rom 9:22 thus;—God endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath, first, to shew his wrath, and to make his power known; and also, 2nd, that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy. It is added, which he had before prepared unto glory. See Colossians 1:0 and particularly Romans 9:27. The Jews were fitted for destruction long before; but the fittest time to destroythem was, after he had prepared many of the faithful among the Gentiles unto glory. For the rod of the Messiah's strength was to be sent out of Sion, Psalms 110:2. The Jewish nation was to supply the first preachers of the Gospel; and from Jerusalem their sound was to go forth into all the earth. Therefore the Jewish state, under all its corruptions, was to be preserved till the Messiah came, and, even till the Gospel, propagated by the Apostles, had taken deep root in the Gentile world. Another thing which rendered the time when the Jewish polity was overthrown the most proper, was this; because then the immediate occasion of it was the extensiveness of the divine grace. The extensive-ness of God's grace occasioned that infidelity of the Jews, which filled up the measure of their iniquity; Rom 9:33 ch. Romans 11:11-12; Romans 11:15; Romans 11:28; Romans 11:30. Thus they were diminished by that abundance which has enriched us; and so the grace of God was illustrated; or so God made known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy. See Locke.
Romans 9:25-26. As he saith also in Osee— Here are two quotations out of the prophet Hosea,—first, ch. Rom 1:10 where, immediately after God had rejected the ten tribes, Romans 9:9. (Ye are not my people, and I will not be your God,) it is added, Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered: And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God. As if he had said, "The decrease of numbers in the visible church, by God's utterly taking away the ten tribes, Rom 9:6 shall be well supplied by what shall afterwards come to pass by calling the Gentiles into it. They who had been the people of God should become Lo-ammi,—not my people: on the contrary, they who had been Lo-ammi,—not my people, should become the children of the living God." Again, Hosea 2:23. I will sow her [the Jewish church] unto me in the earth; alluding, probably, to the dispersion of the Jews over all the Roman empire; which proved a fruitful cause of preparing the Gentiles for the reception of the Gospel; And, or moreover, I will have mercy on her [the body of believing Gentiles] that had not obtained mercy. See Jeffery's "True Grounds," p. 149.; and the notes on Hosea.
Romans 9:27-28. A remnant shall be saved— That is, Only a remnant. So ch. Romans 14:2. Eats only herbs, John 18:8. If ye seek me, (that is, only me,) let these go their way. Mr. Locke would translate the next verse, For the Lord, finishing and contracting the account, in righteousness, shall make a short or small remainder in the earth.—A metaphor taken from an account, wherein the matter is so ordered, that the overplus or remainder, standing still upon the account, is very little. Compare Isa 28:22 and Daniel 9:27.
Romans 9:29. Except the Lord of Sabaoth, &c.— Lord of Hosts, &c. Instead of a seed, the words in Isaiah are, a very small remnant.
Romans 9:30-31. The Gentiles, which followed not, &c.— Righteousness or justification, is to be understood here, as ch. Romans 4:3; Romans 4:5.Genesis 15:6; Genesis 15:6. It is the justification by faith, to which the Apostle from the beginning of the Epistle has been arguing and proving that the believing Gentiles have a right, and which they have attained; but which the unbelieving Jews have not attained, because they sought it not by faith, but by the works of the law, Romans 9:32. Therefore what is meant by attaining to this justification, will be clearly understood, if we consider that the Apostle is here giving the reason why the Jews were cast off from being God's people, and the Gentiles admitted to that privilege. See Locke and Whitby.
Romans 9:33. A stumblingstone— What the unbelieving Jews stumbled at, St. Peter informs us, 1 Epist. Romans 2:8. They stumbled at the word: they were disgusted at the Gospel: the word which Christ and his Apostles preached, did not please them. It contradicted all their preconceived opinions; and, instead of continuing them to be the onlyvisible church of God in all the world, and their law and religious ceremonies the only rule of a place and interest in the peculiar kingdom of God upon earth, it entirely abolished the law in this respect; and freely took men of any nation into the peculiar kingdom of God, without any regard to the law of Moses, only upon faith in Christ. This was the word,—the word of universal grace, at which the Jews stumbled. See Isaiah 8:14; Isa 28:16. 1Co 1:23 and Whitby.
Inferences.—Let the affection which the Apostle expresses for the Jews, his countrymen and brethren according to the flesh, and the tender and pathetic representation that he makes of the privileges which they once enjoyed, awaken in our hearts an earnest solicitude, that they may by divine grace be brought back; that they may again be adopted into the family from which they have been cut off, again clothed with the glory which is departed from them; that, through him who was given for a covenant to the people, they may receive the law of life and grace, be formed to that spiritual service which it introduces, instead of their pompous ritual, and embrace the promises on which the faith and hope of their illustrious fathers were fixed.
Let it likewise teach us spiritual compassion for our kindred, who are strangers to Christ, and let us be willing to submit to the greatest difficulties, and think nothing too much to be done or borne for their recovery.
Let our souls pay a humble homage to him who is, in such an incommunicable and sublime sense, the Son of God, as to be himself over all, God blessed for evermore. With prostrate reverence let us adore him, as our Lord, and our God, and repose that unbounded confidence in him which such an assemblage of divine perfections will warrant, putting our most hearty amen to every ascription of glory, to every anthem of praise, addressed to him.
And since we see that many of the children of Abraham, and of Isaac, failed of any share in the special promises of God, let us learn to depend on no privilege of birth, on no relation to the greatest and best of men. May we seek to be inserted into the family of God, by his adopting love in Christ Jesus, and to maintain the lively exercise of faith; without which no child of Abraham was ever acceptable to God, and with which none of the children of strangers have ever failed of a share in his mercy and favour.
Let us also learn humbly to adore the righteousness and holiness of God, in all the most amazing displays of his sovereignty, which we are sure are always consistent with it. Let us own his right to confer on whom he pleases, those favours which none of us can pretend to have deserved. He has of his mere goodness given us those privileges, as Christians, and as Protestants, which he has withheld from most nations under heaven. Let us adore his distinguishing favour to us, and arrogate nothing to ourselves.
Long did his patience wait on us; and let that patience be for ever adored! It shall be glorified even in those that perish: for he is so far from destroying innocent creatures by a mere arbitrary act of power and terror, that he endureth with much long-suffering, those who by their own incorrigible wickedness prove vessels of wrath, and whom the whole assembled world shall confess fitted for the destruction to which they shall finally be consigned. That after long abuse of mercy they are hardened, and perhaps after long hardness are at length destroyed: yea, that some of the vilest of men are exalted by Providence to a station that makes their crimes conspicuous, as those of Pharaoh, till at length he shews forth his power the more awefully, and makes his name the more illustrious by their ruin, is certainly consistent with that justice which the Judge of the whole earth will never violate.
But if, in tracing subjects of this kind, difficulties arise beyond the stretch of our feeble thought, let us remember that we are men, and let us not dare to reply against God. Retiring into our own ignorance and weakness, as those that are less than nothing, and vanity, before him, let us dread by any arrogant censure to offend him who has so uncontrollable a power over us. As clay in the hand of the potter, so are we in the hand of the Lord our God. Let us acquiesce in the form that he has given us, in the rank that he has assigned us; and, instead of perplexing ourselves about those secrets of his counsels which it is impossible for us to penetrate, let us endeavour to purify ourselves from whatever would displease him; that so we may, in our respective stations, be vessels of honour, fit for the use of our Master now, and entitled to the promise of being acknowledged as his, in that glorious day when he shall make up his jewels.
How can we sinners of the Gentiles ever sufficiently acknowledge the goodness of God to us, in calling us to that full participation of Gospel-blessings which we enjoy! That in our native lands, where the name of the true God was so long unknown, we should have the honour of being called his children! Oh, that we may indeed be so, not only by an external profession, but by regenerating grace!
Blessed be God that there is a seed remaining! It is the preservation of the people among which it is found; and had it not been found among us, we had probably long since been made a seat of desolation. May it increase in the rising age, that the pledges of our continued peace and prosperity may be more assured, till our peace be like a river, and our salvation like the waves of the sea.
It will be so, if we be awakened seriously to inquire how we may be justified before God, and seek that invaluable blessing in the way here pointed out; if we seek it, not as by the works of the law, but by faith in Christ. He has, in this respect, been to many a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence. May divine grace teach us the necessity of building upon him, of resting upon him the whole stress of our eternal hopes! Then shall they not sink into disappointment and ruin; then shall we not flee away ashamed in that aweful day, when the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters of that final deluge of divine wrath shall overflow every hiding-place, but that which God has prepared for us in his own Son.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, The Jewish bigots looked upon St. Paul as a signal apostate, and persecuted him with peculiar virulence and enmity. He wished therefore to soften their exasperated spirits, while he makes profession of his own tender concern for their welfare and salvation. And there is a peculiar propriety in his introduction, when we consider the offensive truths which he was about to advance.
1. He makes a solemn protestation of the very fervent regard that he bore towards them. I say the truth in Christ, solemnly appealing to him who is the Searcher of hearts, and knoweth that I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost to the simplicity and sincerity of what I am going to say, that, far from entertaining the least prejudice or ill-will against my countrymen, I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart, feeling the acutest pangs of grief, when I think of their fearful condition, and what must be the inevitable consequences of their unbelief. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ, (αναθεμα ) content to be cut off from all my privileges as an Apostle, and to be separated from the society of the faithful with shame and disgrace, yea, to undergo the most ignominious and tormenting death, for my brethren, my kinsmen, according to the flesh.
2. He mentions the distinguished privileges with which they had been favoured of God, which could not but make their rejection peculiarly grievous to him: who are Israelites, bearing the name of their eminent progenitor Jacob; to whom pertaineth the adoption, taken into that covenant of peculiarity in which God regarded the whole nation as his visible church, Exo 4:22 and the glory, the ark, the Shechinah, the mercy-seat, the tokens and emblems of the divine presence in the midst of them; and the covenants, the covenant of circumcision made with Abraham, and renewed with Isaac and Jacob, and that of Sinai with the whole body of Israel; and the giving of the law, containing God's ordinances, moral, judicial, and ceremonial; and the service of God, in what manner his worship should be performed; and the promises, of temporal prosperity, and of the Messiah and his great salvation; whose are the fathers, the descendants of the famed patriarchs; and of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came, the promised seed of Abraham, in his human nature; but who, in his divine, is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen! Note; The divinity of our incarnate Saviour is a chief article of our creed. Thereon depends the perfection of his Atonement on our behalf.
2nd, Grief for his unhappy countrymen filled the Apostle's heart: but, though the generality of them perished, the promise made to Abraham would not be frustrated. He would not therefore have them suppose as though the word of God had taken none effect, and failed of its accomplishment, because they believed not. For they are not all Israel, true Israelites, and savingly interested in the spiritual blessings of the covenant, which are of Israel, the offspring of Jacob; neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children of God, as they flattered themselves. But I have enlarged so fully on these points in my Critical Notes, that I shall refer my readers to them, rather than run the hazard of being tedious. I will only just observe,
3rdly, That the Apostle, having proved the rejection of the Jews and the calling of the Gentiles, suggests also the reason. What shall we say then, farther in vindication of God's justice and free grace in these dispensations? It is evident, that the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have notwithstanding attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith, being accepted of God through faith in Christ Jesus: but Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, and sought justification before God by their own obedience, hath not attained to the law of righteousness, not being capable of performing that immaculate righteousness which the law demands, and therefore being left under the curse as transgressors. Wherefore have they not attained? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law, placing their dependence upon their own doings and duties, either in part, or in the whole, for their acceptance with God: for they stumbled at that stumbling-stone, the crucified Galilean, whose lowly appearance offended them, and they could not think of embracing him as their Messiah: As it is written in Isaiah, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumbling-stone, and rock of offence, that Messiah who should be the tried stone and sure foundation to those who believed, and would to those who rejected him be as the rock which dashes those to pieces who fall thereon: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed: though the generality perish in their impenitence and unbelief, yet those who dare perseveringly trust him for pardon, life, and salvation, shall never be disappointed of their hopes, but find him a Saviour to the uttermost. Note; Nothing is so fatal to the soul as dependence upon our own righteousness, either in the whole or in part, for acceptance with God; while those who, self-despairing, fly to the righteousness of faith revealed in the Gospel, are sure to be justified from all things, and, if they continue in this faith, which always works by love, shall be saved with an everlasting salvation.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Romans 9". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13