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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments
Romans 13

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-14

Romans 13:1. Let every soul be subject to the higher powers, of magistrates, governors, proconsuls, kings, and emperors. The christian finds them in power; they allow us to lock our doors at night, and their courts are open for redress of wrongs. These are the shields of heaven to which, under God, we owe our safety from anarchy. We are therefore bound to pray for kings; for in the splendour of the throne we have glory and defence, and by consequence, should cheerfully pay all just demands of taxes. The taxes bear no proportion to the plunder and requisition of an invading army. The christian must therefore shun the clubs of sedition and blasphemy, and shut his ears against their nefarious speeches. If the lawful taxes bear hard on any particular class, let them petition like Britons, and the ear of government will be open. Alas, what millions have perished, blindly seeking to overthrow the existing government of their country. This law, says Chrysostom, respects the clergy, as well as merchants. Then what become of the assumptions of the Popes? Bellarmine’s defence now sleeps in the dusty folios.

Romans 13:2. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God, by whom kings reign and princes decree justice. As God is the origin of being, so he is the origin of power, and of all order in society. The regal authority of the holy patriarchs was hereditary. Others have succeeded to power by election, and by victory in war. Voltaire had the latter in his eye when he said, “The first of kings was a fortunate soldier.” Le premiere des rois etait un heureux soldat.

Be that as it might, it does not belong to the jackals to dispute the power of the lion. The question agitated with many is, whether all power does not originate with the people; and whether a government purely democratic be not the government most congenial to a nation? We do not deny the power of the people, and especially when they rise like a stormy ocean; but a democrasy is an uncertain form of government, and generally terminates in regal power. The democrasy of Greece, flourishing for awhile, ruined all her ablest generals by a single reverse in war; while on the contrary, democratic France ruined their generals for being victorious, lest a Dumourier, or a Pichegru should acquire too much power. In society there is age, honour, wisdom and property, as well as the mass of the people; and a well-constructed government must associate all those powers in one, as is the case with the natural body of man. By consequence, King, Lords, and Commons, the work of our fathers, is the happiest association of all those powers; and every wise man will rally round the throne. Under this shadow we have no fears, except from atheism, blasphemy, and oppression of the poor.

They that resist, by overt acts of high treason, rebellion, and war, shall receive to themselves damnation. κριμα, at human tribunals, is equivalent to the sentence of death for setting themselves in military array against the government. The penitent thief said, we are in the same condemnation. In many places the term signifies the final sentence of God in the day of judgment, and the condemnation of the devil. Acts 24:25. Romans 2:2. 1 Timothy 3:6.

Romans 13:7. Tribute to whom tribute. φορς, the general tax or national impost, which was paid by Joseph in Bethlehem. Luke 2:2.

Custom to whom custom. τελος, a local or occasional tax, paid by our Saviour. Matthew 17:24. What good is the farmer’s corn, and the merchant’s wealth, if they be not protected by the civil power. The seaman who holds the helm must be supported as well as the men before the mast. A contraband trade is injustice to the state, and also to the fair trader.

Romans 13:8. Owe no man any thing, except the debt of loving one another. The merchant must not take up goods without a probability of paying for them; and the poor man, in case of distress, had better beg than contract a debt he can never pay. The poor of England are generally as deeply in debt as the shops will let them be, and pawnbrokers do but augment their miseries.

Romans 13:10. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. Nothing, as regards God, can fulfil the law but righteousness; but as regards man, if we love God, we love our brother also. We cannot therefore designedly injure him in body or in mind, but must habitually exercise towards him all the kind offices of charity, benevolence, and goodwill. Charity is the bond of perfection, the consummation of every other grace.

Romans 13:11. Knowing the time, the last times, the evil times. After illuminating the Romans by doctrines, and prescribing the moral code, the apostle rings the alarum, and calls out that it is high time to awake, and not to sleep as do others. Let us cast off the works of darkness in balls, routes, theatres, taverns, and all nocturnal associations. Birds and beasts are here tutors to man, to enjoy repose in the silence and cold of night.

Romans 13:13. Not in chambering and wantonness, indulgence in bed to unseasonable and reproachful hours. These are effects of idleness and sloth, and let the effeminate remember that such shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

Then follow strife and envying, court factions, commercial competitions and violence. In Boethius’s consolations of philosophy, (by which he means religion) we have beclouded portraits of the envious factions which existed in the Roman court; and such vices in the church spoil all the glory of the christian temper. Let us love with mutual affection, and forgive one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven us.

 


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Bibliography Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Romans 13:4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jsc/romans-13.html. 1835.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, December 12th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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