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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible
Romans 10



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The scripture sheweth the difference betwixt the righteousness of the law, and that of faith: that none, whether Jew or Gentile, who believe, shall be confounded; and that the Gentiles shall receive the word, and believe. Israel was not ignorant of these things.

Anno Domini 58.

IN what follows, the Apostle lays open the causes of the unbelief of the Jews, and answersthetwochiefobjections whereby they justified their opposition to the Gospel. The first objection was, that by teaching the justification of the Jews by faith without the works of law, the expiations of the law of Moses were rendered of no use in their justification. The second was, that by admitting the Gentiles into the church and covenant of God without circumcision, the covenant with Abraham was made void.

His answer to the first of these objections, the Apostle began with telling the Jews, that his desire and prayer to God was, that they might be saved, Romans 10:1.—Because he knew they had a great zeal in matters of religion, though it was not directed by knowledge, Romans 10:2.—Wherefore being ignorant of the kind of righteousness which God requires from sinners for their justification, even the righteousness of faith, and mistaking the nature of the law of Moses, they sought to become righteous by observing its precepts, and,where they failed, by having recourse to its expiations. So that vainly endeavouring to establish a righteousness of their own for their justification, they had not submitted tothe righteousness of God's appointment, now fully revealed in the Gospel, Romans 10:3.—But in all this they counteracted the true end of the law of Moses, which, though a political law, being given by God, and requiring a perfect obedience to all its precepts under the penalty of death, was in fact a republication of the original law of works, made, not for the purpose of justifying the Jews, but to shew them the impossibility of their being justified by law, that they might be obliged to go to Christ for thatblessing, who was exhibited the types of the law, Romans 10:4.—That the law required perfect obedience to all its precepts, the Apostle proved from Moses's description of the righteousness which it enjoined, and the reward which it promised. The former consisted in doing all the statutes and judgments of God, delivered in the law: the latter in a long and happy life in Canaan. But an immaculate obedience of this kind is impossible, and its reward of no great value, Romans 10:5.—Whereas the righteousness enjoined by the Gospel, and the reward which it promises, are very different. It enjoins a righteousness of faith, which through grace is easy to be attained; and promises eternal life, a reward no where promised in the law, as a law of works. For, says the Apostle, the Gospel which requires the righteousness of faith, to shew that that righteousness may easily be attained, thus speaketh to all mankind to whom it is now preached:—Do not object to the method of justification revealed in the Gospel, that Christ the object of thy faith is removed far from thee, and there is no person to bring him down from heaven since his resurrection and ascension, that thou mayest see and believe on him, Romans 10:6.—Neither object to his being the promised Seed, in whom all the families of the earth are to be blessed, that he was put to death, and there is no person to bring him up from the grave, that thou mayest see him crowned with glory and honour by the miracle of his resurrection, Romans 10:7.—For the Gospel tells thee, the object as well as the duty of faith is brought nigh thee; it is explained and proved to thee in the clearest manner, and is easy to be performed, as it has its seat in the mouth and in the heart, being the doctrine concerning Christ, which we preach by inspiration, and confirm by miracles, Romans 10:8.—namely, that if thou wilt confess with thy mouth before the world, that Jesus is Lord and Christ, and wilt believe in thine heart, that God raised him from the dead, and thereby declared him to be both Lord and Christ, thou shalt be saved: a reward which the law does not promise to any one, Romans 10:9.—For with the heart we believe, so as to obtain righteousness, and with the mouth confession of our faith is made, so as to have assurance of our salvation, Romans 10:10. The righteousness of faith, therefore, enjoined in the Gospel, is in its nature and in its reward entirely different from the righteousness enjoined in the law.

To the second objection, that the admission of the Gentiles into the church and peculiar covenant of God without circumcision is contrary to the covenant with Abraham; the Apostle replied, that the prophets have taught the salvation of the Gentiles by faith; particularly Isaiah, in these words; Whosoever believeth on him, shall not be ashamed, Romans 10:11.—And to shew that the expression whosoever, does not mean whosoever of the Jews only, but whosoever of the Gentiles also, the Apostleobserved, that in bestowing salvation, God makes no distinction between Jew and Greek; but, being equally related to all, is rich in goodness towards all who call upon him, Romans 10:12.—Besides, Joel has expressly declared, Joel 2:32.—That whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord, shall be saved, Romans 10:13.—But perhaps you will reply, that Joel does not speak of the Gentiles, because it cannot be said, that they believe on thetrue God, and worship him, since he was never preached to them by any messengers divinely commissioned, Romans 10:14.—although such messengers ought to have been sent to them long ago, according to Isaiah, who insinuates, that they would have been received with joy, namely, in that passage, where he says, How beautiful are the feet of them, &c. Romans 10:15.—But to this I answer, that in the passage last mentioned, Isaiah declares what ought to have happened, and not what would have happened, if the true God had been preached to the Gentiles. For he foresaw, that even the Jews, who should have been acquainted with the true God, would not believe the report of the preachers of the Gospel, concerning the Christ, (who is the true God and eternal life, 1 John 5:20.) notwithstanding it ought to have been as acceptable to them, as the preaching of the true God to the Gentiles, Romans 10:16.—However, granting that faith in the true God cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God preached, it will not follow, that the Gentiles could not believe on the true God, Romans 10:17.—For though you say, they have not heard concerning him, so as to be able to believe on him and worship him, I must tell you, yes verily they have heard; for from the beginning of the world, God has preached to all men his own being, perfections, and worship, by that grand exhibition of himself which he has made in the works of creation, as is plain from Psalms 19:4. Their sound hath gone through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. All mankind, therefore, may through the secret influences of divine grace (which must be always understood) know and worship the true God, and be saved, agreeably to Joel's declaration above mentioned, Romans 10:18.—But you will say, is it not a great objection to this doctrine, that Israel, to whom the oracles of God were intrusted, is ignorant of the salvation of the Gentiles through faith, and of their reception into the church and covenant of God equally with the Jews? I answer, if the Jews are ignorant of these things, it is their own fault. For Moses foretold them in the law, Romans 10:19.—and Isaiah yet more plainly, Romans 10:20.—who insinuated that the calling of the Gentiles to be the people of God, by the preaching of the Gospel, would provoke the Jews exceedingly and harden them in their infidelity; insomuch, that though Christ in person, and by his Apostles, should long and earnestly endeavour to persuade them, they would not believe on him, Romans 10:21.

In this manner did the Apostle lay open the true causes of the unbelief of his countrymen. They rejected the Gospel, because it reprobated that meritorious righteousness, which they endeavoured to attain by performing the sacrifices and ceremonies of the law of Moses; and because it required them to seek salvation by believing on Jesus, as Lord and Christ, and offered salvation to all the Gentiles who believed. To conclude; the same prophets having expressly foretold, that the Jews, by the calling of the Gentiles, would be provoked to reject the Gospel, and for that sin should themselves be cast off, the Apostle represented these things to them, in the hope that such among them as were candid, when they observed the events to correspond with the predictions, would acquiesce in the appointment of God concerning the Gentiles; sensible, that it was proper to preach him to all the nations of the earth, in whom all nations were to be blessed.

Verse 2

Romans 10:2. That they have a zeal of God See this zeal of theirs for God described, Acts 21:27-31; Acts 22:3.

Verse 3

Romans 10:3. God's righteousness That is, the method of salvation which is provided for mankind by the mercy and wisdom of God.

Verse 4

Romans 10:4. Christ is the end of the law, &c.— Here the Jew's argument is supposed. St. Paul, who was well acquainted with the notions of the Jews, and had often disputed with them, knowing well what the Jew would allege, for the sake of brevity puts in his answer, without formally stating the Jew's argument; and yet from the Apostle we may probably collect what was the Jew's argument. He insisted that Christ was the end or design of the law in the following sense: that is to say, that the establishment of the Messiah's kingdom, and an interest in the privileges of it, depended upon, or was the result of their submission to or observance of, the law of Moses. Against this the Apostle argues, that by obedience to the law the Jews could never have procured the coming and kingdom of Christ, or redemption by him. In that way, (Romans 10:6-7.) they could never have brought down Christ from heaven, or have raised him from the dead; it is the grace and power of God alone must do that; which they have done; and in order to an interest in the privileges and blessings of his kingdom, have left nothing on our part to be done, but faith in the heart by the operation of the Spirit of God (which the Divine Spirit is willing to accomplish), and a practice and profession suitable to it. Compare Romans 10:9 and Galatians 3:23-25. This and the following verses may be paraphrased thus: "Thus far indeed the Jews think justly, that the end and design of the law is to introduce the kingdom and dispensation of Christ the Messiah: not, as they suppose, to procure the blessings of his kingdom by the observance of the law; but Christ is the end of the law, as the law leads and obliges us to fly to that justification, or way of life and salvation, which is open and free to all who believe; Romans 10:5. For the way ofgaining a title to life and salvation by the law, as Moses describes it, is perfect immaculate obedience; a way in which no people in the world, not the Jews themselves, can hope to procure the blessings of the kingdom of the Messiah. But the way of salvation, which is by faith in Christ, runs in a quite different strain; Romans 10:6-7. It forbids the supposition of procuring the grace of redemption by any works of righteousness which we can do: for, in order to our redemption, Christ was first to come down from heaven, and to be raised from the dead after he was crucified, otherwise he could be no Saviour to us. And what man, through the perfection of his obedience to the law, could acquire either power or interest enough to bring Christ down from the heavenly mansions to this earth; or to loose the bands of death, restore him again to life, and exalt him to God's right hand, to be the author and captain of our salvation? Such mighty effects are not to be accomplished by our works; and therefore the way of salvation by faith very rightly teaches us to disclaim such vain impracticable schemes. On the contrary, it instructs us, Romans 10:8 that the mercy and kindness of God our Saviour has cleared all difficulties on his part, and reduced the affair to the lowest and easiest conditions on ours, by leaving nothing for us to do, but what through the inspiration of the Spiritof God may be performed by our heart and mouth:—Imean, that faith which I preach among the Gentiles, and which is set forth, Romans 10:9." It may be proper to observe here, that the Apostle does not quote Moses, Deuteronomy 30:12-14, by way of proving the point, but only alludes to the manner of expression; as what might with no less, if not with greater propriety, be applied to the Gospel than the law. This appears from the explication he inserts, as, that is, to bring down Christ from heaven;—that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead;—that is, the word of faith which we preach. Which explication he adds, to shew that, though he uses the words of Moses, yet he does not suppose that Moses is discoursing upon the same subject with himself. See Locke, who gives a different exposition of these verses, which, for the satisfaction of the reader, shall be mentioned on Romans 10:9.

Verse 8

Romans 10:8. The word is nigh thee The original ' Ρημα, often signifies word, but sometimes affair, business; and so does דבר deber in the Hebrew,—the word used by Moses, Deuteronomy 30:14. In this place the meaning seems to be, the affair is nigh thee, (that is, is rendered easy and feasible,) even in thy mouth, and in thy heart; that is, the affair of faith, which we preach. See Matthew 18:16. Luke 1:37; Luke 2:15. 2 Corinthians 12:4; 2 Corinthians 13:1.

Verse 9

Romans 10:9. That if thou shalt confess, &c.— St. Paul had told them, Romans 10:4. (says Mr. Locke) that the end of the law was to bring them to life by faith in Christ, that they might be justified, and so be saved. To convince them of this, he brings three verses out of the book of the law itself, declaring that the way to life was by hearkening to that word, which was ready in their mouth, and in their heart; and that therefore they had no reason to reject Jesus, the Christ, because he died, was removed into heaven, and remote from them. Their very law proposed life to them by something nigh them, which might lead them to their Deliverer; namely, by words and doctrines, which might always be at hand, in their mouths, and in their hearts, and so lead them to Christ; that is, to that faith in him which the Apostle preached. We may observe farther from this place, that the expectation of the Jews was, that the promised Messiah should be their deliverer; in which they were right: but that which they expected to be delivered from at his appearing, was the power and dominion of temporal, not spiritual enemies. When our Saviour came, the time predicted for his coming was completed, and the miracles which he did concurred to persuade that he was their Messiah; but his obscure birth and mean appearance did not correspond with those ideas which they had formed of his splendour. This, with his prediction of the destruction of their temple and state, set the rulers against him, and held the body of the Jews in suspense till his crucifixion, which made them wholly averse to him. They gave up all thoughts of being delivered by him; he was gone; they saw him no more;—and it was past a doubt with them, that a dead man could not be the Messiah or deliverer even of those who believed in him. It is against these prejudices that this and the preceding verses seem directed; wherein St. Paul teaches them, that there was no need to bring the Messiah from heaven or the grave, and introduce him personally among them; for the deliverance that he was to work for them, and the salvation he was to procure, was salvation from sin and its condemnation; and that was tobe had by believing and openly avowing him to be Messiah their king, and that he was raised from the dead; for by this they would be saved, without his personal presence among them.

Verse 11

Romans 10:11. For the Scripture saith, &c.— In this and the two preceding verses, the Apostle intends to shew the nature and efficacy of the gospel faith and profession, in opposition to the mean opinion which the Jew might have of them, in comparison with the several branches of his dependence; and which, in his eye, appeared much more honourable and magnificent. It is not necessary to spend time in settling the precise difference between believing with the heart, and confessing or professing with the mouth. Thereby the whole of true religion, both in principle and practice, is denoted;—the root in the heart, and the fruit in the life: only, professing with the mouth may be particularly mentioned, because that gives a right to the present privileges of Christ's kingdom;—none but professed believers have right to a place and standing in the church of God. Nor need we be curious to inquire into the distinction between righteousness or justification, and salvation. The Apostle's design, it seems evidently, is to express all the blessings which God will bestow in this and the future world: that the one or the other of these comprehends the present blessings and privileges of the kingdom of God, none perhaps will question: and that the one or the other takesin the final and eternal salvation of the faithful saints of God will appear, if we consider that the 11th verse, Whosoever believeth, &c. certainly refers to final salvation, or the full accomplishment of Christian faith and hope. But this quotation in the 11th verse is intended to confirm at least one of the clauses in the foregoing verse, and therefore one of these clauses must refer to the final issue of faith in everlasting life to the persevering Christian. Faith is the grand principle of the Gospel; a professed faith intitles us to present privileges; and faith, as a principle in the heart, discerning, valuing, and improving the grace of God in the Redeemer, and enabling us to resist temptation, to be stedfast and unmoveable in adhering to truth and dutyis that which constitutes the Christian, the life of sobriety, righteousness, and godliness, and such as, if persevered in (the power and blessing of God supposed) will carry us safe to eternal life. And as we are to be saved, not by mere power considered abstractedly, but in a moral way, nothing less than this faith can be appointed, or be effectual to our salvation.

Verse 13

Romans 10:13. Whosoever shall call, &c.— Believing in Christ, or God, Romans 10:11 and calling upon him, Romans 10:12-14 are in effect the same thing, as calling upon God necessarilysupposes faith in him; and he who duly believes in Christ, has such a sense of his dependence upon divine grace, that he looks unto and trusts in the power and goodness of his God alone for happiness; which is the true religion of the Gospel. Bishop Pearson argues at large from this verse, that if Christ be not here called Jehovah, the Apostle's argument is quite inconclusive. The reader cannot fail to observe and admire the fine climax in the next verse. See Benson, and Pearson on the Creed, p. 149.

Verse 15

Romans 10:15. How shall they preach, except they be sent? St. Paul is careful every where to preserve the esteem of his brethren the Jews. May not therefore this, with the two foregoing verses, be understood as an apology to them for professing himself an Apostle of the Gentiles, as he does by the tenor of this epistle, and in the next chapter expressly? Romans 10:13. In this chapter (Romans 10:12.) he had shewn, that both Jews and Greeks, or Gentiles, were to be saved by receiving the Gospel of Christ; and if so, it was necessary that somebody should be sent to teach it to them; and therefore the Jews had no reason to be offended with any one sent on that employment. Feet are variously used in Scripture, and sometimes have respect to things internal and spiritual: for as the life of man and the practice of piety are compared to walking, Psalms 1:1.; so his feet may signify the principles upon which he acts, and the disposition of his mind, as Ecclesiastes 5:1. Keep thy foot, when thou goest to the house of God. Agreeably to this, the feet of the messengers in Isaiah, and of the apostles in thisverse, may signify the validity of their mission, the authority upon which they acted, and any character or qualifications with which they were invested. Bos observes that, in Sophocles, the hands and feet of those who came upon a kind design are represented as beautiful to such as receive benefit by their arrival. See Locke, and Isaiah 52:7.

Verse 16

Romans 10:16. But they have not all obeyed This seems an objection of the Jews to what St. Paul had said, which he answers in this and the following verse. The objection and answer may stand thus: "You tell us, that you are sent from God to preach the Gospel. If it be so, how comes it that all who have heard, have not received and obeyed; especially if, as you would insinuate, the messengers of good tidings were so welcome to them?" To this he answers, out of Isaiah, That the messengers sent from God were not believed by all. And from those same words he draws an inference to confirm the argument he was upon, namely, "That salvation cometh by hearing and believing the word of God." He had laid it down, Romans 10:8 that it was by their having ρημα πιστεως, the word of faith, nigh them, or present with them, and not by the bodily presence of their Deliverer among them, that they were to be saved. This word he tells them, Romans 10:17 is by preaching brought to be actually present with them and the Gentiles; so that it was their own fault, if they believed it not to salvation. See Locke and Bos.

Verse 18

Romans 10:18. Their sound went into all the earth As the passages in the Gospels and Epistles relating to the extensive spreading of religion during the dispensation or reign of the Messiah, have a reference to the ancient prophesies, this may be the full and proper import of them;—that, asthe Gospel is a scheme of instruction commensurate to all the wants and circumstances of all, both Jews and Gentiles, it seems to have been the grand object of the grace and providence of God in this constitution, that a gradual conveyance of these salutary benefits should be vouchsafed in different ages and nations; so that, before the kingdom of the Messiah should terminate, effectual means should be used for the most extensive propagation of its light and truth: and that all knowledge of Christ is not confined within such narrow bounds as infidels imagine, will appear from the following observations: The Mohammedan, Turk, or Persian, acknowledges the miraculous birth of Christ; and the Jew, before he is permitted to embrace Mohammedanism, must profess his belief in Christ. The Mohammedan expects a second appearance of our Lord from heaven, and believes that all men will then unite in one religion. The opinion of other people in the Eastern world, who have long been considered as pagans only, may be known for certainty from their writings and religious ceremonies. Porphyry, a Grecian philosopher who wrote against Christianity, assures us, that the Indians believed that God created the world by his Son; and in their sacred book called VEDAM, whatever may be the practice of the Indians, nothing is to be found that encourages idolatry. We will now consider those opinions and practices of these people, which will shew that they are not entirely strangers to the history and doctrines of our Lord, though intermixed with pagan notions, and grossly corrupted. The Indians have applied to their god XACA, almost everycircumstance in the life of Jesus. "He was born of a virgin, washed with the dew of heaven; the whole world shines with unusual splendour at his birth; the earth trembles; chosen hymns are sung; the infant is adored, and gifts are offered to him. He is presented in the temple, and worshipped. They who are inspired, foretel many miracles to be performed by him; and the most ancient prophet, taking him in his arms, embraces him with tenderness, speaks of the wonders that he is to perform, the divine truths that he is to unfold, and particularly what was to happen to him in the desert. From his mother's womb he is endowed with the knowledge of all things, self-taught, astonishing the most learned. He is led into the wilderness, where he continues a long time praying and fasting.—Again he returns to the wilderness; the adversary of mankind is astonished at the greatness of his contemplation, and, surrounded by his infernal agents, assails him. XACA is victorious, and the evil-one with his followers leave him. After this, he chose disciples, gave them a new law, and provided the proper remedies against sin. Infinite and most marvellous were the works that he performed upon the minds of unbelievers, to convert them to his religion. His doctrine is preached to all nations, and, supported by miracles, is universally embraced.—The law being restored, he dies! the earth shakes with dreadful concussions! a thick darkness obscures the sky! After the death of Xaca, his disciples commit all the actionsof their master to writing."—If any difficulty arises in ascribing the actions of Christ to XACA, from the change of names only, we shall find that these eastern people are not absolutely strangers to the name of Christ and other persons recorded in the Gospel.—They speak of CHRIST, whom they expressly call Krisnu, as one whose conception was miraculous, born under the constellation of the Virgin in the Agiodia, or Judea, of whom it was foretold by Aggr, an angel,—"He shall save his nation Judah, of the race of shepherds." Sridoroh, or Herod, feigning a desire to see the infant, commands the slaughter of the innocents. This KRISNU of the Indians performed many miracles exactly the same with those recorded of Jesus. The transfiguration upon mount Tabor is related intheir histories, and John in particular is said to have been one of those who were present.—KRISNU, before his death, sups with his disciples, and they are washed: after this, near Gethsemane, a tumult arises; he is embraced by Judas, whom they call Giudistira, and he recommends the women to the care of ARGIUN, or John.—XACA (Sesac), BISNU, the Chinese FO, and KRIS, or KRISTNU, is Christ; who is crucified in every mind; the first man; the first offspring; only Son; lawgiver; deliverer; Saviour! The many crosses erected by the Indians of Nepal, seem originally to have been in commemoration of the crucifixion of ourLord. These Indians of Nepal erect crucifixes, with nails through the hands and feet; and the grand lama celebrates a sacrifice with bread, and what he is permitted to drink, (wine being forbidden,) of which he takes a small portion himself, and distributes the rest to the lamas who assist at that ceremony. Hence it is evident, that these nations, though Persians, Indians, Tartars, and Chinese, have some knowledge of Christ, his history, doctrines, and institutions; and there Christianity has been more universal than many imagine. It is said that the patriarch of Mousul had under him one of the most numerous sees of the world; for he had under his jurisdiction all the north of Asia, the ancient churches of China, Ceylon, Malabar, and other Christian nations among the Indians, exclusive of the churches of Persia, Zocotora, Chaldea, Syria, Arabia, and perhaps other provinces which are unknown. We have a more particular account by Cosmas Indicopleustes, an author who lived in the middle of the sixth century. "The Christians," says he, "having been at first severely persecuted by Greeks and Jews, conquered and converted those who persecuted them; thus the church is not overthrown but multiplied; so that the whole earth is filled with the doctrine of the Lord Christ, and yet it increases; and the Gospel is preached throughout the world, which in many places, when present, I have seen, and, having learned, I therefore declare the truth. In the island of Taphrobane [Ceylon] in the interior India, surrounded by the Indian sea, is a church of Christians. In like manner, in the country called Male [Malabar], and in Kalliana [Calecut], is a bishop, who is consecrated in Persia. Also in the island called Dioscorides [Zocotora] are clergy ordained in Persia, and sent from thence into this island. Also amongthe Bactrians, Hunns, Persians, and other Indians, Pers-Armenians, Medes, Elamites, throughout all the region of Persia are churches innumerable, and bishops, and many martyrs: likewise, in Ethiopia, in Axomi, and in all that country. Among the inhabitants of Arabia-Felix, now called the Homeritae, throughout all Arabia, Palestine, Phoenicia, and all Syria, and Antiochia, to Mesopotamia, among the Nobatae and Garamantae in Egypt, Lybia, Pentapolis, Africa, and Mauritania, as far as Gades to the south, are Christian churches wherein the Gospel of Christ is preached: again also, in Cilicia, Asia, Cappadocia, Lazica, Pontus, and the northern parts of Scythia, among the Hyrcani, Heruli, Bulgarians, Helladici,Illyrians,Dalmatians,Goths,Spaniards,Romans,Franks,andothernations, as far as Gades in the South-sea, all believing and preaching the Gospel of Christ. And thus we see the prophesies accomplished in the whole world!" Upon the whole, the amazing progress that Christianity made in the world, when first promulgated, is a very strong argument in its favour. It was not propagated, at its commencement, during its grand increase, and while in its glory, by the sword, nor by tumult; nor enforced by the arts of vain philosophy, or the enticing words of man's wisdom: it derived all its force and evidence from the power of God exerted in the performing of miracles; from the veracity of God in accomplishing the ancient prophesies; from the Spirit of God; from the voice of reason and truth, the blameless lives and heroic martyrdom of its professors, its own superior excellence, and the suitableness of it to the exigencies of mankind. When we consider the number and characters of the Apostles,—how few! how unqualified by education for the conversion of the world! when we know that some few fishermen, and others of the lower class, undertook and succeeded in the establishing of a new religion in the world; we cannot deny them to have had the gift of tongues, and the power of working miracles. It is credulity unworthy of the most superstitious to believe, that such men as the apostles were, withoutthose extraordinary powers which the Jews and Pagans, and more particularly such an artful impostor as Simon Magus, confessed them to have had,should be able, in a short time, to propagate Christianity throughout the world. What have other men of superior parts and education been able to perform without miracles or force? See Raverette, Sharpe's Discourse on Want of Universality, Matthew 24:14. Acts 2:5; Acts 13:47.

Verse 19

Romans 10:19. Did not Israel know? In this and the next verses, St. Paul seems to introduce the Jews as arguing, that they did not deserve to be cast off, because they did not know that the Gentiles were to be admitted; and so might be excused if they did not embrace a religion wherein they were to mix with the Gentiles: to which he answers in this and the following verses; First, Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy. Jealousy is an affection of the mind excited by another's being our rival, or sharing in those honours or enjoyments which we highly esteem, which we account our own property, and which we are greatly desirous of securing to ourselves. Thus the Jews moved God to jealousy, by giving to idols the honour and worship due to him alone, or by acting towards God in such a manner as usually creates jealousy in a man. For which reason it is predicted, Deuteronomy 32:21 that they should be repaid in their own coin, and be moved to jealousy:—How?—By transferring from them the honours and privileges in which they gloried, to those whom they despised;—to a lo-am, a no-people; that is, to the Gentiles. Lo-am, a no-people, or not a people, is the character of the heathen world, as not interested in the peculiar covenant of God. Therefore this text, as it lies in Deuteronomy, is full to the Apostle's purpose; and does not relate to their being conquered by heathen nations, but to their being stripped of boasted honours, and seeing them conferred upon those whom they contemned as the vilest people. How much the Jews were irritated at the preaching of the Gospel to the Gentiles is well known. See Matthew 21:43; Matthew 21:46. Acts 22:21-22. 1 Thessalonians 2:15-16.

Inferences.—It is certain, that we ought not to infer from the two last chapters, that God is a despotic, arbitrary sovereign, whose mere will, without the most perfect coincidence of all his moral perfections, is the only rule of all his actions. The great God, though he be supreme and accountable to none, always governs himself by the eternal and unalterable rules of wisdom, equity, and goodness. His will is not itself, abstractedly considered, the standard and measure of the divine conduct; but there is an intrinsic necessary difference, in the nature of things, between just and unjust, beneficence and cruelty, which cannot be altered. Indeed, what God wills is always right and fit; always, upon the whole, fittest and best. But why? not merely because he wills it, but because he is necessarily wise, just, and good. For can any man imagine, that if he should will to deceive, to vex and torment his innocent creatures, and employ his infinite power only to make them miserable, (which is a very possible supposition, if his will alone, in this abstract sense, be the rule of his proceedings,) such a conduct would be justifiable? Nay,—for ever this must be maintained, as a necessary consequence from such principles, that it would be better, and more praiseworthy, than righteousness, truth, and mercy?

There cannot be a more dishonourable reflection on God, than to suppose that he acts without a reason, merely from humour, and arbitrary pleasure. It represents him as a tyrant, not as a wise and righteous governor. It renders him frightful to our contemplation, the object of aversion and horror, and destroys all rational esteem and love of him, and confidence in him. All reasonable expectations of favour from him must sink and vanish at once: for who knows how such a capricious being, who is not determined by reason and justice, but makes his mere will his only law,—who can know in what manner he will act? What possible assurance can there be, that he will not resolve on the misery and ruin of his rational creatures at all events and without any reason? Nay, if he has promised the contrary, can we have any certainty that the same arbitrary will that made, will not also break the promise? Mere will and humour are fickle, uncertain, changeable things; but truth and goodness are steady principles, and a solid foundation for our trust and hope. We may add, that the representing of God in this manner, renders him infinitely more formidable than any earthly tyrants ever were or can be; even those who have been the greatest scourges and plagues of mankind; because he is possessed of almighty and uncontrollable power; and the thought of almighty power, that is not directed by wisdom and goodness, must fill the considerate mind with the utmost astonishment and terror. Shall we then give such a reproachful character of the most perfect, the most amiable of all Beings? Shall we picture the very best of Beings as the very worst? And represent Him, in whose unerring wisdom, strict impartial justice, and universal unchangeable goodness, the whole rational world have the highest reason to rejoice, as one whom every wise man must wish not to exist?

We may next consider to what cases the words of ch. Romans 9:20 may be properly applied: we hope it appears sufficiently from what has been said in the course of the foregoing notes, that the passages before us, which have been so confounded and darkened by many expositors, relate only to God's dealings with national and collective bodies of men; and not to his favour or displeasure towards particular persons, and determining absolutely, without any regard to their actions, their eternal state hereafter. The argument which St. Paul pursues is only this: "That God might dispense his extraordinary favours as he saw fit; and consequently eminently distinguish one nation, and pass by others, without the least injustice; and to censure such a way of proceeding, in the Proprietor and sovereign Disposer of all things, was arrogant and presumptuous." And hence we learn to what questions the words in ch. Romans 9:20 may be properly and justly applied; namely, to such as these:—Why God vouchsafes a revelation of his will to some nations and not to others? Why, for example, he has not made the Christian revelation universal?—Why does he permit moral and natural evil?—Why has he not made all creatures of the highest order, and communicated to all equal degrees of perfection and happiness?—Nothing of this can be shewn to be contrary to justice, because they are all favours, which his creatures have no right to claim. And therefore in these, and all other cases of a like nature, it is very pertinent to say to an objector, Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God?

Hence then we learn, 1st, How necessary it is that we consider the uses to which passages of Scripture are applied,—without arguing generally from what is only adapted to a particular case. This is one reason why texts are so perverted, and strained to such absurd and unnatural senses, as are not only contrary to their true design, and the general scope and tenor of the revelation, but strike at the foundation of all religion.

2nd, Let us cultivate in our minds the higher reverence of God, especially the most honourable apprehensions of his moral character; and being persuaded that all his counsels are the result of infinite wisdom, and that his will is ever determined by the highest reason, let us humbly acquiesce in all the methods of his grace and providence. Survey the works of God, the exquisite beauty and harmony of the whole, the admirable connection and sub-serviency of the several parts; nay, survey thy own frame,—the curious and astonishing structure of thy body,—the noble faculties and capacities of thy mind;—and, from the surprising marks of wisdom and goodness, which thou canst not distinctly perceive, in thine own make, and in the whole constitution of things, draw the just and natural inference: that the great Author and Governor of the universe is possessed of these perfections, in the most absolute and complete manner; and consequently, that all things are contrived and ordered with the same wise and benevolent view; though in particulars it does not appear equally, and in some, perhaps, not at all, to thy limited understanding.

The improving constantly in our mind, worthy notions of God, as a Being supremely wise, and immutably just and good, will be attended with very great advantages. It will restrain that impertinent humour of scepticism and cavilling, which makes men oppose their ignorance and prejudices to his infinite wisdom: we shall always consider the great God as the most amiable and delightful object of our contemplation; neither as a weak, capricious being, whom we cannot reverence; nor as a rigid, tyrannical being, whom we cannot love. In short, our religion, built on the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord, and embracing and coinciding with the whole round of his divine perfections, will be wise and rational, just and good, and holy; and there can be no foundation for any of those superstitious mixtures which expose the most excellent, most good and most useful thing in the universe, to the contempt and ridicule of the infidel and profane.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, The Apostle here,

1. Expresses his fervent desire for the salvation of his countrymen. Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. Notwithstanding what he was, in the discharge of his office, compelled to say concerning the general rejection of the Jews, he was yet affectionately desirous of their salvation, and ceaseless in supplications at a throne of grace that they might yet be convinced and converted, and thereby plucked as brands from the burning. Notes; (1.) Those we preach to, we must fervently pray for, that God may give them repentance to the acknowledgement of the truth. (2.) They who know the value of immortal souls, will feel their eternal interests warm upon their hearts.

2. He speaks most respectfully of them, For I bear them record, that they have a zeal of God, a fixed aversion to idolatry, a strong attachment to his law and divinely instituted ordinances, and in their persecutions of Christianity really think they do God service: but they are misguided, and do not act according to knowledge; they understand not the nature and design of the law, and have imbibed the strongest prejudices against the true Messiah, and the way of salvation which he has brought to light by the Gospel. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, resting their acceptance before God on the footing of their own moral and ceremonial services, have not submitted to the righteousness of God, which he has provided and accepted in his dear Son, and which, embraced by faith, is, and can be, the only ground of the sinner's justification before God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. He alone immaculately fulfilled the moral law, and in his life and death fully satisfied the demands of divine justice; and he hath abolished the ceremonial law, bring himself the substance of which that was the shadow. He alone therefore, being embraced by faith, can justify the sinner before God. Note; Nothing is more fatally dangerous to the soul, than ignorance of the spirituality of God's law, and of our own inability to answer its demands.

2nd, There are two methods of justification.

1. By the law; and that justification is thus described by Moses, The man that doeth those things, all that is written in the book of the law, perfectly, universally, abidingly, without failure, flaw, or infirmity, shall live by them, and be entitled to life eternal. But no fallen creature ever did, or ever can do this; therefore justification and salvation are not this way attainable.

2. By the Redeemer's substitution in our stead, accompanied with faith in him. The law of works, in our present condition, only preaches despair; but the righteousness which is of faith, which God has provided and accepted, and faith embraces, speaketh on this wise, to the conscience burdened with sin and guilt; Say not in thine heart, as if despairing of justification before God, Who shall ascend into heaven, that is, to bring Christ down from above to make atonement for sin: it is needless, seeing that by one oblation, once offered, he has completed the great atonement. Or who shall descend into the deep? that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead. This is already done, and God, by the resurrection of Jesus, has testified the full satisfaction which has been made to his law and justice; so that the bar to our acceptance before God is now removed. Instead, therefore, of the impossibilities which guilty fear and unbelief would suggest, the Gospel opens a door of hope to the miserable and the desperate. But what saith it? Why, all that we can wish and desire, to silence our terrors, and revive our drooping hearts. The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart; brought near in the Gospel revelation, acknowledged, and made effectual by the Spirit to the believing heart; that is the word of faith which we preach, holding up Christ as the glorious object, whom faith embraces: the tenor of our declarations, as authorized of God to speak, is this, that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, as the true Messiah, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. No works of the law, nor other title whatever, is needful to justification, but this; and all who, renouncing themselves, repose their whole confidence upon Jesus, as delivered for their offences, and raised for their justification, are built on the only true foundation. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; faith is not a mere notion entertained in the head, but the cordial submission of the heart; and with the mouth confession is made of our faith before God and men unto salvation, there being an inseparable connection between true faith and real internal salvation; for the Scripture saith, whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed; whatever his condition has been, he will not now be ashamed of Christ; and however great his guilt has been, no condemnation now lies against him. Lord, in this faith may I be found, living and dying!

3rdly, Under the Gospel dispensation, mankind are in some sense on a level, without respect to any people or nation. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek; both have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; both must be saved freely by grace, through the redemption which is in Jesus Christ, or perish everlastingly: for the same Redeemer, who is Lord over all, is rich in grace, and boundless in mercy unto all that call upon him, as perishing and helpless without him. For, so it was foretold, Joel 2:32. Whosoever (without exception) shall call upon the name of the Lord Jesus, depending faithfully upon his atonement, shall be saved, from guilt and sin. But if the Gentiles are included in the dispensation of the Gospel, then,

1. It was needful that the Gospel should be preached to them; and St. Paul's brethren had no just ground for their enmity against him, because he was appointed the Apostle of the Gentiles. For how then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? Faith is essential to the very being of prayer, and without it the service of the lip and the knee is vain and unprofitable; and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? They must hear of Jesus in his saving offices, before they can possibly trust in him: and how shall they hear without a preacher, to make known to them the revelation of God's will? and how shall they preach, except they be sent with a divine commission? Note; Before any presume to preach, let it be clear that they have a mission from God. To run unsent is insolent presumption.

2. The Gospel contains the best news that ever reached mortal ears, and should be matter of joy wherever it is carried; as it is written (Isaiah 52:7.), How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the Gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! Which prophesy terminated not in the joyful messages of Israel's deliverance from Babylon, but looked forward to the great redemption of Jesus, and that Gospel which his ministers should publish, a Gospel of peace, where God was, in Christ, reconciling sinners to himself, and proclaiming the glad news of pardon and salvation to guilty and perishing souls; and they who feel the comfort of the message, cannot but, for its sake, delight in and honour the messengers.

3. Though the Gospel in itself contained such a welcome message, yet in general both among Jews and Gentiles, it has been rejected. But they have not all obeyed the Gospel, and yielded themselves up to the Saviour. No; contrariwise, the generality of those to whom it is preached harden their hearts. For Esaias saith, foreseeing the little comparative success which the ministers of Christ should meet with, Who hath believed our report? How few are found faithful among the many called? Yet the Gospel report is the favour of life unto life in them who are saved. So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God, this being the ordinary means, and made effectual by the Spirit's power, that arm of the Lord which reveals Christ to the hearts of all that will believe.

4. But I say, have they not heard, both Jews and Gentiles, the Gospel word? Yes, verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world. And this extensive spread of the Gospel, by those preachers whom God sent forth, however the multitude rejected the counsel of God, was a token of his good will to the Gentiles.

5. But I say, did not Israel know that God designed to shew mercy to the Gentiles? Had they attended to their own prophets, they would have seen how groundless their imaginations were, that the blessings of the Messiah's kingdom should be confined to them, and the Gentiles excluded. For first Moses saith, for whom they profess peculiar veneration, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you. The Gentiles were long excluded from the peculiar privileges of God's people, and, amidst all their wisdom, were in general entirely ignorant of spiritual things: to have them therefore now brought into the peculiar kingdom of the Messiah, should have provoked a holy emulation in the Jewish nation; but it wrought a contrary effect, exciting the greater bitterness and enmity against the converted Gentiles. He produces another Scripture, strongly proving the divine determination with regard to the calling of the Gentiles and the rejection of the Jews. Moses had intimated it, but Esaias is very bold, and, with great plainness and freedom, foretels to his countrymen this mortifying event, and saith, I was found of them that sought me not, I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me, preventing the Gentiles with the blessings of his goodness, and the calls of his grace, when they were in general without one thought of the true God, worshipping their idols. But to Israel he saith, now to be rejected for their impenitence and obstinacy, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people; his patience therefore being wearied out, especially by their opposition to the Gospel, he abandons them to ruin. Note; (1.) If God had not first sought us, we should never have inquired after him. (2.) When the Lord has waited long to be gracious, and used the most powerful means to work upon the sinner's heart,—if he still rejects the counsel of God against his own soul, justly does God decree, "My Spirit shall not always strive," and leaves him to the destruction which he has chosen.


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Romans 10:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.

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Wednesday, December 2nd, 2020
the First Week of Advent
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