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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible
Romans 11

 

 

Introduction

CHAP. XI.

God hath not cast off all Israel. The Gentiles may not insult over them. God's judgments are unsearchable.

Anno Domini 58.

OUR Lord having declared to the chief priests and elders of the Jews, that the kingdom of God was to be taken from the Jews and given to the Gentiles, Matthew 21:43 also having foretold to the same persons the burning of Jerusalem, Matthew 22:7 and to his disciples the demolition of the temple, and the dispersion of the nation, on account of their unbelief, Luke 21:24 we cannot think that the Christian preachers would conceal these things from their unbelieving brethren. Stephen seems to have spoken of them, Acts 5:13 and St. Paul often. For the objection which he puts in the mouth of a Jew, Romans 3:3. Will not their unbelief destroy the faithfulness of God? is founded on his having affirmed that the nation was to be cast off, and driven out of Canaan. Farther, the same Apostle, in chap. 9: of this epistle, has shewn, that without injustice God might take away from the Jews privileges which he had conferred on them gratuitously; and even punish them by expelling them from Canaan for their disobedience. Wherefore that the foreknowledge of the evils which were coming on their brethren, might not affect the Jewish Christians too much, the Apostle, in this chapter, comforted them, by assuring them that the rejection of the nation was not to be total, Romans 11:1-10.—Neither is it to be final, but for a limited time only, to make way for the entering of the Gentiles into the church, by whose reception the Jews at last will be provoked to emulate them, and will receive the Gospel; Romans 11:11-16.—On this occasion the Apostle exhorted the Gentiles, now become the visible church of God, not to speak with contempt of the Jews who were rejected, because if they themselves became disobedient toGod, they should in like manner be cast off; Romans 11:17-24.—Then, for the consolation of the Jewish converts, he assured them that, after the fulness of the Gentiles is come into the church, the whole nation will be converted to the Christian faith, as was predicted by Isaiah; Romans 11:25-27.

The great events in the divine dispensations displayed in this chapter; namely, the rejection and dispersion of the Jewish nation, the abrogation of the law of Moses, the general conversion of the Gentiles, and the future conversion and restoration of the Jews, St. Paul was anxious to place in a proper light; because the Jews, believing that no person could be saved out of their church, interpreted the prophesies concerning the calling of the Gentiles, of their conversion to Judaism. What impression his declarations concerning these events made on the unbelieving Jews of his own time, is not known. This only is certain, that in a few years after the Epistle to the Romans was written, the Apostle's prediction concerning the rejection of the Jews, and the destruction of their religious and political constitution, received a signal accomplishment. Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans, the temple was thrown down to the foundation, and such of the Jews as survived the war were sold into foreign countries for slaves. The Levitical worship, by this means, being rendered impracticable, and the union of the Jews as a nation being dissolved, God declared, in a visible manner, that he cast off the Jews from being his peculiar people, and that he had put an end to the law of Moses, and to the Jewish peculiarity. Wherefore, after the pride of the Jews was thus humbled, and their power to persecute the Christians was broken, any opposition which, in their dispersed state, they could make to the Gospel was of little avail; and any attempts of the judaizing teachers to corrupt its doctrines, on the old pretence of the universal and perpetual obligation of the law of Moses, must have appeared ridiculous. And this is what the Apostle meant, when he told the Romans, chap. Romans 16:20. That the God of peace would bruise Satan under their feet shortly.—Farther, in regard that the Apostle's predictions concerning the rejection of the Jews have long ago been accomplished, we have good reason to believe that the other events foretold by him will be accomplished likewise in their season; namely, the general coming of the Gentiles into the Christian church, and the conversion of the Jews in a body to the Christian faith, and their restoration to the privileges of the people of God.

His discourse on these important subjects the Apostle concluded with remarking, that Jews and Gentiles, in their turn, having been disobedient to God, he has locked them all up as condemned criminals, that he might in one and the same manner have mercy on all, by bestowing on them, from mere favour, the blessings promised in the covenant with Abraham, Romans 11:30-32. And being deeply affected with the survey which he had taken of God's dealings with mankind, he cried out, as ravished with the grandeur of the view, O the riches, both of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! Romans 11:33-35.—Then he ascribed to God, the glory of having created the universe, and of preserving and governing it, so as to make all things issue in the accomplishment of those benevolent purposes, which his wisdom had planned from the beginning, for making all his believing creatures happy, Romans 11:36.

In this sublime manner has the Apostle finished his discourse concerning the dispensations of religion which have taken place in the different ages of the world. And, from his account, it appears, that these dispensations were adapted to the then circumstances of mankind; that they are parts of a grand design, formed by God, for delivering all that will believe of the human race from the evil consequences of sin, and for exalting the faithful to the highest perfection of which their nature is capable: and that both in its progress, and its accomplishment, the scheme of man's salvation contributes to the establishment of God's moral government, and to the displaying of his perfections in all their lustre to the whole intelligent creation. This grand scheme, therefore, being highly worthy of God its author, the Epistle to the Romans, in which it is so beautifully displayed in its several parts, is certainly one of the most useful books of Scripture, and merits to be read with attention, not by Christians only, but by unbelievers, if they wish to know the real doctrines of revelation, and what the inspired writers themselves have advanced, for shewing the propriety of the plan of our redemption, and for confuting the objections which have been raised, either against revelation in general, or any part thereof in particular.


Verse 1

Romans 11:1, &c. I say then, &c.— This chapter is of the prophetic kind. It was by the spirit of prophesy that the Apostle foresaw the rejection of the Jews, which he supposes in the two foregoing chapters; for when he wrote this Epistle, they were not in fact rejected, seeing that their church and polity were then standing: but the event has proved that he was a true prophet; for we know that in about ten or eleven years after the writing of this letter, the temple was destroyed; the Jewish polity overthrown; and the Jews expelled the promised land, which they have never been able to recover to this day. This, first, confirms the arguments which the Apostle has advanced to establish the calling of the Gentiles; for the Jews are infact rejected; consequently our calling is in fact not invalidated by any thing which they have suggested, relating to the perpetuityoftheMosaical dispensation; but that dispensation being wholly subverted, our title to the privileges of God's church and people stands clear and strong. The Jewishconstitutionalonecouldfurnishobjectionsagainstourclaim; and the event has silenced every objection from that quarter. Secondly, The actual rejection of the Jews proves St. Paul to be a true Apostle of Jesus Christ, who spake by the Spirit of God; otherwise, he could not have argued so fully upon a case which was yet to come, and of which there was no appearance in the state of things, when he wrote this Epistle. This should dispose us to pay great regard to the present chapter, in which he discourses concerning the extent and duration of the rejection of his countrymen, to prevent their being insulted and despised by the Gentile Christians. First, As to the extent ofthis rejection: it is not absolutely universal; some of the Jews have embraced the Gospel, and are incorporated into the church of God with the believing Gentiles. Upon the case of those believing Jews he comments, ver. l-7. Secondly, As to the duration of it; it is not final and perpetual; for all Israel, or the nation of the Jews, who are now blinded, shall one day be saved, or brought again into the peculiar kingdom and covenant of God. Upon the state of those blinded Jews he comments, Romans 11:7 to the end of the chapter. His design in discoursing upon this subject was not only to make the thing itself known, but partly to engage the attention of the unbelieving Jew; to conciliate his favour; and, if possible, to induce him to come into the Gospel scheme; and partly to dispose the Gentile Christians not to treat the Jews with contempt;(consideringthattheyderivedalltheirpresentblessingsfromthepatriarchs, the ancestors of the Jewish nation, and were ingrafted into the good olive-tree, whence they were broken) and to admonish them to take warning by the fall of the Jews, that they improved their religious privileges, lest through unbelief any of them should relapse into heathenism, or perish finally at the last day. The thread of his discourse leads him into a general survey and comparison of the several dispensations of God towards the Gentiles and Jews; which he concludes with adoration of the depths of the divine knowledge and wisdom, exercised in the various constitutions erected in the world: Romans 11:30, &c.

This first verse is a question in the person of a Jew, who made the objections in the foregoing chapter, and continues to object here. The word ' Απωσατο, rendered cast away, is very strong and emphatical. "Hath God absolutely, universally, and for ever thrust his people away from him?" See Acts 27:31; Acts 13:46, 1 Timothy 1:19.

Instead of Wot,—Wot ye not,—and maketh intercession; some read, Know ye not—maketh complaint.


Verse 3

Romans 11:3. Digged down thine altars It hence seems, that though, according to the law there was only one altar for sacrifice, and that in the place where God had fixed his peculiar residence; yet, by some special dispensation, pious persons in the ten tribes built altars elsewhere. It is well known, at least, that Samuel and Elijah had done it; and perhaps they were either kept up, or others raised on the same spots of ground. Baal, or Baalim, (see Romans 11:4.) was a general name, whereby the false gods and idols were denoted in Scripture. See Judges 11:11-13, Hosea 11:2. Locke and Doddridge.


Verse 6

Romans 11:6. And if by grace Here the Apostle has his eye upon the remnant of the Jews who had embraced the Gospel, mentioned in the foregoingverse; and he throws in this verse to shew them, that their standing in the Christian church had no relation to or dependence upon their past or present observance of the law of Moses. Their standing in the church and covenant of God was according to the election of grace; grace, received by faith, was the only ground upon which they stood, and had a title to the privileges of God's people. The election of grace is not a particular act of sovereign grace, which singled out some few of the Jews, who deserved to have been cast off as well as the rest; but it is that general scheme of grace, according to which God purposed to take into his church and kingdom any, among either Jews or Gentiles, who believed in Christ; and the remnant of the Jews were taken in, not because God singledthem out from the rest of their countrymen, by such a special act of favour as might have taken in all the Jews, had he so pleased; but because they believed, and so came into the scheme of election which God had appointed: out of which election they, as well as others, would have been excluded, had they, like the rest, remained in unbelief, and into which election all the Jews, to a man, notwithstanding they were all sinners, would have been taken, had they all believed in Christ. This, and the preceding verse, may be paraphrased thus:"So it is at this very time: there is a remnant of the Jews, a considerable number, who have accepted of the grace of the Gospel, and are the people of God, after the only true way of choosing his people, which is by grace; and here, by the way, (Romans 11:6.) let me put this remnant of the Jews, who have embraced the Gospel, in mind, that if their standing in the church is of grace and favour, it is wholly so, and in no part or respect dependent upon their observance of the law of Moses; for if it were, grace would lose its proper nature and cease to be what it is; a free undeserved gift. On the other hand, were it true that they are invested in the privileges of the kingdom of Christ by the observance of the law of Moses, then grace would be quite set aside; for if it were not, work, or the merit of obedience, would lose its proper nature, which excludes favour and free gift." See Locke and Doddridge.


Verse 7

Romans 11:7. That which he seeketh for Namely, that righteousness, whereby he was to continue the people of God. See ch. Romans 9:31. It may be observed, that St. Paul's discourse being concerning the national privilege of continuing the people of God, he speaks here, and all along, of the Jews in the collective term Israel; and so likewise he calls by the name of election the remnant, which would remain his people, and incorporate with the converted Gentiles into one body of Christians; owning the dominion of the one true God in the kingdom that he had set up under his Son, and owned by God for his people. See the preceding note. How the rest were blinded, see 2 Corinthians 3:13; 2 Corinthians 3:18.


Verses 8-10

Romans 11:8-10. According as it is written We need not suppose that the Apostle quotes these passages of Scripture as if they predicted the blindness and obduracy of the Jews in his time. It is sufficient for his purpose, if the case of wicked Jews in former ages shews the true reason of the infidelity, obstinacy, and wretchedness of the Jews who rejected the Gospel: for that is the point in view; not to prove that the infidel Jews were blinded,—which was but too evident from their bitter opposition to the Gospel, and so wanted no proof; but to shew them the malignant cause and direful effects of their unbelief.


Verse 11-12

Romans 11:11-12. Have they stumbled—? &c.— The English reader may imagine that as the same word fall is used in the translation, so it is in the same word in the Greek. But their fall, and the fall of them, is παραπτωμα, the same word which we render offence, ch. Romans 5:15; Romans 5:17-18 whereas that they should fall, is ινα πεσωσι . Now πιπτω, to fall, is used sometimes in a sense so very emphatical as to signify being slain; and it is in this sense that St. Paul uses it here; when he says, that they should fall, he means a fall quite destructive and ruinous: whereas by their fall, and the fall of them, he means no more than such a lapse as was recoverable; as in the case of Adam's offence. Through their fall, must imply only, "Through that which occasioned their fall:" for it should be well observed, that the fall of the Jews was not in itself the cause or reason of the calling of the Gentiles, or of their obtaining salvation: for, whether the Jews had stood or fallen, whether theyhad embraced or rejected the Gospel, it was the original purpose of God to take the Gentiles into the church; and that purpose, which he purposed when he made the covenant with Abraham, was the reason why the Gentiles were taken into the church,—and not the fall of the Jews. Nor, for the same reason, was their fall the necessary means of salvation to the Gentiles; for the unbelief of the Jews could be no cause of the faith of the Gentiles. Therefore their fall must not be here understood simply, but under its proper circumstances, or in connection with its cause; or as connecting the dispensation which occasioned it. The extensiveness of the divine grace, which threw down the boundaries of their peculiarity, occasioned their fall; and thus through their fall salvation came to the Gentiles; or that which made them fall, brought salvation to us. Their fall is put for the cause of their fall, by a metonymy of the effect; nor is this mode of speech objectionable, any more than that, 1 Corinthians 11:10. For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head, because of the angels; where power is put for a veil, the token of man's superiority, and the woman's subjection. And so the glory of God, Romans 3:23 is put for that whereby God is glorified; and the enmity, Ephesians 2:15 is put for the cause of their enmity. Though the same word is used here and Romans 11:14 that is used ch. Romans 10:19 which is there well enough rendered provoked to jealousy; yet in this place it is improperly translated in that manner: for it is to be understood here, in the good and laudable sense; namely, being excited to emulate the good and virtuous; and therefore should be rendered, to excite them to emulation. The extensiveness of the divine grace occasioned the fall of the Jews; which extensive grace brought salvation to the Gentiles. And the Jews seeing the Gentiles enriched with the honours of God's people, appearing illustriously in the gifts of the Spirit conferred upon them, ought to have been thereby convinced of their mistake, and excited by repentance and faith to have recovered the degree of dignity whence they were fallen. Thus the Jews were so far from being fallen beyond a possibility of recovering themselves through grace, that their fall was so circumstanced, as to afford them a motive to be zealous in attempting to gain what they saw they had lost. See Locke.


Verse 13-14

Romans 11:13-14. For I speak, &c.— Some read these verses in a parenthesis, thus: (I say to you, Gentiles, so far as I am the Apostle of the Gentiles, I am used to honour my ministry, Romans 11:14. That I may by any means excite to emulation them who are of my flesh, and may save some of them:). Magnify, unless when applied to the Most High, who never can be too highly exalted, in our language carries in it the idea of stretching beyond the bounds of truth, or making a thing seem greater than it really is. The word is δοξαζω, I glorify,—honour: so we render it, 1 Corinthians 12:26 and so it should be translated here;—I honour my ministry: for the word διακονια, in the like case, is always rendered ministry. See Acts 21:19; 1 Timothy 1:12; 1 Timothy 1:20. St. Paul honoured his ministry, by speaking magnificently of the state of the Gentiles, whom he had converted to the faith, in comparison of the poor and low condition to which the unbelieving Jews were reduced. His sense will appear, if in reading Romans 11:12-13 we lay the emphasis upon the RICHES of the world,—the RICHES of the Gentiles. St. Peter sets the honours of the believing Gentiles, and the degraded state of the infidel Jews, in a still more striking contrast, 1 Peter 2:8-9. They stumbled at the word, and are fallen; but ye are raised to the honour of being a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people.


Verse 14

Romans 11:14. If by any means, &c.— The Apostle has generally very extensive and complicated views in writing; and it seems very evident, that he had not only intended to excite the Jews to emulation by turning their thoughts to the consideration of the privileges they had lost, but also that it was his aim to insinuate himself, and the Gospel he preached, into the good opinion of the Jews: for he cautions the Gentile against insulting the Jew; labours to give him an honourable opinion of the Jew; and so explains the case of the Jew's present rejection, and future reception, as to dispose him to think favourably of the Gospeldispensation; which allowed him the opportunity ofrecoveringhimselfthroughdivinegraceimmediately,wouldheimmediatelyrepent and believe; and which concurred with the prophets in asserting, that one day the whole nation would be gloriously restored. TheApostle's affirming and arguing upon this event with so much assurance and pleasure, had a natural tendency to soften the Jew, and incline him to think.

See commentary on Romans 11:13


Verse 15

Romans 11:15. The reconciling of the world See ch. Romans 5:11. But life from the dead, means "to the world; to us Gentile Christians; the world, reconciled and enriched by the casting off of the Jews." When we were at first reconciled by being converted to the power of Christianity, we were raised from the dead to a new life, ch. Romans 6:13 and the approaching glorious dispensation which the Apostle here speaks of, will again be to us as life from the dead. By which we may understand, that the future glory of the church, when this great event of the restoration of the Jews shall take place, will be so much more glorious than its present state, as to appear to the people of God like a life from the dead. Numberless prophesies of the Old Testament evidently refer to this event; and the wonderful preservation of the Jews, as a distinct people, not only leaves a possibility, but encourages our strong hope of it. When it shall be accomplished, it will be so unparalleled, as necessarily to excite a general attention, and to fix upon men's minds such an almost irresistible demonstration both of the Old and New Testament revelation, as will probably captivate the minds of many thousands of deists, in countries professedly Christian; of whom, under such corrupt establishments as generally prevail, there will of course beincreasing multitudes. Nor will this only captivate their understanding, but will have the greatest tendency through grace to awaken a sense of true religion in their hearts; and this will be a means of propagating the Gospel with an amazing velocity in pagan and Mahometan countries; which, probably, had been evangelized long ago, had genuine Christianity prevailed in those who have made a profession, and God knows, for the most part, a very scandalous profession of its forms. See Doddridge, Hartley's Observations, vol. 2: p.

373 and Lardner's Discourses on "The Circumstances of the Jewish People, an Argument for the Truth of the Christian Religion."


Verse 16

Romans 11:16. For if the first-fruit be holy, &c.— Now if, &c. The Apostle makes use of these allusions to shew that the patriarchs, the root of the Jewish nation, being accepted by God, and the few Jewish converts who at first entered into the Christian church, being also accepted of God, are as it were first-fruits, or pledges, that God will in due time admit the whole nation of the Jews into his visible church, to be together with the Gentile Christians his peculiar people again. By holy here is meant that relative holiness, whereby any thing has an appropriation to God. See Locke. Instead of lump, Dr. Heylin reads, the whole product.


Verse 17

Romans 11:17. Thou, being a wild olive-tree, &c.— This is another way of expressing the justification and election of us Gentiles; and it is also an incontestable proof, that we Gentile Christians are taken into the Abrahamic covenant, (for the Sinai covenant is abolished) as truly and fully as ever the nation of the Jews were. Consequently, any argument relating to our church privileges, taken from the nature of the Abrahamic covenant, must be just and valid; for we are grafted into the church, which sprung from that root, and are partakers of its fatness. It is to very little purpose to object, that it is unnatural to suppose an ignoble branch grafted on a rich stock; for it was not necessary that the simile from inoculation should hold in all its particulars; and the engagement to humility, arises in a considerable degree from the circumstance objected against. Had the scion been nobler than the stock, yet its dependence on it for life and nourishment would render it unfit that it should boast against it: how much more, when the case was the reverse of what in human usage is practised; and the wild olive is ingrafted on the good! See Doddridge and Calmet.


Verse 18

Romans 11:18. Boast not against the branches Though the great fault which most disordered the church, and principally exercised the Apostle'scare in this Epistle, was from the Jews pressing the necessity of legal observances, and not brooking that the Gentiles, though converts to Christianity, should be admitted into their communion without being circumcised; yet it is plain from this verse, as well as from ch. Romans 14:3; Romans 14:10 that the convert Gentiles were not wholly without fault on their side, in treating the Jews with disesteem and contempt. To this also, as it comes in his way, he applies fit remedies, particularly in this chapter, and in ch. 14. See Locke.


Verse 20

Romans 11:20. Be not high-minded, &c.— Dr. Heylin connects this with the next verse, thus: Be not presumptuous, but fear, lest God should not spare you, since he did not spare even the natural branches.


Verse 22

Romans 11:22. Behold therefore the goodness, &c.— What is here meant by goodness to the believing Gentile, as it stands opposed to severity against the rejected Jew, is very evident. It is the same with salvation being come to them, Romans 11:11 with their being enriched, Romans 11:12 with their being grafted into the good olive-tree, Romans 11:17 with their having obtained mercy, Romans 11:30 with their being called and chosen, ch. Romans 9:24. It is, in short, the same with their being justified by the grace of God, upon their faith.


Verse 24

Romans 11:24. The olive-tree, which is wild by nature—which be the natural branches The original in both these places is κατα φυσιν, and therefore our translators should either have rendered it in the first clause, The natural wild-olive tree, or in the latter, Which are branches by nature. See Heylin.


Verse 25

Romans 11:25. The fulness of the Gentiles The fulness of the Jews, Romans 11:12 is the whole body of the Jewish nation professing Christianity, and therefore the fulness of the Gentiles here must be the whole body of the Gentiles professing Christianity. It is well remarked by Dr. Harris, that as this Epistle was written about the year 57, that is, long after the most remarkable conversion of the Jews by the first preaching of the Apostles, and after St. Paul had been about thirty years engaged in his work, it appears that the prophesies relating to the calling of the Jews were not accomplished then, and consequently are not yet accomplished. Dr. Whitby very justly observes, that there is a double harvest of the Gentiles spoken of by St. Paul, in this chapter; the first called their riches, Romans 11:12 as consisting in the preaching the Gospel to all nations; whereby indeed they were happily enriched with divine knowledge and grace; the second, the bringing in their fulness, in the latter age of the world. See Locke, Whitby, Harris's Discourse on the Messiah, p. 91. Limb. Collat. p. 94 and Doddridge.


Verse 26-27

Romans 11:26-27. And so That is, by that means: so the word ουτως signifies, John 8:59. The reference in this and the next verse to the Old Testament, is commonly supposed to point at Isaiah 59:20. But whether the Apostle directs to any particular prophesy, or to the current sense of all the prophets, is uncertain; though the latter opinion seems most probable. The restoration of the Jewish commonwealth, in a higher degree than seems to be yet accomplished, is, as we have before observed, frequently spoken of in the prophetic writings. See Locke and Whitby.


Verse 28

Romans 11:28. They are enemies for your sakes Enemies signify strangers, or aliens; that is to say, such as are no longer to be the peculiar people of God: for they are called enemies, in opposition to beloved in this verse; and the reason given why they are enemies, makes it plain that this is the sense; namely, for the Gentiles' sake: that is, "they are rejected from being the peculiar people of God, that you Gentiles may be taken in to be the people of God in their room," Romans 11:30. Enemies has the same signification, ch. Romans 5:10. As concerning the Gospel, enemies: that is, all those who not embracingthe Gospel, not receiving Christ for their king and Lord, are aliens from the kingdom of God;—and all such aliens are called enemies: and so indeed were the Jews now; yet they were, as touching the election, beloved; that is, not actually within the kingdom of the Messiah, his people, but within the election which God had made of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and their posterity, to be his people; and so God had still intentions of kindness to them, for their fathers' sakes, to make them again his people. The election is the same with that mentioned Romans 11:5 and ch. Romans 9:11. Therefore the unbelieving Jews were not so cast off, as to be intirely deprived of the favour of God in a national sense; agreeably to what he had long before declared, Leviticus 26:44-45, Deuteronomy 4:31. This clearly shews the nature of that election, concerning which the Apostle discourses in this and the two fore-going chapters. See Locke, and on ch. Romans 5:11.


Verse 29

Romans 11:29. For the gifts and calling of God, &c.— "For the favours which God shewed to those their fathers in calling them and their posterity to be his people, he does not repent of; but his promise, that they shall be his people, shall stand good." So God's repenting is explained, Numbers 23:19. See Elsner.


Verse 30-31

Romans 11:30-31. For as ye in times past, &c.— When the promise was made to Abraham, the calling of the Gentiles was not a secondary design,to take effect in case the Jew rejected the Gospel, but an absolute purpose, to be accomplished whether the Jews complied or refused. The refusal of the Jew was no way necessary to the calling of the Gentile; nor did the Apostles preach to the Gentiles only because the Jews had refused to accept the Gospel. Had the Jews embraced the faith of Christ, the Apostles would still have preached to the Gentiles. Their unbelief is evidently to be understood, as their fall, and the casting them off, Romans 11:11-12 not simply and absolutely, but considered under its proper circumstances, or in its cause; namely, that extensive grace, which threw down their peculiarity, in order to make room for the Gentiles, and so occasioned their unbelief. These verses may be paraphrased thus: "For as you Gentiles, for many ages past, were in a state of alienation from God, yet not so as to be totally and for ever excluded,—for you are now taken into his peculiar kingdom by that method which has occasioned the unbelief of the Jews;—so in like manner (Romans 11:11.) the Jews, in their turn, are through infidelity shut out of the present peculiar kingdom of God; not to their utter exclusion, but to open a new scene, when, through the farther displays of God's mercy to you, they shall be taken into his kingdom again." See Locke, and on Romans 11:11.


Verse 32

Romans 11:32. For God hath concluded them all, &c.— Them is not in the original, and should not be in the translation. Concluded is no English word in this place; the sense of the Greek verb συνεκλεισε is, he hath locked, or shut up together, which may be properly rendered by the Latin word concludo; but we never in English use the word conclude to signify to lock or shut up. The word in the original is found but in three places besides this, viz. Luke 5:6 where it is well rendered inclosed; and Galatians 3:22-23 where in one verse it is rendered very improperly concluded, and in the other shut up. All were locked up under sin, and the Jews in particular were locked up under the law; so here God has locked up all together in unbelief. Now, as all Jews and Gentiles, before Christ came, were locked up under sin, and the Jews were locked up under the law, condemning them to death;—(not as if none of them could be saved, or be in a state of acceptance with God, but only so far, and in this sense, as the ground of their pardon and redemption was not laid, or the price of their redemption was not paid, till Christ, by the sacrifice of himself, took away the sin of the world;) so here first the Gentiles, afterwards the Jews are locked up in unbelief; not as if they were therefore locked out of the favour of God, and excluded from eternal life; for unbelief is here to be understood, not in the absolute, but in the relative sense;—not in the absolute sense, as it is a principle, which renders a man wicked, but with reference to the kingdom of God in this world, or as it disqualifies a person from being a sharer in the honours and privileges of that kingdom.—It is unbelief in profession, which stands opposed, not to a life of holiness and virtue, or of eternal happiness in the world to come, but only to faith in profession. That the Apostle here means unbelief in this general relative sense, and only so far as it excludes a person out of the present kingdom of God, is evident; for this verse stands in immediate connection with the two foregoing; and ALL here includes the unbelieving Jews and Gentiles in those verses. But the unbelieving Gentiles are those (Romans 11:30.) who in times past had not believed God; but now, upon their conversion to Christianity, had obtained mercy; consequently, they were the whole body of Gentiles, who, from the time when the covenant was made with Abraham, to the time when they embraced the faith of the Gospel, had not believed God; that is, had not been numbered among the subjects of his visible kingdom, as the Jews were during that period. And the unbelieving Jews are those (Romans 11:31.) who now do not believe God; but at last shall upon their conversion to Christianity, obtain mercy; consequently, they are the whole body of Jews, who, from the time of their rejecting the kingdom ofGod under the Messiah, have not believed God; that is, have not been numbered amongthe subjects of his visible kingdom, as the believing Gentiles now are. All this is clear; and therefore we may conclude, first, that the unbelief which the Apostle here speaksof is not the faulty character of particular persons, but the general profession of whole nations through a long tract of time: neither, secondly, is it that unbelief which subjects persons to final condemnation; for that unbelief will not terminate in their obtaining mercy: but the unbelief under which the Gentiles were locked up, terminated in their obtaining mercy, and so will the unbelief of the Jews also. Thirdly, the whole body of Gentiles, who embraced the Christian religion, obtained mercy; and so will the whole body of the Jews, at the future period whereof the Apostle speaks; but evidently this relates to their being admitted to the privileges of God's kingdom in this world; consequently their unbelief, which stands opposed to their obtaining mercy, relates only to their being excluded from those privileges. In short, the Apostle considers the unbelieving Gentiles, during the Jewish peculiarity, as one body of men; which body of men afterwards obtained mercy, when they were taken into the visible church of God: and he likewise considers the unbelieving Jews, from the time of their rejecting Christ, to the future time of their conversion, as one bodyof men, who shall then also obtain mercy, or be brought again into the peculiar kingdom of God. Therefore, as this obtaining of mercy is no other than the election about which he argues in this Epistle, it is certain he does not therefore mean that election only of particular persons; but he means such an election as may be applied to bodies of men, with respect to their being taken into the kingdom of God in this world. Mr. Locke's note on this place is very excellent, and sets the whole of this important subject in a very clear light. "The unbelief," says he, "here charged nationally on Jews and Gentiles in their turns, in this and the two preceding verses, whereby they ceased to be the people of God, was evidently the disowning of his dominion; whereby they put themselves out of the kingdom which he had and ought to have in the world, and so were no longer in the state of subjects, but aliens and rebels. A general view of mankind will lead us into an easier conception of St. Paul's doctrine, who through this whole Epistle considers the Gentiles, Jews, and Christians, as three distinct bodies of men. God, by creation, had no doubt an unquestionable sovereigntyover mankind, and this was at first acknowledged in their sacrifices and worship of him. Afterwards they withdrew themselves from their submission to him, and found out other Gods, whom they worshipped and served. This revolt from God, and the consequence of it, God's abandoning them, St. Paul describes, ch. Romans 1:18-32. In this state of revolt from God were the nations of the earth in the time of Abraham. And then Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and their posterity the Israelites, upon God's gracious call, returned to their allegiance to their ancient and rightful King and Sovereign; owned the one invisible God, creator of heaven and earth, for their God, and so became his people again, to whom he, as to his peculiar people, gave law. And thus remained the distinction between Jews and Gentiles, that is to say, the nations, as the word signifies, till the time of the Messiah; and then the Jews ceased to be the people of God, not by a direct renouncing the God of Israel, and taking to themselves other false gods whom they worshipped; but by opposing and rejecting the kingdom of God, which he proposed at that time to set up with new laws and institutions, and to a more glorious and spiritual purpose, under his Son Jesus Christ; him God sent to them, and him the nation of the Jews refused to receive as their Lord and Ruler, though he was their promised King and Deliverer, answering all the prophesies and types of him, and evidencing his mission by his miracles. By this rebellion against him, into whose hand God had committed the rule of his kingdom, and whom he had appointed Lord over all things, (and who himself is God over all, blessed for ever,) the Jews turned themselves out of the kingdom of God, and ceased to be his people, who had now no other people but those who received and obeyed his Son as their Lord and Ruler. This was the απειθεια, unbelief, here spoken of. And I would be glad to know any other sense of believing or unbelief, wherein it can be nationally attributed to a people (as visibly here it is), whereby they shall cease, or come to be the people of God, or visible subjects of his kingdom here on earth. Indeed, to enjoy life and estate in this, as well as other kingdoms, not only the owning of the prince, and the authority of his laws, but also obedience to them is required: for a Jew might own the authority of God, and his law given by Moses, and so be a true subject, and as much a member of the commonwealth of Israel as any one in it, and yet forfeit his life by disobedience to the law. And a Christian may own the authority of Jesus Christ, and of the Gospel, and yet forfeit eternal life by his disobedience to the precepts of it; as may be seen, ch. Romans 7, 8, , 9"


Verse 33

Romans 11:33. O the depth, &c.— This emphatical conclusion seems in an especial manner to regard the Jews, whom the Apostle would hereby teach modesty and submission to the over-ruling hand of the all-wise God, unfit as they are to call him to account for his dealing so favourably with the Gentiles. "His wisdom and ways are infinitely above their comprehension; and will they take upon them to advise him what to do? Or is God in their debt?—Let them say for what, and he shall repay it to them." This is a strong rebuke to the Jews, but delivered, as we see, in a way very gentle and inoffensive: a method which the Apostle endeavours every where to observe towards his nation. See Locke.


Verse 35

Romans 11:35. Or who hath first given to him, &c.— This has a manifest respect to the Jews, who claimed a right to be the people of God so far, that St. Paul (chap. Romans 9:14.) finds it necessary to vindicate the justice of God in the case; and here also, in this question, he exposes and silences the folly of any such pretence. See Locke.


Verse 36

Romans 11:36. For of him, &c.— Of him, as the original author; through him, as the gracious preserver; and to or for him, as the ultimate end,—are all things: For his pleasure all things were created; by his providence all things are preserved; to his gloryall things terminate. Antoninus, speaking of nature (by which he evidently means God), has an expression which one would imagine he had borrowed from this of St. Paul, Εξ σου παντα, εν σοι παντα, εις σε παντα,— "All things are of thee, in thee, and to thee." Thus, says Mr. Locke, St. Paul concludes, with a very solemn epiphonema, that admirable evangelical discourse to the church at Rome, which had taken up the eleven foregoing chapters. It was addressed to the two sorts of converts, viz. Gentiles and Jews; into which, as into two distinct bodies, he all along through this Epistle divides all mankind, and considers them as so divided into two separate corporation. 1. As to the Gentiles, he endeavours to satisfy them, that though they for their apostacy from God to idolatry, and the worship of false gods, had been abandoned by God, had lived in sin and blindness, without God in the world, strangers from the knowledge and acknowledgment of him, yet that the mercy of God through Jesus Christ was extended to them, whereby there was a way now opened to them to become the people of God. For since no man could be saved by his own righteousness, no, not the Jews themselves, by the deeds of the law, the only way to salvation, both for Jews and Gentiles, was by faith in Jesus Christ. Nor had the Jews any other way now to continue themselves the people of God, than by receiving the Gospel; which way was opened also to the Gentiles, and they were as freely admitted into the visible kingdom of God, now erected under Jesus Christ, as the Jews, and upon the sole terms of believing. So that there was no need at all for the Gentiles to be circumcised to become Jews, that they might be partakers of the benefits of the Gospel. 2. As to the Jews, the Apostle's other great aim in the foregoing discourse is, to remove the offence which the Jews took at the Gospel, because the Gentiles were received into the church as the people of God, and were allowed to be subjects of the kingdom of the Messiah. To bring them to a better temper, he shews them, from the sacred scripture, that they could not be saved by the deeds of the law, and therefore the doctrine of righteousness by faith ought not to be so strange a thing to them. And as to their being for their unbelief rejected from being the people of God, and the Gentiles taken-in in their room, he shews plainly, that this was foretold them in the Old Testament; and that herein God did them no injustice. He was Sovereign over all mankind, and might choose whom he would to be his peculiar people, with the same freedom that he chose the posterity of Abraham among all the nations of the earth, and of that race chose the descendants of Jacob before those of his elder brother Esau, and that before they had a being, or were capable of doing good or evil. In all which discourse of his, it is plain the election spoken of has for its object only nations or collective bodies politic in this world, and not particular persons, in reference to their eternal state in the world to come.

Inferences.—It appears from this prophetic chapter, as well as from many striking predictions in other parts of Scripture, that the Jews will hereafter be restored to the favour and protection of their God, and will become with the Gentiles one fold, under one shepherd, Jesus Christ. For this purpose they are remarkably preserved a distinct and separate people from all the nations of the earth; and nothing can afford a more striking proof of the truth of the Christian religion, than their present subsistence as a people, together with all the peculiar circumstances of their state and dispersion. With a view to them we may observe, that some evidences of the truth of our holy faith are not weakened, but rather gain force by length of time. Jesus often spoke of many coming from the east and the west, and from the north and the south, to sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven; that is, to partake of the privileges of the Gospel, and the blessings of the Messiah's kingdom: so long therefore as there are Gentiles in the world, who thankfully embrace the Gospel, this declaration is fulfilled; and the longer it is since these words were spoken, the more are they verified; and every accession to the church of Christ from among ignorant and darkened Gentiles, is a fresh confirmation of the truth of his doctrine. The dispersion of the Jews, the longer it lasts, still more and more strengthens the evidences of the Christian religion; it is the more remarkable; it is a plainer and more affecting token of divine displeasure against them; it affords greater assurance that the Messiah is already come; and it is rendered the more impossible for any man to prove himself of the tribe of Judah, and the family of David, whence the Messiah was to arise. For these reasons their present dispersion is prolonged, and may it be duly attended to by all to whom the consideration of it may be of use!

St. Paul directs us to consider these things as warnings; Because of unbelief they were broken off and thou standest by faith: be not high-minded, but fear, &c. Romans 11:20. For if we improve not our privileges, the glory may depart from us also. The seven churches of Asia in the book of Revelation were warned, and most of them threatened with the removal of their candlestick, unless they speedily repented, and did their first works. Many Christian churches, planted by the apostles of Jesus, and watered by their fellow-labourers, have fallen to decay and ruin: the name and title of Christian will not save particular persons in the day of judgment; nor will the name of Jesus or Christian alone secure churches and societies in this world. There should be not only the leaves of a fair profession, but also fruits of love and peace, and all the branches of righteousness and true holiness. Christians should have heavenly minds, and their lives should be adorned with acts of meekness, patience, self-denial, and zeal for each other's welfare. Christ will dwell with such. They honour him, and he will honour them with a distinguished care and protection.

We learn from the Apostle's arguments, that as in past ages the Jews had been of great service in upholding religion in the world, and from them at length it was brought to the Gentiles; so when in the end the Jews are converted to the faith of Christ, it will be perhaps in some measure through the Gentiles; and probably upon some more general conversion of the latter than has yet been. See Romans 11:30-31. But whenever this general conversion of the Jews to the faith of Jesus takes place, they will become Christians indeed, and their fondness for the rites of the Mosaic law will cease, that they and the Gentiles may become one people and one flock.

We have good reason to wish and pray for that great event,—that the fulness of the Gentiles may be brought in. In the mean time, we should both labour for the conversion of ignorant Gentiles, and do what lies in our power to excite the people of the Jews to emulation, by the simplicity of our worship, the purity of our faith, and the holiness of our lives.

From the state of things represented to us in this chapter, we cannot fail to admire the exceeding riches of the wisdom and goodness of God, who has graciously afforded mankind in all ages helps, more or less, for knowing the great truths of religion. God ever spoke to all by the secret inspiration of his Holy Spirit: when that was not duly attended to, and the danger of universal ignorance became great, he separated a family, that of Abraham, from the rest of the world; and of a part of it he made a great nation, to whom he gave a law; and who thereby were set up as a lamp upon a hill, to lighten the world around them. Among them, by his grace and by frequent interpositions of his wise and powerful providence, religion was maintained, and they were kept a distinct nation, enjoying many privileges until the Messiah came, and religion was spread far and wide in the nations of the earth, according to promises made long before: and then the Jews generally rejecting that blessing, God cast them off from being his people, as they had been, and poured down upon them dreadful tokens of his displeasure; yet not destroying them utterly, but making use of them, even under afflictions, to support the truth of the mission and authority of his only-begotten Son, whom they had crucified.

Nor is there herein any injustice, or unkindness; for still they are provoked to jealousy by those who are taken in their room: and in this respect they now enjoy an advantage with regard to religion, beyond what the Gentiles had formerly. For then it was the nation of the Jews only, to whom God was known; and many of the nations of the earth were remote from them. But the unbelieving Jews, for the most part, live among or near the followers of Jesus, and have better opportunities to inform themselves of the principles of their religion, than the Gentiles had of old to know that of the Israelites.

And the wisdom of divine Providence in the former and the latter dispensation is admirable, as the Apostle observes at the end of this chapter, Romans 11:30-36 on addressing himself to Gentile Christians; a passage, whence we may conclude with St. James at the council at Jerusalem, that known unto God are all his works from the beginning. Acts 15:18.

It may moreover be reasonably supposed, that it will be highly delightful in the heavenly state to know and observe the various methods of divine Providence, relating to his creatures in the world where we have lived; particularly to observe the manifold designs of wisdom and goodness, with regard to the concerns of religion.

A wise, pious, and discerning person has now great delight and profitable entertainment in reviewing these works of divine Grace and Providence, as recorded in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament; but the discoveries in a future state must be incomparably more full and complete, and consequently more delightful. We shall then see the overspreading deluge of ignorance in some places and ages, the wonderful steps by which light was restored, and all the virtue of the instruments raised up and employed by God; the faithful and disinterested zeal with which they served God, and promoted the welfare of their fellow-creatures; and how even afflictive events subserved beneficial designs. And though such extensive knowledge should not be the portion of those who are finally separated from God, yet there will be a remembrance of things past; what men have done and neglected to do; what means of knowledge were offered them in this world; what convictions they had of duty; what helps they enjoyed for securing a holy and virtuous life and conduct, and strengthening them against temptations; in short, to bring them to Christ and eternal salvation,—and how they failed to improve those many advantages!

How piercing must it be, in the place of torment, for a descendant of Abraham, who lived in the time of our Lord, to recollect the gracious words he heard from his mouth! That though Jesus taught in the streets of his city, and in the most winning manner promised everlasting life to such as believed in and obeyed him; and though he performed numerous miracles, healing and beneficial, suited to the goodness of his doctrine, and tokens of inexpressible mildness and benevolence,—yet he despised and abused this amiable Person! And though he knew that the prophets had spoken of a great Deliverer to arise among them, and it was the prevailing opinion that that was the very time prefixed for his coming; he would not hearken to him, nor regard him, because of some groundless prejudices, and too strong an affection for worldly possessions and enjoyments.

In like manner, to how many others also will not the recollection of religious, of Christian privileges, not improved, but rejected and abused, be matter of torment and vexation!—For instance, Children of pious parents, who set at nought all their counsel, and will have none of their reproofs! Servants, who are averse to the order and restraint of religious families, and offended at daily devotions and frequent readings of the Scripture, or other books of piety; who choose the habitations of the wicked, where there is not so much as a form of godliness, or an appearance of religion, and prefer the company and manners of the dissolute, who are a reproach to human nature!—A Christian, partaking in all the ordinances of the Gospel, yet acting contrary to the obligations he is under!—A minister in God's house, shewing to others the way to salvation, but not walking in it himself!

How grievous must the recollection of such advantages be hereafter, if finally abused and disregarded! What consolation can then be given to the trembling souls of men?—Alas, the sad reflection on their own folly will be unavoidable, and for ever incurable!

May we therefore be wise to know and mind the things of our peace, now in this our day!—Securing time, while we have it, for serious reflections on our conduct and our advantages, and comparing our light and knowledge with our actions and purposes! For between these there ought, there must be an agreement, or miserable will be the consequence. Where much is given, much may and will be expected: and the servant who knew his Lord's will, and did it not, shall be beaten with many stripes. Luke 12:47.

These are certain truths:—these are things which will some time afford either a pleasing and comfortable, or an afflictive and sorrowful recollection to the soul. It is an aweful and awakening observation of our Lord:—This is the condemnation, That light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil, John 3:19. If any of us should perish, have we not reason to dread this aggravated condemnation?—For we must be sensible that we have had sufficient instruction to assure us, that things above are preferable to things on this earth: that nothing therefore ought so to divert and engage us, as to prevent our laying up to ourselves treasures in heaven; and that we ought to order our present concerns, and the whole of our conversation, in such a manner as may best promote our most important interests,—the everlasting salvation and happiness of our souls. See Lardner, and on Romans 11:11.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, Nothing could be more grating to the Jews than this subject of their rejection; and some one might say, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid.

1. Though some are cast off through unbelief, yet all are not unbelievers.

2. If the nation of Jews in general be at present abandoned through their rejection of the Gospel, the Gentiles are called into the Messiah's kingdom.

3. The time will come when the Jews shall be brought back, and admitted into the peculiar church of the Messiah.

[1.] Though some are cast off through unbelief, yet all are not unbelievers: of this St. Paul was himself an instance. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin; and though none shewed greater bitterness against the Gospel, yet have I obtained mercy; and multitudes besides, of the Jewish people, share the same blessing, for God hath not cast away his people, which he foreknew would believe, and be faithful to his grace: and these were more than might be at first imagined, as was the case in the days of Elias, when, on account of their general defection to idolatry, and persecution of God's prophets, that zealous reformer complained to God as if he was left alone, and his life daily in jeopardy; and, from the melancholy appearances could not but conclude that the people were ripe for ruin. But God informs him that, bad as things were, he had still seven thousand faithful worshippers, who had not bowed to Baal; even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace,—who accede to the election of grace by believing. Note; (1.) There are many more faithful souls, than we, looking round on the general apostacy, are ready to suppose. (2.) When religion is out of countenance, it is a great thing to dare to be singular, and not bow the knee to Baal.

What then is the case? Why the fact is evident, Israel hath not attained that which he seeketh for; the reason of which is given, chap. Romans 9:31-32 but the election hath attained it, through faith in Jesus, and the rest were blinded, left to their impenitence and unbelief, and perishing by the sentence of that law, for their obedience to which they expected justification before God. Note; (1.) They who trust in whole or in part on their works for justification, make Christ to have died in vain, and the grace of God of no effect. (2.) They who trust on their own righteousness, are ever most hardened against the Gospel method of salvation.

In proof of what he had alleged, terrible as it might appear to some, he appeals to the Scriptures, according as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear unto this day. They are sunk into stupidity and insensibility, and in just judgment for their rejection of all the means, mercies, and corrections vouchsafed to them, especially for their wilful unbelief of the Gospel, God has abandoned them to a reprobate mind. And, to the same effect, David saith, when speaking of the enemies of the Messiah, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumbling-block, and a recompence unto them. The altar, and all the ritual service on which they depended, would prove the means of their ruin; or those bounties of Providence, which they abused to pride and luxury, should intoxicate them, and, like drunken men, for the punishment of their infidelity, they should stumble into perdition. Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see; since they hate the light, they shall be left in blindness; and bow down their back alway, under perpetual bondage and servitude, enslaved by the powers of the earth, and more enslaved by worldly-mindedness; by sin and Satan. Note; (1.) Of all judgments, spiritual ones are most to be dreaded, and yet are usually least perceived. (2.) They who mind earthly things, cannot but walk in darkness.

[2.] Though the Jews were cast off for a while from the peculiar kingdom of the Messiah, the Gentiles were called into the church.

I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall, utterly and irrecoverably? God forbid: but rather, so hath God ordered it in his providence, that through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles (see Acts 13:46-47.), for to provoke them to jealousy; that, ashamed to be outdone by the Gentiles, they may be stirred up to a noble emulation. Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles, God in his infinite wisdom and mysterious designs, making the apostacy and obstinacy of the Jews the occasion of spreading his Gospel the sooner among the Gentiles, whom he is pleased to enrich with the abundance of his grace; how much more will the Gentiles be confirmed in the faith, and the multitude of converts increase when they shall see their fulness, the restoration of the dispersed Jews to their forfeited privileges, when at the last they shall be turned to the Lord? For I speak to you Gentiles, for your comfort and caution, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, particularly appointed of God to preach the Gospel to you; I magnify mine office, I glory in my employment, and bless God for having honoured me so far as to appoint me thereunto. And this I say, If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, to outstrip the Gentiles, ashamed to be exceeded by them in faith and holiness, and might thus save some of them, by leading them to Christ for pardon, grace, and eternal life; for, as I said, if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, the Gospel, through their infidelity, being sent unto the Gentiles, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead? How surprising and delightful will that great event be, when the Jews in general shall be converted to Christ, and restored to the church as men raised from the dead; and their conversion inspire the Gentiles with fresh life and vigour! For if the first-fruit be holy, and some few converts of the Jewish people now appear the pledges and earnest of what God will do for the nation hereafter, the lump is also holy, and they shall at last be consecrated as a nation to God: and if the root be holy, Abraham and the patriarchs, from whom the Jews descended, considered as their federal head, to whom and his seed the promises were made, so are the branches; they have a relative holiness in virtue of their descent; and, though at present their unbelief cuts them off from all the privileges of the covenant, yet for the fathers' sake, in future ages God's love to them, as a nation, shall appear, and they shall again be received into the bosom of his church. And if some of the branches be broken off, for their unbelief, and thou, a Gentile, being a wild olive-tree, by birth an alien from the commonwealth of Israel, and a stranger to the covenants of promise, wert grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive-tree, admitted in common with Abraham's natural descendants, who believe, to share in all the blessings and privileges of the peculiar covenant of the Messiah, boast not against the branches, looking down with scorn on the Jews, who for their infidelity are broken off; but if thou boast, and grow proud of thy advancement, remember thou bearest not the root, but the root thee, and all the mercies thou enjoyest are from the Jews; from them, according to the flesh, Christ descended; the first preachers of the Gospel were of their nation; and all thy church privileges are derived from Abraham, the great father of the faithful: therefore this people, though now fallen, must not be trampled upon. Thou wilt say, then, perhaps, The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in; I was preferred to them, and have reason to esteem myself above them. Well; because of unbelief they were broken off; it was not on account of any goodness in you, but because of their own infidelity; and thou standest by faith, not holding your privileges on account of any descent, but through God's free grace in Christ Jesus: and therefore all boasting is excluded. Be not then high-minded: but fear, lest you also fall, through the same example of unbelief. For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee; if the Gentiles imitated their pride and unbelief, they might much more apprehend he would deal with them in the same manner, and deprive them of all the privileges to which he had admitted them. Behold therefore, and admire, the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, he hath exercised just severity, cutting them off from his visible church, and depriving them of all the privileges of his peculiar people; but toward thee, unworthy as thou art, he hath shewn the most transcendant goodness, admitting thee, a despised idolatrous Gentile, into his kingdom, and will continue to bless thee, if thou continue in his goodness, and do not abuse the merciful dispensation, under which you at present stand, by pride and infidelity: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off: and no nominal profession of Christianity, if the heart prove apostate, will secure any man from the wrath of God.

[3.] There is still hope in the end, that all Israel, as a nation, notwithstanding their present rejection, shall at last be converted and saved. And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: and when they receive the Gospel, and believe in Jesus as the Messiah, shall be readmitted into the visible church, for God is able to graff them in again, as the children of believing Abraham. Nor is this at all inconceivable or improbable; for if thou wert cut out of the olive-tree, which is wild by nature, sprung from the Gentile stock, which was out of the peculiar covenant, and wert grafted contrary to nature into a good olive-tree, which is like grafting a wild scion on a good tree, how much more shall these which be the natural branches, and descendants of Abraham, be graffed into their own olive-tree, and be received into the Gospel church, which was once wholly confined to their people and nation,—if they believe? For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, (lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; puffed up with an opinion of your own excellence, and fancying that the favour of God is henceforth to be confined to you alone,) that blindness in part is happened to Israel, and they are left to their unbelief for a while, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in, when in the latter days the nations of the earth shall, in a more general manner than ever become obedient to the faith. And so all Israel shall be saved; in general they shall be brought into the Gospel-church, and converted to the Lord: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob; the adored Messiah in the last days shall go forth in the power of his Gospel, and by the efficacy of his word and Spirit shall bring the sons of Jacob, the Jews at large, into his Gospel-church. For this is my covenant unto them; and he will fulfil his promises, as will be seen in the latter day; when I shall take away their sins, freely pardoning, for his name's sake, all that is past, and receiving into the arms of his love all that shall embrace in faith the true Messiah.

Upon the whole, then, the state of the case stands thus: As concerning the Gospel, they are at present enemies to it, and permitted so to be for your sakes, that the Gospel might be the sooner and farther diffused through the Gentile world (Acts 13:46-47.). But as touching the election of them as a nation to be his peculiar people, they are beloved for the Fathers' sakes; and though for the present abandoned, yet there is still mercy in store for the nation. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance; God having made his promises to Israel, as a chosen nation, they shall assuredly be called again into his church. For as ye in times past have not believed God, but lived without him in the world, serving stocks and stones, yet have now obtained mercy, through God's boundless grace admitted into the fellowship and privileges of the Gospel, through their unbelief, who put that Gospel from them: even so have these also now not believed, have been left to their infidelity, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy; provoked to emulation by you, and led by faith to embrace the same Redeemer, through whom the Gentiles have found acceptance with God. And this conversion of the Jews is at least as likely, and will be as sure, as the conversion of the idolatrous Gentiles. For God hath concluded them all in unbelief; both Jews and Gentiles have been left by turns out of the visible church; that he might glorify the riches of his grace towards both, and have mercy upon all; upon the body of Jews and Gentiles in general, making them at last one fold under one Shepherd.

2nd, Having evidently reconciled the rejection of the Jews with the justice and goodness of God, and shewn that there was mercy yet in store for them; in the view of this astonishing dispensation the Apostle breaks out, O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! Farther the Apostle dares not pry into the divine counsels, but stands admiring on the ocean's brink, and cries, O the depth of the riches of that grace, which both Jews and Gentiles experience, unworthy as they are of the least of it! What wisdom and knowledge appear in the contrivance of this admirable scheme, planned in the divine mind, to make even the rejection of the Jews subservient to the calling of the Gentiles; and their conversion, the means at last of restoring the Jews as a nation to the divine favour. These counsels are too deep for us to fathom; and the methods which in his providence he takes to effect his own purposes, are beyond our ken; we are lost in the labyrinth, of which he who is infinite in wisdom only holds the clue. For who hath known the mind of the Lord? what creature ever pried into the deep things of God, or could fathom his infinite wisdom? Or who hath been his counsellor? nor man nor angel was consulted in planning his designs of grace. Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? Who can claim any thing by right from him? He is debtor neither to Jew nor Gentile; and how then dare any arraign his procedure, or say unto him, What doest thou? For of him, and through him, and to him are all things; all things in nature and providence own him their former and upholder, their efficient cause and ultimate end; to whom therefore it is most fit, that the saints upon earth, and the exalted spirits in heaven, should ascribe glory for ever! and all who have tasted of his grace, will add their joyful Amen! Note; Though we have the deepest insight into the mysteries of grace, the wisest must own, that they know but a part of God's ways. There are many things which our short line cannot fathom. Our business therefore is to acquiesce in the divine determinations; not to cavil, but to admire and adore!

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Romans 11:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/romans-11.html. 1801-1803.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, November 12th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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