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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible
Romans 13

 

 

Other Authors
Introduction

CHAP. XIII.

Of subjection, and the many other duties that we owe to the magistrates. Love is the fulfilling of the law. Gluttony and drunkenness, and the works of darkness are reproved and condemned.

Anno Domini 58.

BECAUSE God had chosen the Jews for his subjects, and as their king had dictated to them a system of laws, and had governed them anciently in person, and afterwards by princes of his own nomination, they reckoned it impiety to submit to heathen laws and rulers. In the same light, they viewed the paying of taxes for the support of the heathen governments, Matthew 22:17. In short, the zealots of that nation laid it down as a principle, that they would obey God alone, as their king and governor, in opposition to Caesar, and all kings whatever who were not of their religion, and who did not govern them by the laws of Moses.

This turbulent disposition, some of the Jews who embraced the Gospel did not immediately lay aside: and even of the believing Gentiles, there were a few, who, on pretence that they had a sufficient rule of conduct in the spiritual gifts withwhich they were endowed, affirmed that they were under no obligation to obey ordinances imposed by idolaters, nor to pay taxes for the support of idolatrous governments. In that persuasion, they also refused to the heathen magistrates that honour and obedience, to which, by their office, they were entitled from all who lived under their government. But these principles and practices occasioning the Gospel to be evil spoken of, the Apostle judged it necessary, in his letter to the Romans, to inculcate the duties which subjects owe to magistrates; and to testify to them, that the disciples of Christ were not exempted from obedience to the wholesome laws, even of the heathen countries where they lived, nor from contributing to the support of the government by which they were protected, although it was administered by idolaters. Withal, having inscribed this letter to the unbelieving as well as to the believing inhabitants of Rome, the brethren were thereby directed, for the vindication of their religion, to shew the copies which they took of it to such of the heathens as were willing to read it.

This admirable part of his letter, the Apostle began with exhorting every one to obey the government of the country where he lives, whether it be established by the express consent of the people, or by their acquiescence, or by long usage; founding his exhortation on the following principle: That God having formed mankind for living in society, and some government being absolutelynecessary for maintaining order and peace among the associated, whatever form of government happens to be established in any country, is authorized of God, and is subordinate to his general government of the world, Romans 13:1.—Civil government, therefore, being authorized of God, he who resists the established exercise of it in any country, on pretence that the persons holding the reins of government have no just title to do so, or on pretence that they profess a false religion, and exercise their power in supporting error, really resists the ordinance of God; and all who do so, bring on themselves just condemnation, both from God and men, Romans 13:2-3.—On the other hand, magistrates, being servants of God, for good to the people, ought, agreeably to the end of their office, to exercise their power for the welfare of their subjects, by punishing none but evil-doers, and by protecting and encouraging all who obey the wholesome laws of the state, whatever religion they may profess, Romans 13:4.—It was therefore necessary for the brethren to obey the heathen magistrates, in all things consistent with their duty to God; not only to avoid punishment, but from a principle of conscience, Romans 13:5.—And that the rulers might be honourably maintained, and the government effectually supported; the Apostle ordered tax, and custom, and tribute, to be paid, as well as that fear or respect, which is due to rulers, on account of their office, Romans 13:6-7.—In this, I suppose the Apostle had the Jews in his eye, who held it unlawful to pay tribute to Caesar; yet what he says being general, and applicable to all who enjoy the protection of government, it could give the Jews no just offence. Lastly, The disciples of Christ, as members of society, are to owe no man any thing, except to love one another, because love leads to the performance of every social duty, and prevents all manner of injuries and crimes, Romans 13:8-10.

It deserves both notice and praise, that in explaining to the inhabitants of Rome their duty as citizens, the Apostle has shewn the finest address. For while he seemed only to plead the cause of the magistrate with the people, he tacitly conveyed the most wholesome instruction to the heathen rulers, who he knew were too proud to receive advice from teachers of his character and nation. For, by telling rulers that they are the servants of God for good to the people, he taught them the purpose of their office, and shewed them, that their sole aim in executing it ought to be, to promote the happiness of their people; and that as soon as they lost sight of this, their government degenerates into tyranny. Moreover, by establishing the office and power of magistrates on their proper foundation, and by teachingthe people to obey their rulers from conscience, he made such of the heathens as read his letter, sensible that the Gospel nourishes no rebellious principles in its disciples; that it does not meddle with the political constitution of any state, on pretence of mending it; and that it enjoins subjects, in things not sinful, to obey their rulers, whateverthe form of government is, under which they act. Such a discourse concerning obedience to laws and magistrates, was addressed to the Roman brethren with peculiar propriety, because they had been banished from Rome with the Jews, by the emperor Claudius, under the pretence of tumultuous behaviour, and were but lately returned.—The Apostle, however, gave the same directions to other churches, Titus 3:1 as did St. Peter likewise, 1 Peter 2:13-17.; from which we may learn how turbulent the Jews were in all the heathen countries, and how anxious the Christian teachers were, to have their disciples free from blame in every respect.

In what follows, the Apostle earnestly recommended to the Romans the duties of temperance and chastity, because, in their heathen state, they had been extremely deficient in these virtues. And that his exhortation might make the deeper impression, he compared their former ignorance, from which their lewdness and intemperance had proceeded, to the darkness of night; and opposed thereto the knowledge which the Gospel had imparted to them, likening it to the light of day, springing up after a long dark night, and graduallyadvancing to meridian brightness. And the heathens lying in that ignorance, he compared to persons in a deep sleep, because they were as incapable of performing the rational functions of men, as persons arewho sleep in the intoxication of drunkenness, Romans 13:11-14.

The precepts in this and the preceding chapter do great honour to the Gospel, and to its ministers. They shew us, that instead of contracting men's affections, and limiting them to their own pale, the Gospel enlarges their hearts, so as to embrace the whole humanrace,notexcludingtheirveryenemies:thatit cherishes no rebellious principles in its disciples, but enjoins obedience to superiors from a regard to conscience; and that it allures no proselytes, by the prospect of criminal sensual pleasures of any kind.


Verse 1

Romans 13:1. This epistle was written about the fourth year of the emperor Nero, about six years after Claudius had expelled the Jews from Rome. It is not improbable, that, as Suetonius relates in the Life of Claudius, this was occasioned by the tumultuous disposition of the Jews, in one shape or other; whether upon a civil or religious account, is not easy to determine. However, we know that they had notions relating to government favourable to none but their own; and it was with great reluctance that they submitted to a foreign jurisdiction. The Christians, under a notion of their being the people of God, and the subjects of his kingdom, might be in danger of being infected by those unruly and rebellious sentiments: therefore the Apostle here points out their duty to the civilmagistrate. To understand him right, we must consider these two things: First, That these rules are given to Christians, who were members of the heathen commonwealth,—to shew them that, by being made Christians, and subjects of Christ's kingdom, they were not, through the freedom of the Gospel, exempt from any tiesof duty or subjection which by the laws of the country wherein they lived they were bound to observe,—from paying all due obedience to the government and magistrates, though heathens, in the same manner as was done by their heathen subjects. But on the other side, these rules did not tie them up, more than any of their fellow-citizens who were not Christians, from any of those due rights which by the law of nature, or the constitution of their country, belonged to them. Whatever any other of their fellow-subjects, being in a like station with them, might do without sinning, of that they were not abridged, but might still do the same, being Christians; the rule here being the same with that given by St. Paul, 1 Corinthians 7:17. As the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. The rules of civil right and wrong, whereby he is to walk, are to him the same that they were before. Secondly, We must consider, that St. Paul, in this direction to the Romans, does not so much describe the magistrates who were then in Rome, as relate whence they, and all magistrates every where, derive their authority; and for what end they have, and should use it: and this he does as becomes his prudence, to avoid bringing any imputation on the Christians from heathen magistrates; especially those insolent and vicious ones of Rome, who could not brook any thing to be told them as their duty, and so might be apt to interpret such plain truths, laid down in a dogmatical way, into sedition or treason;—a scandal cautiously to be kept off from the Christian doctrine. Nor does he, in what he says, in the least flatter the Roman emperor: for he speaks here of the higher powers, that is, the supreme civil power, which is in every commonwealth derived from God, and is of the same extent every where; that is, is absolute and unlimited by any thing, but the end for which God gave it; namely, the good of the people, sincerely pursued according to the best skill of those who share that power; and so is not to be resisted. But how men come by a rightful title to this power, or who has that title, the Apostle is wholly silent: to have meddled with that, would have been to decide of civil rights, contrary to the design and business of the Gospel, and the example of our Saviour. If the reader is attentive, he must be pleased to see in how small a compass, and with how much dexterity, truth, and gravity, the Apostle affirms and explains the foundation, the nature, ends, and just limits of the magistrate's authority, while he is pleading his cause, and teaching the subject the duty and obedience due to governors. See Locke.

Let every soul "Every one, however endowed with miraculous gifts of the Holy Ghost, or advanced to any dignity in the church of Christ:" for that these things were apt to make men overvalue themselves, is obvious from what St. Paul says to the Corinthians, 1 Ep. 12: and to the Romans 12:3-4. But, above all others, the Jews were apt to have an inward reluctancy and indignation against the power of any heathen over them, taking it to be an unjust and tyrannical usurpation uponthem, who were the people of God, and their betters. These the Apostle thought it necessary to restrain, and therefore says, "Every soul, that is, every person among you, whether Jew or Gentile, must live in subjection to the civil magistrate." We see by what St. Peter says on the like occasion, that there was great need that Christians should have this duty inculcated upon them, lest any among them should use their liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, or misbehaviour, 1 Peter 2:13-16. The doctrine of Christianity was a doctrine of liberty. Hence mistaken men, especially Jewish converts, impatient, as we have observed, of any heathen dominion, might be ready to infer, that Christians were exempt from subjection to the laws of heathen governments. This he obviates by telling them, that all other governments derived the power they had from God, as well as that of the Jews, though they had not the whole frame of their government immediately from him, as the Jews had. Whether we take the powers here, in the abstract, for political authority, or in the concrete for the persons de facto exercising political power and jurisdiction, the sense will be the same; viz. that Christians, by virtue of being Christians, are not any way exempt from obedience to the civil magistrates, nor ought by any means to resist them; though by what is said, Romans 13:3 it seems that St. Paul meant here magistrates having and exercising a lawful power. But whether the magistrates in being were or were not such, and consequently were or were not to be obeyed, that Christianity gave them no peculiar power to examine. They had the common right of others their fellow-citizens, but had no distinct privilege as Christians; and therefore we see, Romans 13:7 that where he enjoins the payingof tribute, custom, &c. it is in these words: Render to all their dues, tribute to whom tribute, honour to whom honour, &c. But who it was to whom any of these, or any other dues of right belonged, he decides not; for that he leaves them to be determined by the laws and constitutions of their country. Instead of ordained of God, we may render the original τεταγμεναι, by disposed, or established. See Acts 13:48. Divine Providence ranges, and in some sense establishes, the various governments of the world; they are therefore under the character of governments in the general to be revered: but this cannot make what is wrong and pernicious in any peculiar forms, sacred, divine, andimmutable; any more than the hand of God in a famine or pestilence, is an argument against seeking proper means to remove it. See Locke, Doddridge, and Mintert.


Verse 2

Romans 13:2. Resisteth the power The word ο αντιτασσομενος, in the most direct import of it, signifies "one who sets himself as it were in array against," and may possibly allude to the word τεταγμεναι, ranged or marshalled by God, used in the former verse. The word rendered damnation, is κριμα, and would be more properly rendered condemnation, as it is particularly applied to the sentence passed when punishment is denounced by a judge; though here it may signify not only the condemnation of the civil power, but likewise that of the Sovereign of the uni


Verse 3

Romans 13:3. Rulers are not a terror to good works To the well-doer, τω αγαθοεργω . See Junius in Wetstein. Heylin renders the passage,—to those who do well, but to those who do ill. If circumstances arise to which the argument in this verse is not applicable, it is reasonably to be taken for granted, that the Apostle did not intend here to pronounce concerning such cases. Nothing can be said for interpreting these passages in favour of unlimited passive obedience, which will not prove anyresistance of a private injury unlawful, by the limited authority of our Lord's decision, Matthew 5:39-40. This would subvert the great foundation of magistracy itself, which is appointed to ward off and prevent by force, or to avenge such injuries; but it was very prudent in the Apostle not to enter into any question relating to the right of resistance in some extraordinary cases; as those cases are comparatively few, and as the just decisions which couldhave been given on that subject might possibly have been misrepresented to his own detriment, and that of the Gospel. The general laws of benevolence to the whole, so strongly asserted in this context, are in particular cases to determine; and all particular precepts, in whatever universal terms they are delivered, are always to give way to them. See Doddridge, and Bishop Hoadley's "Measures of Submission."


Verse 4

Romans 13:4. For he beareth not the sword in vain This strongly intimates the lawfulness of inflicting capital punishments; to deny which, is in effectsubverting the chief use of magistrates; though sanguinary laws should be as much as possible avoided. Bengelius reads the first clause of this verse, For he is the minister of God, for good to thee; and the last clause, For he is God's vindictive minister, for a terror to the evil-doer. See Heinsius and Wetstein.


Verse 7

Romans 13:7. Tribute to whom tribute The Jews had a favourite notion among them, that, as the peculiar people of God, they were exempted from obligations to pay tribute to Gentiles; against which notion this passage is directly levelled, though without pointing them out in any invidious manner. The word Φοβον, rendered fear, may be more properly rendered reverence; for it expresses the inward disposition; as τιμην, honour, expresses the conduct and external behaviour proceeding from it. See Doddridge, Heylin, and Ephesians 5:33.


Verse 11

Romans 13:11. Nearer than when we believed Than when we declared our belief. Markland. Than when we declared the faith. Heylin. It seems by this and the following verse, says Mr. Locke, as if St. Paul looked upon Christ's coming as not far off; to which there are several other concurrent passages in his Epistles: see 1 Corinthians 1:7. But with all due respect to Mr. Locke, Grotius, and other learned men who favour this sentiment, I am fully satisfied that they have been mistaken, misunderstanding the particular passages of Scripture which they have adduced, and the true state of things in the present instance. That St. Paul did "not look upon Christ's coming as not far off," or as if it might happen while he and the men of that generation were living, is incontestably evident from 2 Thessalonians 2:1. &c. where he professedlyrefutes this erroneous opinion. The case was this: the Thessalonians had mistaken some expressions in his first letter; just in the same manner, probably, as Mr. Locke and others have mistaken the like passages. He had told them, 1 Thessalonians 5:2-4. That the day of the Lord so suddenly cometh, as a thief in the night; and that their only security against being surprised, or overtaken unawares, by that day, was their not being in darkness, but enjoying the light of the Gospel: Romans 13:4-5. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. You are all children of the light. This, their being forewarned of it, and furnished with all proper means to prepare for it, was their only security against being surprised by the coming of our Lord to judgment. Now taking this in connection with what he had said just before (1 Thessalonians 4:15.), We which are alive, and remain unto the coming of the Lord.—They concluded, as Mr. Locke does in respect to the sentiment of the Apostle, that the Lord would come while they were alive, and hereby were much alarmed and disturbed. But this notion was not only false, but of very bad tendency; and therefore the Apostle, with much earnestness, corrects the mistake in a second Epistle, ch. Romans 2:1, &c. where he plainly declares that he did not believe the coming of the Lord was at hand; and that he knew by the spirit of prophesy, that before the coming of the Lord, there would be a falling away, or great apostacy in the Christian church, and that the man of sin would appear, and erect a spiritual Anti-Christian tyranny in the temple, or church of God. Most certainly the Apostle knew that the coming of Christ would not be till several ages after the time in which he lived: and no doubt all the apostles knew this as well as he. And yet he, and the other apostles, always speak as if the coming of Christ, and the day of the Lord, the day of judgment, were near at hand; and accordingly exhort Christians to watch, and to keep themselves in readiness, that they may not be surprised by it; as in the present passage, Philippians 4:5, 1 Thessalonians 5:2, Hebrews 10:37, James 5:7-9, 1 Peter 4:7, 2 Peter 3:10-12. Our blessed Lord also knew very well that he should not come while that generation to whom he preached, was alive: and yet he exhorts that generation to watch and have all things in readiness, that they might not be surprised by his coming; Matthew 24:42; Matthew 24:51; Matthew 25:13, Mark 13:33; Mark 13:37. Luke 21:34; Luke 21:38 and after his ascension, Revelation 22:7; Revelation 22:12; Revelation 22:20. This is the current language and sense of our Lord and his apostles. They represent his coming as at hand,—as drawing nigh, and admonish their hearers to watch, lest his coming should find them unprepared; though they knew his coming would not be till many ages after these persons whom they so exhorted, were dead, and in their graves. But how shall we reconcile this seeming inconsistency?—Thus:—"The time of our Lord's coming coincides, or happens at the same time with the time of our death; how near to, or how far soever from his coming we happen to die." To confirm this proposition, we need advance but one argument, out of more that might be produced; it is this: certainly our Christian course [of preparatory duties, sufferings, watchings, patience, &c.] ends when we die: but Christ comes when our Christian course ends; or, our Christian course in this like terminates in the coming of Christ. This is evident from the following texts: 1 Corinthians 1:8; Philippians 1:6; Philippians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 3:13; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; 2 Thessalonians 1:7; 1 Timothy 6:11-15; 2 Timothy 4:7-8; James 5:7; 1 Peter 1:5; 1 Peter 1:13; 2 Peter 3:11-12; and Revelation 2:25; Revelation 3:11. In short, throughout the New Testament, we are never exhorted to prepare for death, but always for the coming of our Lord, &c. From all which it appears, that the end of our Christian course, and consequently of our present life, is the coming of our Lord; when the faithful shall receive the salvation, the crown of righteousness, which he will give to them that love his appearing.—An aweful, important, awakening truth! of great weight and force in religion; infinitely worthy of our most serious consideration every day and hour of our life! That which is here called our salvation, is in Jude 1:3 termed the common salvation; that is, that salvation, or rest, which we have all a promise left of obtaining, as all the Israelites had a promise left of entering into the land of Canaan, even they who fell short through unbelief, Hebrews 4:1-2. The beautiful and lively metaphor in Romans 13:11-12 is very observable. This present imperfect state of trial, he compares to the night; and the salvation and glory we have in prospect, to the day: he supposes Christians in name maybe asleep, negligent of their most importantconcerns, or immersed in sensuality: as the Apostle therefore of Christ, and a preacher of the Gospel, he knocks at the chamber-door, and calls to them, "It is high time to awake out of sleep; the day appears, the glorious day of your everlasting salvation. Awake, awake! throw off the loose clothes which cover you in the night, and in which it is unseemly to appear before men; and put on that comely dress, which is agreeable to the day, and gives a decent and honourable appearance in the world:" meaning that disposition and conversation which are agreeable to the Gospel, lovely in the eyes of good men, and which fits us to appear among the blessed in the realms of light.


Verse 12

Romans 13:12. The armour of light Beza observes very justly, that the sense of οπλα, armour, is very extensive, and comprehends any accoutrements of the body. Hence it evidently signifies dress: and the Apostle's meaning will be obscured, if it be not so translated. "Put on the dress and ornaments of that virtue and holiness, which is suitable to the heavenly light of the Gospel." See Locke.


Verse 13

Romans 13:13. Let us walk honestly ' Ευσχημονως, honourably, or gracefully. Dr. Milner renders the passage, Let us walk with a grace. The word for chambering is κοιταις, which Leigh explains of lying long in bed. It implies effeminacy and luxury of that kind. The word ασελγεια, rendered wantonness, properly signifies a soft and dissolute manner of life, attended with an affected delicacy, very detrimental to that resolution which is so necessary an ingredient in the character of one who would approve himself a good soldier of Jesus Christ. The general meaning may be, "Do not indulge any intemperate lewd conversation among your heathen acquaintance, nor any strife or envy against your Christian brethren." See Doddridge, Stockius, and Milner's "Fading Flowers of Life," p. 38.


Verse 14

Romans 13:14. Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ A strong expression for endeavouring to be clothed, through divine grace, with allthe virtues and graces which compose his character. It is observable, that the Apostle does not say, "Put on purity, sobriety, benevolence, &c." But he in effect says all at once, in saying, Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ. Plutarch tells us concerning the kings of Persia, that on the coronation-day they put on a robe which the first Cyrus wore before he was king, to remindthemofimitatinghisexemplary temper and behaviour. Dr. Hammond renders the last clause of this verse very well, "Take care your providence for the flesh do not turn into covetousness, or irregular desires;" for it is literally, Make not provision for the flesh unto covetousness. See Plutarch's Life of Artaxerxes, and Hammond.

Inferences.—What a wise and important appointment of Providence is civil government, for the good of mankind; for a terror to evil doers, and a praise to them that do well! And what a friend is the Christian religion to its happiness, peace, and order! It directs rulers how to answer the valuable ends of the high trust which God has committed to them; and teaches subjects to yield all dutiful obedience to them, for conscience-sake, as well as for escaping the vengeance of the sword of justice, and reaping the benefits of government. While magistrates rule for the general good of the community, according to the laws and constitution of the state, we ought to reverence and honour them in their public character, as the ministers and ordinance of God for good, and to pay the customs and tributes that are their due, as an equitable and grateful return for their care, trouble, and expence in protecting us, and our rights and properties: public as well as private debts, ought to be faithfully discharged; only we are never to think that we have so fully paid the debt of love one to another, as to be under no farther obligations to it. What an amiable and constraining principle is true Christian love! It inclines and engages us to fulfil all the duties of morality towards our neighbour; it restrains us from adultery, murder, theft, falsehood, and lying, and from all covetous desires of any man's goods and enjoyments; and it obliges and disposes us to a performance of all the contrary duties, yea, of every thing contained in the Second Table of the Law. But, alas! how imperfect is the present state of things! The best that can be said of it is, that the night is far spent, and the day is at hand; and that complete salvation is continually approaching nearer and nearer to every true and persevering believer. How should these thoughts excite Christians to shake off sloth, and renounce all works of darkness; such as rioting and drunkenness, uncleanness and wantonness, strife and envy; and to walk honourably, as becomes children of the light and of the day, and as those that put on Christ, and the illustrious armour with which he has furnished them, to guard against all evil; and that are careful never to do any thing to indulge the flesh, and fulfil its sinful desires!

REFLECTIONS.—1st, From the duties they owed to each other, as members of civil society, the Apostle proceeds to enforce submission in all lawful things to the authority of the civil government under which they lived. The Christian doctrine makes no alteration in the natural and civil rights of mankind. Dominion is not founded in grace; therefore Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers; respectful and obedient to all lawful magistrates, from the highest to the lowest, and willingly observant of the laws with the execution of which they are entrusted. For there is no power, but of God; he is the source of all authority, dignity, and honour; by him kings reign. The powers that be are ordained of God; whatever be the mode of government, whether the ruling power be lodged in the hands of one person or many, submission is our duty; and though the men who are invested with the authority be never so vile and wicked, their lawful commands are nevertheless to be obeyed; and the magistrate is to be honoured, however despicable the man may appear. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, and refuseth obedience to the lawful orders of the established government, resisteth the ordinance of God; and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation, κριμα, the punishment due to their offence, according to the laws, from the sword of the magistrate, and judgment also from God for the transgression against his ordinance. For rulers are not a terror to good works: they who behave quiet and submissive have nothing to fear, for such subjects the magistrates are bound to protect and cherish; but they are appointed to restrain the evil actions of men, which tend to disturb the peace of society, to dishonour God, or injure their neighbour. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, be peaceable and obedient to the laws, and thou shalt have praise of the same; in every well-ordered government such subjects will be protected and encouraged. For he is the minister of God, appointed to preserve the peace of the state, to redress injuries, administer justice, suppress vice, profaneness, and immorality; to punish offenders, and promote the general welfare: and therefore if thou be found obedient, the office of magistracy will be to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, and violate the established laws, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain; being obliged by his very office impartially to inflict the penalty due to every offence; for he is the minister of God, who puts the sword of judgment into his hands, as a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil; not out of any private personal resentment, but coolly as God's vicegerent, without partiality or favour, according to the dictates of justice. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, merely through fear of punishment and penalties, but also for conscience-sake; from a principle of duty towards God, whose ordinance is binding; and obedience for his sake is due to human laws, though no pains or penalties were annexed. For, for this cause pay ye tribute also; the taxes and duties necessary for the support of the government whose protection you enjoy: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Remember therefore to all their dues, according to the laws human or divine; tribute to whom tribute is due, custom to whom custom; all subsidies, taxes, &c. imposed by lawful authority; fear, to whom fear and reverence should be paid; honour, to whom honour is due, according to the superior rank and relation in which by the providence of God they are placed.

2nd, From the payment of dues to magistrates, the Apostle passes on to enforce the discharge of every debt, to whomsoever due.

Owe no man any thing; never run in debt where you have no immediate prospect of paying; nor continue in debt when you have ability to discharge it; and in every relation of life be ready to fulfil the duty which you owe. One debt there is, however, and but one, where, though ever paying, you neither wish nor desire that it should be less, and that is, to love one another as men, and especially as Christians, seeking to promote each other's present and eternal welfare; and this, as the great and reigning principle in all your conduct: for he that loveth another, and, from a sense of the love of God in Christ, experiences this godlike charity, hath fulfilled the law; if his love be perfect, he will be complete in all the will of God. Yet so far as love is in vigorous exercise, so far will his spiritual obedience advance towards perfection. For this, thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not bear false witness, thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, and act conscientiously towards him, as, were our circumstances reversed, we might reasonably expect he should behave towards us; for then, were there no human restraints or punishments, love would effectually prevent every violation of our neighbour's person, goods, or fame: we cannot hurt the body which we love; we cannot defraud those whom we love; we cannot speak evil of those whom we love; we cannot defile those whom we love, though lawless lust (which is real hatred) often covers its horrid features with the false vizor of this sacred name. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour, neither in act nor intention; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

3rdly, The Apostle enforces what he had been recommending to their practice, by a very aweful consideration. And this duty of love I press upon you, knowing the time, the day of Gospel grace and light having broke in upon us; so that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; and shake off all spiritual sloth and carnal security for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed; and as our journey's end draws nearer, we should mend our pace, not loiter, when the mansions of eternal rest are, as it were, in view. The night is far spent, the night of trials, and afflictions, and remaining ignorance, is drawing to an end; the day of the complete redemption of the faithful from darkness, trouble, and suffering, is at hand, when in eternal glory their sun shall rise, to set no more: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness; as persons rising from their beds remove the clothes, so must we reject and put far away all those sinful tempers and practices, which are opposite to the light of truth, are usually done in secret, and for which the blackness of darkness is the reserved punishment: and let us put on the armour of light, all those bright and shining graces of the Spirit, which adorn our holy profession, and enable us to stand against the assaults of sin, the world, and Satan, till triumphantly we shall appear in all the lustre of eternal glory. Therefore let us walk honestly as in the day, shewing a conversation such as becometh godliness in the eyes of men; guided by the light of truth, and the Spirit of purity; and able to bear the strictest scrutiny of our Observer; not in rioting and drunkeness, indulging to excess in meat and drink our sensual appetites; not in chambering and wantonness, for which sensuality supplies the fuel; but restraining every lascivious thought, immodest word, indecent action, as well as abstaining from the grosser pollutions which are in the world through lust; not in strife and envying, contentious, quarrelsome, and grieved, instead of rejoicing in the prosperity of our neighbours. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, that you may be complete in him; put on his image, that, being like him, you may come to be with him; put on his holy profession, owning your entire dependence upon him, as your Prophet, Priest, and King; that all who see you may take knowledge of you that you indeed belong to him; and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof; let your soul, and your eternal interests, be your great concern, without anxiety about a worldly provision; and, especially, mortify your sensual appetites in whatever would tend to inflame the passions; and to as many as walk after this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and on the Israel of God.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Romans 13:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/romans-13.html. 1801-1803.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, November 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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