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John Calvin, Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul to the Romans [1539]

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John Calvin, Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul to the Romans, trans. from the original Latin by the Rev. John Owen (Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1849). http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/537

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One of Calvin’s very influential commentaries on books of the New Testament which had a decisive impact on the course of the Reformation.

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Edition: current; Page: [i]
COMMENTARIES on THE EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE to THE ROMANS.
Edition: current; Page: [ii]

THE CALVIN TRANSLATION SOCIETY,
INSTITUTED IN MAY M.DCCC.XLIII.

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FOR THE PUBLICATION OF TRANSLATIONS OF THE WORKS OF JOHN CALVIN.

Acting and Editorial Secretary, Robert Pitcairn, F.S.A.Sc. Office, 9, Northumberland Street, Edinburgh.

Edition: current; Page: [iii]
COMMENTARIES ON THE EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE ROMANS.
BY JOHN CALVIN.
TRANSLATED AND EDITED BY THE REV. JOHN OWEN, vicar of thrussington, leicestershire.
EDINBURGH:
PRINTED FOR THE CALVIN TRANSLATION SOCIETY.
M.DCCC.XLIX.
Edition: current; Page: [iv]

it is indeed strange that they make so much stir about predestination: let them only consult their own luther on the ‘bondage of the will.’ what do bucer, calvin, and martyr teach which luther has not taught in that little book?”

Archbishop Grindal.

[Entered at Stationers’ Hall.]

which of you all at this day is able to answer calvin’s institutions?......in the matter of predestination, he is in none other opinion than all the doctors of the church be.

Archdeacon Philpot.

edinburgh: printed by t. constable, printer to her majesty.

Edition: current; Page: [v]

TRANSLATOR’S PREFACE.

On no portion of the New Testament have so many Commentaries been written as on the Epistle to the Romans. We have indeed no separate Comment extant by any of the Fathers on this Epistle; though it has been explained, together with other parts of Scripture, by Origen in the third century; by Jerome, Chrysostom, and in part by Augustine, in the fourth; by Theodoret in the fifth; by Œcumenius in the tenth; and by Theophylact in the eleventh century. But since the Reformation, many separate Expositions have been published, beside a learned Introduction by Luther, and Notes or Scholia by Zuingle and Melancthon.

The first complete Commentary, as it appears, was written by Bullinger; the second by Bucer, a Professor of Theology at Cambridge for a short time in the reign of Edward the Sixth; and the next in order of time was this Work by Calvin, composed at Strasburg in the year 1539. The fourth was by Peter Martyr; and this was translated into English in the year 1568. Another was afterwards published by Rodolph Gualter, Minister at Zurich:

Early in the next century the learned Pareus1 delivered lectures on this Epistle, as Professor of Theology in the University of Heidelberg—a work of great learning and of great merits, though written in a style too scholastic to suit the taste of the present day. His special object was to rebut the arguments and expose the sophistries of Popish writers, Edition: current; Page: [vi] particularly those of Bellarmine, the acutest, the subtlest, and the most learned of all the Jesuits of his own age, and perhaps of any in after ages. There is hardly a subject in any measure connected with the contents of this Epistle which Pareus does not discuss: at the end of every chapter a number of questions are stated and answered, especially such as refer to the disputes between Papists and Protestants. He also controverts the perversions of Socinianism.

The next work that requires particular notice is that of Turrettin, a Professor of Theology in the University of Geneva. It was published about the commencement of the last century; the author died in the year 1737. The doctrine of Calvin had somewhat degenerated in his time, though his work on the whole takes the side of orthodoxy. It yet shows a leaning to those views, which commonly issue in sentiments subversive of the essentials of true Christianity.

The first Commentary published in this country, composed in English, was by Elnathan Parr, B.D., Rector of Palgrave in Suffolk. He was, as it appears, the personal friend of Sir Nathaniel Bacon, an elder brother of Lord Bacon. He dedicated his work to Sir Nathaniel, and speaks of him as having been a hearer of what he published when delivered from the pulpit.1 His style is that of his age, and appears quaint now; but his thoughts are often very striking and truly excellent, and his sentiments are wholly in accordance with those of the Reformers.

Since that time until this century, no work of any note has appeared separately on this Epistle. But within the last thirty years several Commentaries have been published. Besides those of Flatt and Tholuck in Germany, three at least have appeared in this country, and three in America. The authors in America are Moses Stuart, M.A., Professor of Sacred Literature at Andover, in Massachusetts, the Rev. Albert Barnes, and Charles Hodge, Professor of Biblical Literature at Princeton. Those in this country are the Rev. J. Fry, Rector of Desford, Leicestershire, Robert Haldane, Edition: current; Page: [vii] Esq., and Dr. Chalmers. The doctrine held by Calvin is essentially maintained in all these works, and in most of them in its fullest extent.

Of our American brethren, the most learned and the most versed in criticisms is Professor Stuart; the fullest and the minutest expositor is the Rev. A. Barnes; and the acutest and the most concise commentator is Professor Hodge. The two first seem, in some instances, like Turrettin, to deviate somewhat from what may be considered strict orthodoxy, at least in their mode of explaining some subjects: the last is liable to no charge of this kind.

Respecting our own countrymen, there is a more perfect unanimity, though they belonged to different Churches. The Lectures of the Rev. J. Fry are those of a strict Predestinarian, and yet replete with remarks, both experimental and practical. The layman, R. Haldane, Esq., has displayed very high qualifications as an expositor; he is strictly and even stiffly orthodox, and can brook no deviation from what he regards as the truth. Of Dr. Chalmers’ Lectures, comprised in four volumes, 12mo, it is difficult to pronounce an opinion. They are the productions of a philosopher, and one of the highest grade, who, at the same time, possessed the heart and the experience of an humble Christian. He expatiates over the whole field of truth with the eye of an eagle, and with the docility of a child, without ever overleaping the boundaries of revelation. He was evidently a man by himself, taller by his shoulders than most men, either in this or in any other age, having a mind as sound as it was vigorous, an imagination as sober as it was creative, and a capacity to illustrate and to amplify quite unequalled.

All these works have their peculiar excellencies, adapted to different tastes and capacities, and no doubt they have their defects. The same must be said of Calvin’s work. But as a concise and lucid Commentator he certainly excels. He is not so much an expounder of words, as of principles. He carries on an unbroken chain of reasoning throughout, in a brief and clear manner. Having well considered the main drift of a passage, he sets before us what it contains, Edition: current; Page: [viii] by a brief statement or by a clear process of reasoning; and often by a single sentence he throws light on a whole passage: and though his mind possessed more vigour of intellect and sound good sense, than what is called imagination; yet there are some fine thoughts occasionally occurring, beautifully expressed, to which that faculty must have given birth. There is also a noble grandeur and dignity in his sentiments, rarely to be found in other writers.

Professor Stuart has justly characterized this Work by saying, that it contains “fundamental investigation of the logic and course of thought contained in the Epistle;” and that it embraces “very little verbal criticism. Many a difficulty is solved without any appearance of effort, or any show of learning. Calvin,” he adds, “is by far the most distinguished of all the Commentators of his times.”

It was mainly to supply the defect named above, the want of verbal criticism, that Notes have been added in the present Edition. They are also designed to furnish the reader with such expositions as have been suggested by posterior critics and commentators. And as we are generally desirous of knowing the names of authors, they have been for the most part given. Much light is thrown on a passage by conveying the full meaning of the original. This has been done partly by giving such different versions as seemed most entitled to approbation, and partly by referring to other passages where such words occur: so that a common reader, unacquainted with the original, may, to a certain extent, have the advantage of one well versed in the Greek language.

Variety of meanings given to words, and also to passages, has been deemed by some to lessen the certainty of truth, but without any solid reason; for this variety, as found in the works of all sound and judicious critics, seldom or ever affects any thing important, either in doctrine, experience, or practice, and tends often to expand the meaning and to render it clearer and more prominent. There has been indeed sometimes a pruriency in this respect, an unholy ambition for novelty, a desire for new discoveries, an indulgence of mere curiosity, which have been very injurious. Much of Edition: current; Page: [ix] this sort of mania prevailed among some of the German divines in the last century, as Wolfius clearly shows in his works, in which he notices and disproves many vagaries assuming the name of critical expositions; and much of a similar kind of spirit seems to prevail still in that country. It is a mania for criticism, for its own sake, without any concern or solicitude for the truth: and ingenious criticism has often been resorted to by the oppugners of vital Christianity as means for supporting heterodoxical sentiments. But there is a palpable difference between men of this character, the mere gladiators of criticism, and those who embrace the truth, and whose object it is faithfully to explain it in consistency with the general tenor of what is revealed, and who have what is indispensably necessary for such a work, a spiritual experience, which often affords better assistance than any critical acumen that can ever be possessed. The man who has seen a thing has a much better idea of it than the man who has only heard it described.

Attempts have been made by various authors to show and prove, that the style of the Epistles, especially those of Paul, is consonant with that of classical writers. Blackwall laboured much to do this in this country, as well as many German divines, particularly in the last century. In common with some of the Fathers, they thought to recommend in this way the Apostolic Writings to the attention of literary men. But it was a labour not wisely undertaken, as it must have necessarily proved abortive: for though some phrases may be classical, yet the general style is what might have been naturally expected from the writers, brought up, as they had all been, in the Jewish religion, and accustomed, as they had been, to the writings of the Old Testament. Hence their style throughout is Hebraistic; and the meaning of many of the Greek words which they use is not to be sought from the Classics, but from the Greek Translation of the ancient Scriptures, and sometimes from the Hebrew itself, of which that is a translation.1

Edition: current; Page: [x]

Much evil and no good must result from a claim that cannot be supported: nor is it at all necessary to make such a claim. It has been long ago repudiated, and repudiated by Paul himself. Writers have often ascribed to Paul what he himself distinctly and entirely disclaimed, and never attempted to attain or to practise, and that on principle, “Lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.” It was not by “excellency of speech” that he courted the attention of the classical and refined Grecians, that he recommended the gospel to them; it was not by the tinsel of mere eloquence that he succeeded in his preaching, nor by the elegance and beauty of his diction; but by something much higher, much greater, much more powerful and efficient. We ought to follow his example, and stand on his high ground, and not to descend to that which is no better than a quagmire. It is a happy thing, and no doubt so designed by God, that the shell should not be made of fine materials, lest men’s minds should be attracted by it and neglect the kernel. God might, if he chose, have easily endued his Apostles with eloquence more than human, and enabled them to write with elegance more than Grecian; but He did not do so, and Paul expressly gives us the reason, “that our faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.”

It is generally agreed, that the Epistle to the Romans was written at Corinth, and about the end of the year 57, or at the beginning of the year 58, and that it is the fifth Epistle in order of time; the two Epistles to the Thessalonians, the Epistle to the Galatians, and the first to the Corinthians, having been previously written. Then followed the second Epistle to the Corinthians, the Epistles to the Edition: current; Page: [xi] Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, and the Hebrews, the first to Timothy, the Epistle to Titus, and the second to Timothy.

The common date assigned to Paul’s conversion is ad 35. He wrote his first Epistle, that is, the first to the Thessalonians, in 52, seventeen years after his conversion. His second Epistle to Timothy, his last, was written from Rome in 65. So that he wrote his fourteen Epistles during these thirteen years. The whole extent of his ministry seems to have been about thirty years; for it is not supposed that he long outlived the date of his second Epistle to Timothy. Tradition says, that he was beheaded at Rome, June 29, ad 66.

Paul’s first coming to Rome was in the spring of the year 61. He continued there as a prisoner for two years.1 When he was released, most writers are of the opinion, that he returned early in 63 to Judea, in company with Timothy, and left Titus at Crete; that he visited the Churches in Asia Minor, then the Churches in Macedonia; that he wintered at Nicopolis, a city of Epirus, in 64; that afterwards he proceeded to Crete and also to Corinth; and that early in 65 he again visited Rome, was taken prisoner, and beheaded in the following year.2 This account clearly shows that he did not accomplish his purpose of visiting Spain, as tradition has recorded.

The first introduction of the Gospel into Rome is involved in uncertainty. The probability is, that some of the “strangers of Rome,” present at the day of Pentecost, were converted, and at their return promoted the spread of the Gospel. Paul mentions two, “Andronicus and Junia,” as having professed the faith before him, and as having been noted among the Apostles. He makes mention, too, of another eminent Christian, “Rufus,” whose father, as it is supposed, carried our Saviour’s cross, Mark xv. 21. It is not improbable, that these were afterwards assisted by such as Edition: current; Page: [xii] had been converted under the ministry of Paul; for he speaks of some of those whom he salutes at Rome as being “beloved,” and as having been his “fellow-workers.”

What some of the Fathers have related was in the first instance a tradition, as there was nothing recorded on the subject before the latter part of the second century, except what has been ascribed to Dionysius of Corinth, preserved by Eusebius. Irenæus and Tertullian were the first retailers of the tradition, that Peter, in conjunction with Paul, was the founder of the Church at Rome. This tradition increased considerably by the time of Jerome, who, in the fourth century, says, that Peter had been bishop of Rome for twenty-five years! But this account is so clearly inconsistent with what we learn from the Acts of the Apostles respecting Peter, that some of the most reasonable of the Papists themselves have given it up as unworthy of credit.1

It appears next to a certainty that Peter was not at Rome when Paul wrote his Epistle in 57 or 58, for he sends no salutation to Peter:—And also that he had not been there previous to that time; for it is wholly unreasonable to suppose, that, had he been there, Paul would have made no reference to his labours. It further amounts almost to a certainty, that Peter was not at Rome when Paul was for two years a prisoner there, from 61 to 63; for he makes no mention of him in any way, not even in the four or five Epistles which he wrote during that time: And that Peter was not at Rome during Paul’s last imprisonment in 65 and 66, is evident from the second Epistle to Timothy; for he makes no mention of Peter, and what he says of Christians there, that they “all forsook him,” would have been highly discreditable to Peter, if he was there. So that we have the Edition: current; Page: [xiii] strongest reasons to conclude, that Peter had no part in forming and establishing a Church in Rome during Paul’s life, whatever share in the work he might have had afterwards.1 But the first tradition, or the first account, given by Irenæus and Tertullian, refers only to a co-operation: and yet this co-operation is wholly inconsistent with what has been stated, the force of which no reasonable man can resist.

The learned Pareus proceeds in a different way to prove that Peter was never at Rome. He shows from different parts of the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistle to the Galatians, that Peter was in Judea at the time when tradition declares that he was at Rome. Peter was in Judea when Paul was converted, Acts ix.; and three years after this—that is, in the year 38, Gal. i. 18. He was in Judea in the year 45, when he was imprisoned by Herod, Acts xii.; and in 49, fourteen years after Paul’s conversion, Acts xv.; Gal. ii. 1-9. Had he been to Rome during this time, some account of such a journey must surely have been given. After this time we find that he was at Antioch, Gal. ii. 11. If it be asked, where did he afterwards exercise his ministry? Where more likely than among the Jews, as he had hitherto most clearly done; for he was the Apostle of the Circumcision, and among those to whom he sent his Epistles. The dating of the first at “Babylon,” has led some to conjecture that it was a figurative term for Rome; but why not for Jerusalem, or for Antioch? for Christians were at that time treated everywhere like captives or aliens, and especially in the land of Judea.

What then are we to say as to this tradition? The same, according to the just remark of Pareus, as what we must say of many other traditions of that age, that it is nothing Edition: current; Page: [xiv] but a fable, which, like many others, would have passed away, had it not been allied to a growing superstition. With respect to what Eusebius says of the testimony of a presbyter, named Caius, that about the beginning of the third century he saw the graves of Peter and Paul at Rome, it may be easily accounted for: it was the age of pious fraud, when the relics of saints could be found almost everywhere; and, in the next century, the wood and the nails of the Cross were discovered! Those who can believe these things, may have a credulity large enough to swallow up the testimony of Caius.1

The most probable account, then, of the commencement of a Christian Church at Rome, is what has been already stated. The condition of that Church, when Paul wrote to it, we may in a great measure learn from the Epistle itself. It had a high character, viewed in a general way; but there were some defects and blemishes. Its faith had been widely reported: there were at the same time some contentions and divisions among its members, arising especially from the prejudices of the Jewish believers. To remove the causes of this dissension, was evidently one of the main objects of Paul in this Epistle.

The order and arrangement of the Epistle have been somewhat differently viewed by different authors. Pareus includes the whole in this brief summary—“The Jews and Edition: current; Page: [xv] Gentiles are equally guilty; they are equally justified freely by faith in Christ, without works; they are equally bound to lead a holy life, to be humble, and to love one another.” Stuart says, that the whole of what the Epistle contains may be expressed in a single brief sentence—“Christ our justification and sanctification.”

In giving a more specific view of the contents of this Epistle, the former author divides it into two parts—doctrinal, i.-xi.; and hortative, xii.-xvi.; but the latter divides it into three parts—doctrinal, i.-viii.; answers to objections, ix.-xi.; and hortatory, xii.-xvi. The analysis of Professor Hodge, who takes the same view with Professor Stuart, is the following:—

“The Epistle consists of three parts. The first, which includes the first eight chapters, is occupied in the discussion of The Doctrine of Justification and its consequences. The second, embracing chapters ix., x., xi., treats of The Calling of the Gentiles, The Rejection and Future Conversion of the Jews. The third consists of Practical Exhortations and Salutations to the Christians at Rome.”

A more particular analysis may be thus given:—

  • I. Address—A desire to visit Rome—a brief View of The Gospel; i. 1-18.
  • II. Justification,
    • 1. A proof of its necessity—the sin and guilt of both Gentiles and Jews, i., from ver. 18; ii., iii., to ver. 21.
    • 2. Its Nature and Character—Examples, Abraham and David, iii., from ver. 21, iv.
    • 3. Its Effects or Fruits—Peace and Fulness of Grace, v.; Death unto Sin and Eternal Life, vi.; Immunity from The Law and The Reigning Power of Sin, vii.; Holiness, The Spirit’s help, Patience in Afflictions, Perseverance, viii.
  • III. God’s dealings vindicated,
    • 1. Election and Reprobation, ix.
    • 2. Unbelief and Faith, x.
    • 3. The Rejection of the Jews, The Adoption of the Gentiles, The Restoration of the Jews, xi.
    Edition: current; Page: [xvi]
  • IV. Christian duties,
    • 1. Devotedness to God, Proper Use of Gifts, Love, Doing Good, xii.
    • 2. Obedience to Authority, Love to all, Purity, xiii.
    • 3. Forbearance towards Weak Brethren, xiv.
    • 4. Help to the Weak, Unanimity, Christ the Saviour of Jews and Gentiles, xv., to ver. 13.
  • V. Conclusion,
    • 1. Paul’s Labours and Purpose to Visit Rome, xv., from ver. 13.
    • 2. Salutations, Avoiding Disturbers, Promise of Victory, Praise to God, xvi.

We have set before us in this Epistle especially two things, which it behoves us all rightly to understand—the righteousness of man and the righteousness of God—merit and grace, or salvation by works and salvation by faith. The light in which they are exhibited here is clearer and brighter than what we find in any other portion of Scripture, with the exception, perhaps, of the Epistle to the Galatians. Hence the great value which has in every age been attached to this Epistle by all really enlightened Christians; and hence also the strenuous efforts which have often been made to darken and wrest its meaning by men, though acute and learned, yet destitute of spiritual light. But let not the simple Christian conclude from the contrariety that is often found in the expositions on these two points, that there is no certainty in what is taught respecting them. There are no contrary views given of them by spiritually-minded men. Though on other subjects discussed here, such men have had their differences, yet on these they have ever been found unanimous: that salvation is from first to last by grace, and not by works, has ever been the conviction of really enlightened men in every age, however their opinions may have varied in other respects.

It may seem very strange, when we consider the plain and decisive language, especially of this Epistle, and the clear and conclusive reasoning which it exhibits, that any attempt should ever be made by a reasonable being, acknowledging Edition: current; Page: [xvii] the authority of Scripture, to pervert what it plainly teaches, and to evade what it clearly proves. But a right view of what human nature is, when unrenewed, as exhibited in God’s Word, and as proved by history and made evident by observation, enables us fully to account for what would otherwise remain an enigma. No truth is more fully confirmed by facts (and it ought ever to be remembered) than that “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God,” and that he “cannot know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” This declaration clearly accounts for the fact, that men of great learning have often misunderstood many things in Scripture, and such things as are plain enough even to the unlettered when spiritually enlightened. The learned Scribes and Rabbins were blind leaders of the blind, when even babes understood the mysteries of the kingdom of God: and no better than the Scribes are many learned men, professing Christianity, in our day.

There is indeed a special reason why, on these points, unenlightened men should contrive means to evade the obvious meaning of Scripture; for they are such things as come in constant contact with a principle, the strongest that belongs to human nature in its fallen state. Other doctrines may be held as speculations, and kept, as it were, at a distance; but when we come to merit and grace, to work and faith, man’s pride is touched; and as long as he is under its prevailing influence, he will be certain, in some way or another, direct or evasive, to support merit in opposition to grace, or works in opposition to faith. When the authority of tradition supplanted the authority of Scripture, the doctrine of merit so prevailed, that the preposterous idea, that merits were a saleable and a transferable commodity, gained ground in the world. A notion of this kind is too gross and absurd to be entertained by any who acknowledge God’s Word as the only umpire in religion; and yet what is not essentially different has often been maintained; for to say that salvation is partly by faith and partly by works, is really the same thing, inasmuch as the principle of merit is thereby admitted. Man naturally cleaves to his own righteousness; all Edition: current; Page: [xviii] those who are ignorant are self-righteous, and all the learned who understand not the gospel; and it is wonderful what ingenious evasions and learned subtleties men will have recourse to in order to resist the plain testimony of Scripture. When they cannot maintain their ground as advocates of salvation alone by merits, they will attempt to maintain it as advocates of a system, which allows a part to grace and a part to works—an amalgamation which Paul expressly repudiates, Rom. xi. 6.

But it is remarkable how the innate disposition of man has displayed itself in this respect. Conscious, as it were, in some measure of moral imperfections, he has been striving for the most part to merit his salvation by ceremonial works. This has been the case in all ages with heathens: their sacrifices, austerities, and mechanical devotions were their merits; they were the works by which they expected to obtain happiness. God favoured the people of Israel with the rituals of religion, which were designed merely as aids and means to attain and preserve true religion; but they converted them to another purpose, and, like the heathens, regarded them as meritorious performances, and expected God’s acceptance for the very religious acts which they exercised: and in order to make up, as it were, a sufficient quantity of merit, they made additions to those services which God had appointed, as though to multiply acts of this kind was to render their salvation more certain. The very same evil crept early into the Christian Church, and still continues to exist. The accumulation of ceremonies is of itself a sufficient proof, that salvation by faith was in a great measure lost sight of: we want no other evidence; it is what has been ever done whenever the light of truth has become dim and obscure. We see the same evil in the present day. Outward privileges and outward acts of worship are in effect too often substituted for that grace which changes the heart, and for that living faith which unites us to the Saviour, which works by love and overcomes the world. The very disposition to over-value external privileges and the mere performances of religious duties, is an unequivocal evidence, that salvation by faith is Edition: current; Page: [xix] not understood, or very imperfectly understood, and not really embraced.

The only remedy, as means for this evil, is that which we find employed by Paul in this Epistle. He begins by showing what every man, Jew and Gentile, is by nature; he proves by the clearest evidence, that all have sinned and become guilty before God. And having done this, he discloses the way of salvation which God himself has planned and revealed; and he teaches us, that it is altogether by grace and through faith that we can be saved, and not by works. In order cordially to embrace this latter truth, it is necessary to know the first, that we are sinners under condemnation. It is impossible, according to the very constitution of man’s mind, that he should really and truly accede to the one, without a real and deep knowledge of the other. The whole need not a physician, but the sick. It is only he who is really convinced of sin and who feels its guilt and its burden intolerable, that ever will, or indeed ever can, really lay hold on that free salvation which God has provided. And when this free salvation is really known, all other things compared with it will be deemed as nothing; and then all outward privileges will be viewed only as means, and all outward acts of religion only as aids and helps; and then also all our works, however great and self-denying, will be regarded in no way meritorious, but imperfect and defective, and acceptable only through the merits of our High Priest at God’s right hand.

It has not been deemed necessary to give in this Edition any specimens of title-pages, &c., from former Editions, either in Latin or in English; as they are to be found in the Old Translation already in the hands of the subscribers.

J. O.
Edition: current; Page: [xx] Edition: current; Page: [xxi]

COMMENTARIES ON THE EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE ROMANS.

Edition: current; Page: [xxii] Edition: current; Page: [xxiii]

THE EPISTLE DEDICATORY.

JOHN CALVIN TO SIMON GRYNÆUS,1
A MAN WORTHY OF ALL HONOUR.

I remember that when three years ago we had a friendly converse as to the best mode of expounding Scripture, the plan which especially pleased you, seemed also to me the most entitled to approbation: we both thought that the chief excellency of an expounder consists in lucid brevity. And, indeed, since it is almost his only work to lay open the mind of the writer whom he undertakes to explain, the degree in which he leads away his readers from it, in that degree he goes astray from his purpose, and in a manner wanders from his own boundaries. Hence we expressed a hope, that from the number of those who strive at this day to advance the interest of theology by this kind of labour, some one would be found, who would study plainness, and endeavour to avoid the evil of tiring his readers with prolixity. I know at the same time that this view is not taken Edition: current; Page: [xxiv] by all, and that those who judge otherwise have their reasons; but still I cannot be drawn away from the love of what is compendious. But as there is such a variety, found in the minds of men, that different things please different persons, let every one in this case follow his own judgment, provided that no one attempts to force others to adopt his own rules. Thus it will be, that we who approve of brevity, will not reject nor despise the labours of those who are more copious and diffused in their explanations of Scripture, and that they also in their turn will bear with us, though they may think us too compressed and concise.

I indeed could not have restrained myself from attempting something to benefit the Church of God in this way. I am, however, by no means confident that I have attained what at that time seemed best to us; nor did I hope to attain it when I began; but I have endeavoured so to regulate my style, that I might appear to aim at that model. How far I have succeeded, as it is not my part to determine, I leave to be decided by you and by such as you are.

That I have dared to make the trial, especially on this Epistle of Paul, I indeed see, will subject me to the condemnation of many: for since men of so much learning have already laboured in the explanation of it, it seems not probable that there is any room for others to produce any thing better. And I confess, that though I promised to myself some fruit from my labour, I was at first deterred by this thought; for I feared, lest I should incur the imputation of presumption by applying my hand to a work which had been executed by so many illustrious workmen. There are extant on this Epistle many Commentaries by the ancients, and many by modern writers: and truly they could have never employed their labours in a better way; for when any one understands this Epistle, he has a passage opened to him to the understanding of the whole Scripture.

Of the ancients who have, by their piety, learning, holiness, and also by their age, gained so much authority, that we ought to despise nothing of what they have adduced, I will say nothing; and with regard to those who live at this day, it is of no benefit to mention them all by name: Of Edition: current; Page: [xxv] those who have spent most labour in this work, I will express my opinion.

Philipp Melancthon, who, by his singular learning and industry, and by that readiness in all kinds of knowledge, in which he excels, has introduced more light than those who had preceded him. But as it seems to have been his object to examine only those things which are mainly worthy of attention, he dwelt at large on these, and designedly passed by many things which common minds find to be difficult. Then follows Bullinger, who has justly attained no small praise; for with learning he has connected plainness, for which he has been highly commended. In the last place comes Bucer, who, by publishing his works, has given as it were the finishing stroke. For in addition to his recondite learning and enlarged knowledge of things, and to the clearness of his mind, and much reading and many other excellencies, in which he is hardly surpassed by any at this day, equalled by few and excelled by still fewer—he possesses, as you know, this praise as his own—that no one in our age has been with so much labour engaged in the work of expounding Scripture.1

As then it would have been, I know, a proof of the most presumptuous rivalry, to wish to contend with such men, such a thing never entered my mind; nor have I a desire to take from them the least portion of their praise. Let that favour and authority, which according to the confession of all good men they have deserved, be continued to them. This, however, I trust, will be allowed—that nothing has been done by men so absolutely perfect, that there is no room left for the industry of those who succeed them, either to polish, or to adorn, or to illustrate. Of myself I venture not to say any thing, except that I thought that my labour Edition: current; Page: [xxvi] would not be useless, and that I have undertaken it for no other reason than to promote the public good of the Church.

I farther hoped, that by adopting a different plan, I should not expose myself to the invidious charge of rivalry, of which I was afraid in the first instance. Philipp attained his object by illustrating the principal points: being occupied with these primary things, he passed by many things which deserve attention; and it was not his purpose to prevent others to examine them. Bucer is too diffuse for men in business to read, and too profound to be understood by such as are simple and not capable of much application: for whatever be the subject which he handles, so many things are suggested to him through the incredible fecundity of his mind, in which he excels, that he knows not when to stop. Since then the first has not explained every passage, and the other has handled every point more at large than it can be read in a short time, my design has not even the appearance of being an act of rivalship. I, however, hesitated for some time, whether it would be better to gather some gleanings after these and others, by which I might assist humbler minds—or to compose a regular comment, in which I should necessarily have to repeat many things which have been previously said by them all, or at least by some of them. But as they often vary from one another, and thus present a difficulty to simple readers, who hesitate as to what opinion they ought to receive, I thought that it would be no vain labour, if by pointing out the best explanation, I relieved them from the trouble of forming a judgment, who are not able to form a judgment for themselves; and especially as I determined to treat things so briefly, that without much loss of time, readers may peruse in my work what is contained in other writings. In short, I have endeavoured that no one may justly complain, that there are here many things which are superfluous.

Of the usefulness of this work I will say nothing; men, not malignant, will, however, it may be, have reasons to confess, that they have derived from it more benefit than I can with any modesty dare to promise. Now, that I sometimes Edition: current; Page: [xxvii] dissent from others, or somewhat differ from them, it is but right that I should be excused. Such veneration we ought indeed to entertain for the Word of God, that we ought not to pervert it in the least degree by varying expositions; for its majesty is diminished, I know not how much, especially when not expounded with great discretion and with great sobriety. And if it be deemed a great wickedness to contaminate any thing that is dedicated to God, he surely cannot be endured, who, with impure, or even with unprepared hands, will handle that very thing, which of all things is the most sacred on earth. It is therefore an audacity, closely allied to a sacrilege, rashly to turn Scripture in any way we please, and to indulge our fancies as in sport; which has been done by many in former times.

But we ever find, that even those who have not been deficient in their zeal for piety, nor in reverence and sobriety in handling the mysteries of God, have by no means agreed among themselves on every point; for God hath never favoured his servants with so great a benefit, that they were all endued with a full and perfect knowledge in every thing; and, no doubt, for this end—that he might first keep them humble; and secondly, render them disposed to cultivate brotherly intercourse. Since then what would otherwise be very desirable cannot be expected in this life, that is, universal consent among us in the interpretation of all parts of Scripture, we must endeavour, that, when we depart from the sentiments of our predecessors, we may not be stimulated by any humour for novelty, nor impelled by any lust for defaming others, nor instigated by hatred, nor tickled by any ambition, but constrained by necessity alone, and by the motive of seeking to do good: and then, when this is done in interpreting Scripture, less liberty will be taken in the principles of religion, in which God would have the minds of his people to be especially unanimous. Readers will easily perceive that I had both these things in view.

But as it becomes not me to decide or to pronounce any thing respecting myself, I willingly allow you this office; to Edition: current; Page: [xxviii] whose judgment, since almost all in most things defer, I ought in everything to defer, inasmuch as you are intimately known to me by familiar intercourse; which is wont somewhat to diminish the esteem had for others, but does not a little increase yours, as is well known among all the learned. Farewell.

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EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS.

THE ARGUMENT.

With regard to the excellency of this Epistle, I know not whether it would be well for me to dwell long on the subject; for I fear, lest through my recommendations falling far short of what they ought to be, I should do nothing but obscure its merits: besides, the Epistle itself, at its very beginning, explains itself in a much better way than can be done by any words which I can use. It will then be better for me to pass on to the Argument, or the contents of the Epistle; and it will hence appear beyond all controversy, that besides other excellencies, and those remarkable, this can with truth be said of it, and it is what can never be sufficiently appreciated—that when any one gains a knowledge of this Epistle, he has an entrance opened to him to all the most hidden treasures of Scripture.

The whole Epistle is so methodical, that even its very beginning is framed according to the rules of art. As contrivance appears in many parts, which shall be noticed as we proceed, so also especially in the way in which the main argument is deduced: for having begun with the proof of his Apostleship, he then comes to the Gospel with the view of recommending it; and as this necessarily draws with it the subject of faith, he glides into that, being led by the chain of words as by the hand: and thus he enters on the main subject of the whole Epistle—justification by faith; in treating which he is engaged to the end of the fifth chapter.

The subject then of these chapters may be stated thus,—that man’s only righteousness is through the mercy of God in Edition: current; Page: [xxx] Christ, which being offered by the Gospel is apprehended by faith.

But as men are asleep in their sins, and flatter and delude themselves with a false notion about righteousness, so that they think not that they need the righteousness of faith, except they be cast down from all self-confidence,—and further, as they are inebriated with the sweetness of lusts, and sunk in deep self-security, so that they are not easily roused to seek righteousness, except they are struck down by the terror of divine judgment,—the Apostle proceeds to do two things—to convince men of iniquity, and to shake off the torpor of those whom he proves guilty.

He first condemns all mankind from the beginning of the world for ingratitude, because they recognised not the workman in his extraordinary work: nay, when they were constrained to acknowledge him, they did not duly honour his majesty, but in their vanity profaned and dishonoured it. Thus all became guilty of impiety, a wickedness more detestable than any thing else. And that he might more clearly show that all had departed from the Lord, he recounts the filthy and horrible crimes of which men everywhere became guilty: and this is a manifest proof, that they had degenerated from God, since these sins are evidences of divine wrath, which appear not except in the ungodly. And as the Jews and some of the Gentiles, while they covered their inward depravity by the veil of outward holiness, seemed to be in no way chargeable with such crimes, and hence thought themselves exempt from the common sentence of condemnation, the Apostle directs his discourse against this fictitious holiness; and as this mask before men cannot be taken away from saintlings, (sanctulis—petty saints,) he summons them to the tribunal of God, whose eyes no latent evils can escape. Having afterwards divided his subject, he places apart both the Jews and the Gentiles before the tribunal of God. He cuts off from the Gentiles the excuse which they pleaded from ignorance, because conscience was to them a law, and by this they were abundantly convicted as guilty. He chiefly urges on the Jews that from which they took their defence, even the written law; and as they Edition: current; Page: [xxxi] were proved to have transgressed it, they could not free themselves from the charge of iniquity, and a sentence against them had already been pronounced by the mouth of God himself. He at the same time obviates any objection which might have been made by them—that the covenant of God, which was the symbol of holiness, would have been violated, if they were not to be distinguished from others. Here he first shows, that they excelled not others by the right of the covenant, for they had by their unfaithfulness departed from it: and then, that he might not derogate from the perpetuity of the divine promise, he concedes to them some privilege as arising from the covenant; but it proceeded from the mercy of God, and not from their merits. So that with regard to their own qualifications they were on a level with the Gentiles. He then proves by the authority of Scripture, that both Jews and Gentiles were all sinners; and he also slightly refers to the use of the law.

Having wholly deprived all mankind of their confidence in their own virtue and of their boast of righteousness, and laid them prostrate by the severity of God’s judgment, he returns to what he had before laid down as his subject—that we are justified by faith; and he explains what faith is, and how the righteousness of Christ is by it attained by us. To these things he adds at the end of the third chapter a remarkable conclusion, with the view of beating down the fierceness of human pride, that it might not dare to raise up itself against the grace of God: and lest the Jews should confine so great a favour of God to their own nation, he also by the way claims it in behalf of the Gentiles.

In the fourth chapter he reasons from example; which he adduces as being evident, and hence not liable to be cavilled at; and it is that of Abraham, who, being the father of the faithful, ought to be deemed a pattern and a kind of universal example. Having then proved that he was justified by faith, the Apostle teaches us that we ought to maintain no other way of justification. And here he shows, that it follows from the rule of contraries, that the righteousness of works ceases to exist, since the righteousness of faith is introduced. And he confirms this by the declaration of David, Edition: current; Page: [xxxii] who, by making the blessedness of man to depend on the mercy of God, takes it away from works, as they are incapable of making a man blessed. He then treats more fully what he had before shortly referred to—that the Jews had no reason to raise themselves above the Gentiles, as this felicity is equally common to them both, since Scripture declares that Abraham obtained this righteousness in an uncircumcised state: and here he takes the opportunity of adding some remarks on the use of circumcision. He afterwards subjoins, that the promise of salvation depends on God’s goodness alone: for were it to depend on the law, it could not bring peace to consciences, which it ought to confirm, nor could it attain its own fulfilment. Hence, that it may be sure and certain, we must, in embracing it, regard the truth of God alone, and not ourselves, and follow the example of Abraham, who, turning away from himself, had regard only to the power of God. At the end of the chapter, in order to make a more general application of the adduced example, he introduces several comparisons.

In the fifth chapter, after having touched on the fruit and effects of the righteousness of faith, he is almost wholly taken up with illustrations, in order to make the point clearer. For, deducing an argument from one greater, he shows how much we, who have been redeemed and reconciled to God, ought to expect from his love; which was so abundantly poured forth towards us, when we were sinners and lost, that he gave for us his only-begotten and beloved Son. He afterwards makes comparisons between sin and free righteousness, between Christ and Adam, between death and life, between the law and grace: it hence appears that our evils, however vast they are, are swallowed up by the infinite mercy of God.

He proceeds in the sixth chapter to mention the sanctification which we obtain in Christ. It is indeed natural to our flesh, as soon as it has had some slight knowledge of grace, to indulge quietly in its own vices and lusts, as though it had become free from all danger: but Paul, on the contrary, contends here, that we cannot partake of the righteousness of Christ, except we also lay hold on sanctification. Edition: current; Page: [xxxiii] He reasons from baptism, by which we are initiated into a participation of Christ, (per quem in Christi participationem initiamur;) and in it we are buried together with Christ, so that being dead in ourselves, we may through his life be raised to a newness of life. It then follows, that without regeneration no one can put on his righteousness. He hence deduces exhortations as to purity and holiness of life, which must necessarily appear in those who have been removed from the kingdom of sin to the kingdom of righteousness, the sinful indulgence of the flesh, which seeks in Christ a greater liberty in sinning, being cast aside. He makes also a brief mention of the law as being abrogated; and in the abrogation of this the New Testament shines forth eminently; for together with the remission of sins, it contains the promise of the Holy Spirit.

In the seventh chapter he enters on a full discussion on the use of the law, which he had pointed out before as it were by the finger, while he had another subject in hand: he assigns a reason why we are loosed from the law, and that is, because it serves only for condemnation. Lest, however, he should expose the law to reproach, he clears it in the strongest terms from any imputation of this kind; for he shows that through our fault it is that the law, which was given for life, turns to be an occasion of death. He also explains how sin is by it increased. He then proceeds to describe the contest between the Spirit and the flesh, which the children of God find in themselves, as long as they are surrounded by the prison of a mortal body; for they carry with them the relics of lust, by which they are continually prevented from yielding full obedience to the law.

The eighth chapter contains abundance of consolations, in order that the consciences of the faithful, having heard of the disobedience which he had before proved, or rather imperfect obedience, might not be terrified and dejected. But that the ungodly might not hence flatter themselves, he first testifies that this privilege belongs to none but to the regenerated, in whom the Spirit of God lives and prevails. He unfolds then two things—that all who are planted by the Spirit in the Lord Jesus Christ, are beyond the danger or Edition: current; Page: [xxxiv] the chance of condemnation, however burdened they may yet be with sins; and, also, that all who remain in the flesh, being without the sanctification of the Spirit, are by no means partakers of this great benefit. He afterwards explains how great is the certainty of our confidence, since the Spirit of God by his own testimony drives away all doubts and fears. He further shows, for the purpose of anticipating objections, that the certainty of eternal life cannot be intercepted or disturbed by present evils, to which we are subject in this life; but that, on the contrary, our salvation is promoted by such trials, and that the value of it, when compared with our present miseries, renders them as nothing. He confirms this by the example of Christ, who, being the first-begotten and holding the highest station in the family of God, is the pattern to which we must all be conformed. And, in the last place, as though all things were made secure, he concludes in a most exulting strain, and boldly triumphs over all the power and artifices of Satan.

But as most were much concerned on seeing the Jews, the first guardians and heirs of the covenant, rejecting Christ, for they hence concluded, that either the covenant was transferred from the posterity of Abraham, who disregarded the fulfilling of the covenant, or that he, who made no better provision for the people of Israel, was not the promised Redeemer—he meets this objection at the beginning of the ninth chapter. Having then spoken of his love towards his own nation, that he might not appear to speak from hatred, and having also duly mentioned those privileges by which they excelled others, he gently glides to the point he had in view, that is, to remove the offence, which arose from their own blindness. And he divides the children of Abraham into two classes, that he might show that not all who descended from him according to the flesh, are to be counted for seed and become partakers of the grace of the covenant; but that, on the contrary, aliens become his children, when they possess his faith. He brings forward Jacob and Esau as examples. He then refers us back here to the election of God, on which the whole matter necessarily depends. Besides, as election rests on the mercy of God alone, it is in Edition: current; Page: [xxxv] vain to seek the cause of it in the worthiness of man. There is, on the other hand, rejection (rejectio), the justice of which is indubitable, and yet there is no higher cause for it than the will of God. Near the end of the chapter, he sets forth the calling of the Gentiles and the rejection of the Jews as proved by the predictions of the Prophets.

Having again begun, in the tenth chapter, by testifying his love towards the Jews, he declares that a vain confidence in their own works was the cause of their ruin; and lest they should pretend the law, he obviates their objection, and says, that we are even by the law itself led as it were by the hand to the righteousness of faith. He adds that this righteousness is through God’s bountiful goodness offered indiscriminately to all nations, but that it is only apprehended by those, whom the Lord through special favour illuminates. And he states, that more from the Gentiles than from the Jews would obtain this benefit, as predicted both by Moses and by Isaiah; the one having plainly prophesied of the calling of the Gentiles, and the other of the hardening of the Jews.

The question still remained, “Is there not a difference between the seed of Abraham and other nations according to the covenant of God?” Proceeding to answer this question, he first reminds us, that the work of God is not to be limited to what is seen by our eyes, since the elect often escape our observation; for Elias was formerly mistaken, when he thought that religion had become wholly extinct among the Israelites, when there were still remaining seven thousand; and, further, that we must not be perplexed by the number of unbelievers, who, as we see, hate the gospel. He at length alleges, that the covenant of God continues even to the posterity of Abraham according to the flesh, but to those only whom the Lord by a free election hath predestinated. He then turns to the Gentiles, and speaks to them, lest they should become insolent on account of their adoption, and exult over the Jews as having been rejected, since they excel them in nothing, except in the free favour of the Lord, which ought to make them the more humble; and that this has not wholly departed from the seed of Edition: current; Page: [xxxvi] Abraham, for the Jews were at length to be provoked to emulation by the faith of the Gentiles, so that God would gather all Israel to himself.

The three chapters which follow are admonitory, but they are various in their contents. The twelfth chapter contains general precepts on Christian life. The thirteenth, for the most part, speaks of the authority of magistrates. We may hence undoubtedly gather that there were then some unruly persons, who thought Christian liberty could not exist without overturning the civil power. But that Paul might not appear to impose on the Church any duties but those of love, he declares that this obedience is included in what love requires. He afterwards adds those precepts, which he had before mentioned, for the guidance of our conduct. In the next chapter he gives an exhortation, especially necessary in that age: for as there were those who through obstinate superstition insisted on the observance of Mosaic rites, and could not endure the neglect of them without being most grievously offended; so there were others, who, being convinced of their abrogation, and anxious to pull down superstition, designedly showed their contempt of such things. Both parties offended through being too intemperate; for the superstitious condemned the others as being despisers of God’s law; and the latter in their turn unreasonably ridiculed the simplicity of the former. Therefore the Apostle recommends to both a befitting moderation, deporting the one from superciliousness and insult, and the other from excessive moroseness: and he also prescribes the best way of exercising Christian liberty, by keeping within the boundaries of love and edification; and he faithfully provides for the weak, while he forbids them to do any thing in opposition to conscience.

The fifteenth chapter begins with a repetition of the general argument, as a conclusion of the whole subject—that the strong should use their strength in endeavours to confirm the weak. And as there was a perpetual discord, with regard to the Mosaic ceremonies, between the Jews and the Gentiles, he allays all emulation between them by removing the cause of contention; for he shows, that the Edition: current; Page: [xxxvii] salvation of both rested on the mercy of God alone; on which relying, they ought to lay aside all high thoughts of themselves, and being thereby connected together in the hope of the same inheritance, they ought mutually to embrace one another. And being anxious, in the last place, to turn aside for the purpose of commending his own apostleship, which secured no small authority to his doctrine, he takes occasion to defend himself, and to deprecate presumption in having assumed with so much confidence the office of teacher among them. He further gives them some hope of his coming to them, which he had mentioned at the beginning, but had hitherto in vain looked for and tried to effect; and he states the reason which at that time hindered him, and that was, because the churches of Macedonia and Achaia had committed to him the care of conveying to Jerusalem those alms which they had given to relieve the wants of the faithful in that city.

The last chapter is almost entirely taken up with salutations, though scattered with some precepts worthy of all attention; and concludes with a remarkable prayer.

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COMMENTARIES ON THE EPISTLE OF ST. PAUL TO THE ROMANS.

CHAPTER I.

1. Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,

2. (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,)

3. Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh,

4. And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:

5. By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations for his name;

6. Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ:

7. To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

1. Paulus, servus Iesu Christi, vocatus Apostolus, selectus in Evangelium Dei,

2. Quod ante promiserat per Prophetas suos in Scripturis Sanctis,

3. De Filio suo, qui factus est è semine David secundum carnem,

4. Declaratus Filius Dei in potentia, per Spiritum sanctificationis, ex resurrectione mortuorum, Iesu Christo Domino nostro:

5. Per quem accepimus gratiam et Apostolatum, in obedientiam fidei inter omnes gentes, pro nomine ipsius;

6. Inter quas estis etiam vos, vocati Iesu Christi:

7. Omnibus qui Romæ estis, dilectis Deo, vocatis sanctis: gratia vobis, et pax a Deo Patre nostro, et Domino Iesu Christo.

1. Paul, &c.1—With regard to the word Paul, as it is a subject of no such moment as ought to detain us, and as nothing can be said which has not been mentioned by other Edition: current; Page: [40] expounders, I should say nothing, were it not proper to satisfy some at small expense without being tedious to others; for the subject shall be despatched in a very few words.

They who think that the Apostle attained this name as a trophy for having brought Sergius, the proconsul, to the faith of Christ, are confuted by the testimony of Luke, who shows that he was so called before that time. (Acts xiii. 7, 9.) Nor does it seem probable to me, that it was given him when he was converted to Christ; though this idea so pleased Augustine, that he took occasion refinedly to philosophize on the subject; for he says, that from a proud Saul he was made a very little (parvulum1) disciple of Christ. More probable is the opinion of Origen, who thought that he had two names; for it is not unlikely to be true, that his name, Saul, derived from his kindred, was given him by his parents to indicate his religion and his descent; and that his other name, Paul, was added, to show his right to Roman citizenship;2 they would not have this honour, then highly valued, to be otherwise than made evident; but they did not so much value it as to withhold a proof of his Israelitic descent. But he has commonly taken the name Paul in his Epistles, and it may be for the following reasons: because in the churches to which he wrote, it was more known and more common, more acceptable in the Roman empire, and less known among his own nation. It was indeed his duty to avoid the foolish suspicion and hatred under which the name of a Jew then laboured among the Romans and in their provinces, and to abstain from inflaming the rage of his own countrymen, and to take care of himself.

A servant of Jesus Christ, &c.—He signalizes himself with these distinctions for the purpose of securing more authority to his doctrine; and this he seeks to secure by two things—first, Edition: current; Page: [41] by asserting his call to the Apostleship;1 and secondly, by showing that his call was not unconnected with the Church of Rome: for it was of great importance that he should be deemed an Apostle through God’s call, and that he should be known as one destined for the Roman Church. He therefore says, that he was a servant of Christ, and called to the office of an Apostle, thereby intimating that he had not presumptuously intruded into that office. He then adds, that he was chosen, (selectum—selected,2) by which he more fully confirms the fact, that he was not one of the people, but a particular Apostle of the Lord. Consistently with this, he had before proceeded from what was general to what was particular, as the Apostleship was an especial service; for all who sustain the office of teaching are to be deemed Christ’s servants, but Apostles, in point of honour, far exceed all others. But the choosing for the gospel, &c., which he afterwards mentions, expresses the end as well as the use of the Apostleship; for he intended briefly to show for what purpose he was called to that function. By saying then that he was servant of Christ, he declared what he had in common with other teachers; by claiming to himself the Edition: current; Page: [42] title of an Apostle, he put himself before others; but as no authority is due to him who wilfully intrudes himself, he reminds us, that he was appointed by God.

Then the meaning is,—that Paul was a servant of Christ, not any kind of servant, but an Apostle, and that by the call of God, and not by presumptuous intrusion: then follows a clearer explanation of the Apostolic office,—it was ordained for the preaching of the Gospel. For I cannot agree with those who refer this call of which he speaks to the eternal election of God; and who understand the separation, either that from his mother’s womb, which he mentions in Gal. i. 15, or that which Luke refers to, when Paul was appointed for the Gentiles: but I consider that he simply glories in having God as the author of his call, lest any one should think that he had through his own rashness taken this honour to himself.1

We must here observe, that all are not fitted for the ministry of the word; for a special call is necessary: and even those who seem particularly fitted ought to take heed lest they thrust themselves in without a call. But as to the character of the Apostolic and of the Episcopal call, we shall consider it in another place. We must further observe, that the office of an Apostle is the preaching of the gospel. It hence appears what just objects of ridicule are those dumb dogs, who render themselves conspicuous only by their mitre and their crook, and boast themselves to be the successors of the Apostles!

The word, servant, imports nothing else but a minister, for it refers to what is official.2 I mention this to remove the mistake of those who too much refine on this expression, and think that there is here to be understood a contrast between the service of Moses and that of Christ.

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3. Which he had before promised, &c.—As the suspicion of being new subtracts much from the authority of a doctrine, he confirms the faith of the gospel by antiquity; as though he said, “Christ came not on the earth unexpectedly, nor did he introduce a doctrine of a new kind and not heard of before, inasmuch as he, and his gospel too, had been promised and expected from the beginning of the world.” But as antiquity is often fabulous, he brings witnesses, and those approved, even the Prophets of God, that he might remove every suspicion. He in the third place adds, that their testimonies were duly recorded, that is, in the Holy Scriptures.

We may learn from this passage what the gospel is: he teaches us, not that it was promulgated by the Prophets, but only promised. If then the Prophets promised the gospel, it follows, that it was revealed, when our Lord was at length manifested in the flesh. They are then mistaken, who confound the promises with the gospel, since the gospel is properly the appointed preaching of Christ as manifested, in whom the promises themselves are exhibited.1

3. Concerning his own Son, &c.—This is a remarkable passage, by which we are taught that the whole gospel is included in Christ, so that if any removes one step from Christ, he withdraws himself from the gospel. For since he is the living and express image of the Father, it is no wonder, that he alone is set before us as one to whom our whole faith is to be directed and in whom it is to centre. It is then a definition of the gospel, by which Paul expresses what is summarily comprehended in it. I have rendered the words which follow, Jesus Christ our Lord, in the same case; which seems to me to be most agreeable with the context. We hence learn, that he who has made a due proficiency in the knowledge of Christ, has acquired every thing which can be learned from the gospel; and, on the other Edition: current; Page: [44] hand, that they who seek to be wise without Christ, are not only foolish, but even completely insane.

Who was made, &c.—Two things must be found in Christ, in order that we may obtain salvation in him, even divinity and humanity. His divinity possesses power, righteousness, life, which by his humanity are conveyed to us. Hence the Apostle has expressly mentioned both in the summary he gives of the gospel, that Christ was manifested in the flesh—and that in it he declared himself to be the Son of God. So John says; after having declared that the Word was made flesh, he adds, that in that flesh there was a glory as of the only-begotten Son of God. (John i. 14.) That he specially notices the descent and lineage of Christ from his ancestor David, is not superfluous; for by this he calls back our attention to the promise, that we may not doubt but that he is the very person who had been formerly promised. So well known was the promise made to David, that it appears to have been a common thing among the Jews to call the Messiah the Son of David. This then—that Christ did spring from David—was said for the purpose of confirming our faith.

He adds, according to the flesh; and he adds this, that we may understand that he had something more excellent than flesh, which he brought from heaven, and did not take from David, even that which he afterwards mentions, the glory of the divine nature. Paul does further by these words not only declare that Christ had real flesh, but he also clearly distinguishes his human from his divine nature; and thus he refutes the impious raving of Servetus, who assigned flesh to Christ, composed of three uncreated elements.

4. Declared1 the Son of God, &c.: or, if you prefer, determined Edition: current; Page: [45] (definitus); as though he had said, that the power, by which he was raised from the dead, was something like a decree, by which he was proclaimed the Son of God, according to what is said in Ps. ii. 7, “I have this day begotten thee:” for this begetting refers to what was made known. Though some indeed find here three separate evidences of the divinity of Christ—“power,” understanding thereby miracles—then the testimony of the Spirit—and, lastly, the resurrection from the dead—I yet prefer to connect them Edition: current; Page: [46] together, and to reduce these three things to one, in this manner—that Christ was declared the Son of God by openly exercising a real celestial power, that is, the power of the Spirit, when he rose from the dead; but that this power is comprehended, when a conviction of it is imprinted on our hearts by the same Spirit. The language of the Apostle well agrees with this view; for he says that he was declared by power, because power, peculiar to God, shone forth in him, and uncontestably proved him to be God; and this was indeed made evident by his resurrection. Paul says the same thing in another place; having stated, that by death the weakness of the flesh appeared, he at the same time extols the power of the Spirit in his resurrection; (2 Cor. xiii. 4.) This glory, however, is not made known to us, until the same Spirit imprints a conviction of it on our hearts. And that Paul includes, together with the wonderful energy of the Spirit, which Christ manifested by rising from the dead, the testimony which all the faithful feel in their hearts, is even evident from this—that he expressly calls it the Spirit of Holiness; as though he had said, that the Spirit, as far as it sanctifies, confirms and ratifies that evidence of its power which it once exhibited. For the Scripture is wont often to ascribe such titles to the Spirit, as tend to illustrate our present subject. Thus He is called by our Lord the Spirit of Truth, on account of the effect which he mentions; (John xiv. 17.)

Besides, a divine power is said to have shone forth in the resurrection of Christ for this reason—because he rose by his own power, as he had often testified: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up again,” (John ii. 19;) “No man taketh it from me,” &c.; (John x. 18.) For he gained victory over death, (to which he yielded with regard to the weakness of the flesh,) not by aid sought from another, but by the celestial operation of his own Spirit.

5. Through whom we have received, &c.—Having completed his definition of the gospel, which he introduced for the recommendation of his office, he now returns to speak of his own call; and it was a great point that this should be proved to the Romans. By mentioning grace and apostleship Edition: current; Page: [47] apart, he adopts a form of speech,1 which must be understood as meaning, gratuitous apostleship or the favour of the apostleship; by which he means, that it was wholly through divine favour, not through his own worthiness, that he had been chosen for so high an office. For though it has hardly any thing connected with it in the estimation of the world, except dangers, labours, hatred, and disgrace; yet before God and his saints, it possesses a dignity of no common or ordinary kind. It is therefore deservedly counted a favour. If you prefer to say, “I have received grace that I should be an Apostle,” the sense would be the same.2

The expression, on account of his name, is rendered by Ambrose, “in his name,” as though it meant, that the Apostle was appointed in the place of Christ to preach the gospel, according to that passage, “We are ambassadors for Christ,” &c. (2 Cor. v. 20.) Their opinion, however, seems better, who take name for knowledge; for the gospel is preached for this end—that we may believe on the name of the Son of God. (John iii. 23.) And Paul is said to have been a chosen vessel, to carry the name of Christ among the Gentiles. (Acts ix. 15.) On account then of his name, which means the same, as though he had said, that I might make known what Christ is.3

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For the obedience of faith, &c.—That is, we have received a command to preach the gospel among all nations, and this gospel they obey by faith. By stating the design of his calling, he again reminds the Romans of his office, as though he said, “It is indeed my duty to discharge the office committed to me, which is to preach the word; and it is your duty to hear the word and willingly to obey it; you will otherwise make void the vocation which the Lord has bestowed on me.”

We hence learn, that they perversely resist the authority of God and upset the whole of what he has ordained, who irreverently and contemptuously reject the preaching of the gospel; the design of which is to constrain us to obey God. We must also notice here what faith is; the name of obedience is given to it, and for this reason—because the Lord calls us by his gospel; we respond to his call by faith; as on the other hand, the chief act of disobedience to God is unbelief, I prefer rendering the sentence, “For the obedience of faith,” rather than, “In order that they may obey the faith;” for the last is not strictly correct, except taken figuratively, though it be found once in the Acts, vi. 7. Faith is properly that by which we obey the gospel.1

Among all nations, &c. It was not enough for him to have been appointed an Apostle, except his ministry had reference to some who were to be taught: hence he adds, that his apostleship extended to all nations. He afterwards calls himself more distinctly the Apostle of the Romans, when he says, that they were included in the number of the nations, to whom he had been given as a Edition: current; Page: [49] minister. And further, the Apostles had in common the command to preach the gospel to all the world; and they were not, as pastors and bishops, set over certain churches. But Paul, in addition to the general undertaking of the apostolic function, was constituted, by a special appointment, to be a minister to proclaim the gospel among the Gentiles. It is no objection to this, that he was forbidden to pass through Macedonia and to preach the word in Mysia: for this was done, not that there were limits prescribed to him, but that he was for a time to go elsewhere; for the harvest was not as yet ripe there.

Ye are the called of Jesus Christ, &c. He assigns a reason more nearly connected with them—because the Lord had already exhibited in them an evidence by which he had manifested that he had called them to a participation of the gospel. It hence followed, that if they wished their own calling to remain sure, they were not to reject the ministry of Paul, who had been chosen by the same election of God. I therefore take this clause, “the called of Jesus Christ,” as explanatory, as though the particle “even” were inserted; for he means, that they were by calling made partakers of Christ. For they who shall be heirs of eternal life, are chosen by the celestial Father to be children in Christ; and when chosen, they are committed to his care and protection as their shepherd.1

7. To all of you who are at Rome, &c. By this happy arrangement he sets forth what there is in us worthy of commendation; he says, that first the Lord through his own kindness made us the objects of his favour and love; and then that he has called us; and thirdly, that he has called us to holiness: but this high honour only then exists, when we are not wanting to our call.

Here a rich truth presents itself to us, to which I shall briefly refer, and leave it to be meditated upon by each individual: Paul does by no means ascribe the praise of our Edition: current; Page: [50] salvation to ourselves, but derives it altogether from the fountain of God’s free and paternal love towards us; for he makes this the first thing—God loves us: and what is the cause of his love, except his own goodness alone? On this depends our calling, by which in his own time he seals his adoption to those whom he had before freely chosen. We also learn from this passage that none rightly connect themselves with the number of the faithful, except they feel assured that the Lord is gracious, however unworthy and wretched sinners they may be, and except they be stimulated by his goodness and aspire to holiness, for he hath not called us to uncleanness, but to holiness. (1 Thess. iv. 7.) As the Greek can be rendered in the second person, I see no reason for any change.

Grace to you and peace, &c. Nothing is more desirable than to have God propitious to us, and this is signified by grace; and then to have prosperity and success in all things flowing from him, and this is intimated by peace; for however things may seem to smile on us, if God be angry, even blessing itself is turned to a curse. The very foundation then of our felicity is the favour of God, by which we enjoy true and solid prosperity, and by which also our salvation is promoted even when we are in adversities.1 And then as he prays to God for peace, we must understand, that whatever good comes to us, it is the fruit of divine benevolence. Nor must we omit to notice, that he prays at the same time to the Lord Jesus Christ for these blessings. Worthily indeed is this honour rendered to him, who is not only the administrator and dispenser of his Father’s bounty to us, but also works all things in connection with him. It was, however, the special object of the Apostle to show, that through him all God’s blessings come to us.2

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There are those who prefer to regard the word peace as signifying quietness of conscience; and that this meaning belongs to it sometimes, I do not deny: but since it is certain that the Apostle wished to give us here a summary of God’s blessings, the former meaning, which is adduced by Bucer, is much the most suitable. Anxiously wishing then to the godly what makes up real happiness, he betakes himself, as he did before, to the very fountain itself, even the favour of God, which not only alone brings to us eternal felicity, but is also the source of all blessings in this life.

8. First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.

9. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers;

10. Making request (if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God) to come unto you.

11. For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established;

12. That is, that I may be comforted together with you, by the mutual faith both of you and me.

8. Primum quidem gratias ago Deo meo per Iesum Christum super vobis omnibus, quia fides vestra prædicatur in universo mundo.

9. Testis enim mihi Deus, quem colo in spiritu meo in Evangelio Filii ipsius, ut continenter memoriam vestri faciam;

10. Semper in orationibus meis,1 rogans, si quomodo prosperum iter aliquando mihi, obtingat per voluntatem Dei, veniendi ad vos.

11. Desidero enim videre, vos, ut aliquod impertiar vobis donum spirituale ad vos confirmandos;

12. Hoc est, ad cohortationem mutuo percipiendam in vobis per mutuam fidem, vestram atque meam.

8. I first2 indeed, &c. Here the beginning commences, altogether adapted to the occasion, as he seasonably prepares them for receiving instruction by reasons connected with himself as well as with them. What he states respecting them is, the celebrity of their faith; for he intimates that they being honoured with the public approbation of the churches, could not reject an Apostle of the Lord, without disappointing the good opinion entertained of them by all; Edition: current; Page: [52] and such a thing would have been extremely uncourteous and in a manner bordering on perfidy. As then this testimony justly induced the Apostle, by affording him an assurance of their obedience, to undertake, according to his office, to teach and instruct the Romans; so it held them bound not to despise his authority. With regard to himself, he disposes them to a teachable spirit by testifying his love towards them: and there is nothing more effectual in gaining credit to an adviser, than the impression that he is cordially anxious to consult our wellbeing.

The first thing worthy of remark is, that he so commends their faith,1 that he implies that it had been received from God. We are here taught that faith is God’s gift; for thanksgiving is an acknowledgment of a benefit. He who gives thanks to God for faith, confesses that it comes from him. And since we find that the Apostle ever begins his congratulations with thanksgiving, let us know that we are hereby reminded, that all our blessings are God’s free gifts. It is also needful to become accustomed to such forms of speaking, that we may be led more fully to rouse ourselves in the duty of acknowledging God as the giver of all our blessings, and to stir up others to join us in the same acknowledgment. If it be right to do this in little things, how much more with regard to faith; which is neither a small nor an indiscriminate (promiscua) gift of God. We have here besides an example, that thanks ought to be given through Christ, according to the Apostle’s command in Heb. xiii. 15; inasmuch as in his name we seek and obtain mercy from the Father.—I observe in the last place, that he calls him his God. This is the faithful’s special privilege, and on them alone God bestows this honour. There is indeed implied in this a mutual relationship, which is expressed in this promise, “I will be to them a God; they shall be to me a people.” (Jer. xxx. 22.) I prefer at the same time to confine this to the character which Paul sustained, Edition: current; Page: [53] as an attestation of his obedience to the end in the work of preaching the gospel. So Hezekiah called God the God of Isaiah, when he desired him to give him the testimony of a true and faithful Prophet. (Is. xxxvii. 4.) So also he is called in an especial manner the God of Daniel. (Dan. vi. 20.)

Through the whole world. The eulogy of faithful men was to Paul equal to that of the whole world, with regard to the faith of the Romans; for the unbelieving, who deemed it detestable, could not have given an impartial or a correct testimony respecting it. We then understood that it was by the mouths of the faithful that the faith of the Romans was proclaimed through the whole world; and that they were alone able to judge rightly of it, and to pronounce a correct opinion. That this small and despised handful of men were unknown as to their character to the ungodly, even at Rome, was a circumstance he regarded as nothing; for Paul made no account of their judgment.

9. For God is my witness, &c. He proves his love by its effects; for had he not greatly loved them, he would not have so anxiously commended them to the Lord, and especially he would not have so ardently desired to promote their welfare by his own labours. His anxiety then and his ardent desire were certain evidences of his love; for had they not sprung from it, they would never have existed. And as he knew it to be necessary for establishing confidence in his preaching, that the Romans should be fully persuaded of his sincerity, he added an oath—a needful remedy, whenever a declaration, which ought to be received as true and indubitable, vacillates through uncertainty. For since an oath is nothing else but an appeal to God as to the truth of what we declare, most foolish is it to deny that the Apostle used here an oath. He did not notwithstanding transgress the prohibition of Christ.

It hence appears that it was not Christ’s design (as the superstitious Anabaptists dream) to abolish oaths altogether, but on the contrary to call attention to the due observance of the law; and the law, allowing an oath, only condemns perjury and needless swearing. If then we would use an Edition: current; Page: [54] oath aright, let us imitate the seriousness and the reverent manner exhibited by the Apostles; and that you may understand what it is, know that God is so called as a witness, that he is also appealed to as an avenger, in case we deceive; which Paul expresses elsewhere in these words, “God is a witness to my soul.” (2 Cor. i. 23.)1

Whom I serve with my spirit, &c. It is usual with profane men, who trifle with God, to pretend his name, no less boldly than presumptuously; but the Apostle here speaks of his own piety, in order to gain credit; and those, in whom the fear of God and reverence for his name prevail, will dread to swear falsely. At the same time, he sets his own spirit in opposition to the outward mask of religion; for as many falsely pretend to be the worshippers of God, and outwardly appear to be so, he testifies that he, from the heart, served God.2 It may be also that he alluded to the ancient ceremonies, in which alone the Jews thought the worship of God consisted. He then intimates, that though he retained not observance of these, he was yet a sincere worshipper of God, according to what he says in Phil. iii. 3, “We are the true circumcision, who in spirit serve God, and glory not in the flesh.” He then glories that he served God with sincere devotion of heart, which is true religion and approved worship.

But it was expedient, as I have said, in order that his oath might attain more credit, that Paul should declare his piety towards God; for perjury is a sport to the ungodly, while the pious dread it more than a thousand deaths; inasmuch as it cannot be, but that where there is a real fear of God, there must be also a reverence for his name. It is then the same thing, as though Paul had said, that he knew how much sacredness and sincerity belonged to an oath, and that Edition: current; Page: [55] he did not rashly appeal to God as a witness, as the profane are wont to do. And thus, by his own example, he teaches us, that whenever we swear, we ought to give such evidence of piety, that the name of God, which we use in our declarations, may retain its sacredness. And further, he gives a proof, even by his own ministry, that he worshipped not God feignedly; for it was the fullest evidence, that he was a man devoted to God’s glory, when he denied himself, and hesitated not to undergo all the hardships of reproach, poverty, and hatred, and even the peril of death, in advancing the kingdom of God.1

Some take this clause, as though Paul intended to recommend that worship which he said he rendered to God, on this account,—because it corresponded with what the gospel prescribes. It is indeed certain that spiritual worship is enjoined on us in the gospel; but the former interpretation is far the most suitable,—that he devoted his service to God in preaching the gospel. He, however, makes at the same time a difference between himself and hypocrites, who have something else in view rather than to serve God; for ambition, or some such thing, influences most men; and it is far from being the case, that all engage cordially and faithfully in this office. The meaning is, that Paul performed sincerely the office of teaching; for what he says of his own devotion he applies to this subject.

But we hence gather a profitable doctrine; for it ought to add no little encouragement to the ministers of the gospel, when they hear that, in preaching the gospel, they render an acceptable and a valuable service to God. What, indeed, is there to prevent them from regarding it an excellent service, when they know that their labour is pleasing to God, and is approved by him? Moreover, he calls it the gospel of the Son of God; for Christ is in it made known, who has been appointed by the Father for this end,—that he, being glorified, should also glorify the Father.

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That continually, &c. He still further sets forth the ardour of his love by his very constancy in praying for them. It was, indeed, a strong evidence, when he poured forth no prayers to the Lord without making mention of them. That the meaning may be clearer, I render παντοτε, “always;” as though it was said, “In all my prayers,” or, “whenever I address God in prayer, I join a mention of you.”1 Now he speaks not of every kind of calling on God, but of those prayers to which the saints, being at liberty, and laying aside all cares, apply their whole attention to the work; for he might have often expressed suddenly this or that wish, when the Romans did not come into his mind; but whenever he had previously intended, and, as it were, prepared himself to offer up prayers to God, among others he remembered them. He then speaks peculiarly of those prayers, for which the saints deliberately prepare themselves; as we find to have been the case with our Lord himself, who, for this purpose, sought retirement. He at the same time intimates how frequently, or rather, how unceasingly he was engaged in such prayers, since he says that he prayed continually.

10. Requesting, if by any means, &c. As it is not probable that we from the heart study his benefit, whom we are not ready to assist by our labours, he now adds, after having said that he was anxious for their welfare, that he showed by another proof his love to them, as before God, even by requesting that he might be able to advance their interest. That you may, therefore, perceive the full meaning, read the words as though the word also were inserted, requesting also, if by any means, &c. By saying, A prosperous journey Edition: current; Page: [57] by the will of God, he shows, not only that he looked to the Lord’s favour for success in his journey, but that he deemed his journey prosperous, if it was approved by the Lord. According to this model ought all our wishes to be formed.

11. For I greatly desire to see you. He might, indeed, while absent, have confirmed their faith by his doctrine; but as advice is better taken from one present, he had a desire to be with them. But he explains what his object was, and shows that he wished to undertake the toil of a journey, not for his own, but for their advantage.—Spiritual gifts1 he calls those which he possessed, being either those of doctrine, or of exhortation, or of prophecy, which he knew had come to him through God’s favour. He has here strikingly pointed out the use of gifts by the word, imparting: for different gifts are distributed to each individual, that all may in kindness mutually assist one another, and transfer to others what each one possesses. See chap. xii. 3; and 1 Cor. xii. 11.

To confirm you, &c. He modifies what he had said of imparting, lest he should seem to regard them such as were yet to be instructed in the first elements of religion, as though they were not hitherto rightly taught in Christ. He then says, that he wished so to lend his aid to them, that they who had for the most part made a proficiency, might be further assisted: for a confirmation is what we all want, until Christ be fully formed in us. (Eph. iv. 13.)

12. Being not satisfied with this modest statement, he qualifies it, and shows, that he did not so occupy the place of a teacher, but that he wished to learn also from them; as though he said, “I desire so to confirm you according to the measure of grace conferred on me, that your example Edition: current; Page: [58] may also add courage (alacritatem—alacrity) to my faith, and that we may thus mutually benefit one another.”

See to what degree of modesty his pious heart submitted itself, so that he disdained not to seek confirmation from unexperienced beginners: nor did he speak dissemblingly, for there is no one so void of gifts in the Church of Christ, who is not able to contribute something to our benefit: but we are hindered by our envy and by our pride from gathering such fruit from one another. Such is our high-mindedness, such is the inebriety produced by vain reputation, that despising and disregarding others, every one thinks that he possesses what is abundantly sufficient for himself. I prefer to read with Bucer, exhortation (exhortationem—encouragement) rather than consolatim; for it agrees better with the former part.1

13. Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles.

14. I am debtor both to the Greeks and to the Barbarians, both to the wise and to the unwise.

15. So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.

13. Nolo verò vos ignorare, fratres, quod sæpe proposui venire ad vos, et impeditus sum hactenus, ut Edition: current; Page: [59] fructum aliquem haberem in vobis, sicut et in reliquis gentibus.

14. Et Græcis et Barbaris et sapientibus et stultis debitor sum.

15. Itaque quantum in me est, paratus sum vobis quoque qui Romæ estis Evangelizare.

13. I would not that you should be ignorant. What he has hitherto testified—that he continually requested of the Lord that he might visit them, might have appeared a vain thing, and could not have obtained credit, had he neglected to seize the occasion when offered: he therefore says, that the effort had not been wanting, but the opportunity; for he had been prevented from executing a purpose often formed.

We hence learn that the Lord frequently upsets the purposes of his saints, in order to humble them, and by such humiliation to teach them to regard his Providence, that they may rely on it; though the saints, who design nothing without the Lord’s will, cannot be said, strictly speaking, to be driven away from their purposes. It is indeed the presumption of impiety to pass by God, and without him to determine on things to come, as though they were in our own power; and this is what James sharply reprehends in chap. iv. 13.

But he says that he was hindered: you must take this in no other sense, but that the Lord employed him in more urgent concerns, which he could not have neglected without loss to the Church. Thus the hinderances of the godly and of the unbelieving differ: the latter perceive only that they are hindered, when they are restrained by the strong hand of the Lord, so as not to be able to move; but the former are satisfied with an hinderance that arises from some approved reason; nor do they allow themselves to attempt any thing beyond their duty, or contrary to edification.

That I might obtain some fruit, &c. He no doubt speaks of that fruit, for the gathering of which the Lord sent his Apostles, “I have chosen you, that ye may go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit may remain.” (John xv. 16.) Edition: current; Page: [60] Though he gathered it not for himself, but for the Lord, he yet calls it his own; for the godly have nothing more as their own than the work of promoting the glory of the Lord, with which is connected all their happiness. And he records what had happened to him with respect to other nations, that the Romans might entertain hope, that his coming to them would not be unprofitable, which so many nations had found to have been attended with so much benefit.

14. I am a debtor both to the Greeks and to the Barbarians, &c. Those whom he means by the Greeks and the Barbarians, he afterwards explains by adding, both to the wise and to the foolish; which words Erasmus has not rendered amiss by “learned and unlearned,” (eruditos et rudes,) but I prefer to retain the very words of Paul. He then takes an argument from his own office, and intimates that it ought not to be ascribed to his arrogance, that he thought himself in a manner capable of teaching the Romans, however much they excelled in learning and wisdom and in the knowledge of things, inasmuch as it had pleased the Lord to make him a debtor even to the wise.1

Two things are to be here considered—that the gospel is by a heavenly mandate destined and offered to the wise, in order that the Lord may subject to himself all the wisdom of this world, and make all variety of talents, and every kind of science, and the loftiness of all arts, to give way to the simplicity of his doctrine; and what is more, they are to be reduced to the same rank with the unlearned, and to be made so meek, as to be able to bear those to be their fellow-disciples under their master, Christ, whom they would not have deigned before to take as their scholars; and then, that the unlearned are by no means to be driven away from Edition: current; Page: [61] this school, nor are they to flee away from it through groundless fear; for if Paul was indebted to them, being a faithful debtor, he had doubtless discharged what he owed; and thus they will find here what they will be capable of enjoying. All teachers have also a rule here which they are to follow, and that is, modestly and kindly to accommodate themselves to the capacities of the ignorant and unlearned. Hence it will be, that they will be able, with more evenness of mind, to bear with many absurdities and almost innumerable things that may disgust them, by which they might otherwise be overcome. They are, however, to remember, that they are not so indebted to the foolish, as that they are to cherish their folly by immoderate indulgence.

15. I am therefore ready,1 &c. He concludes what he had before said of his desire—that as he knew it to be his duty to spread the gospel among them, in order to gather fruit for the Lord, he was anxious to fulfil God’s calling, as far as he was allowed to do so by the Lord.

16. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

17. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.

16. Non enim pudet me Evangelii Christi, quandoquidem potentia est Dei, in salutem omni credenti, Iudæo primum, deinde Græco.

17. Nam justitia Dei in eo revelatur ex fide in fidem, sicut scriptum est, Justus ex fide sua vivet.

16. I am not indeed ashamed, &c. This is an anticipation of an objection; for he declares beforehand, that he cared not for the taunts of the ungodly; and he thus provides a way for himself, by which he proceeds to pronounce an eulogy on the value of the gospel, that it might not appear contemptible to the Romans. He indeed intimates that it was contemptible in the eyes of the world; and he Edition: current; Page: [62] does this by saying, that he was not ashamed of it. And thus he prepares them for bearing the reproach of the cross of Christ, lest they should esteem the gospel of less value by finding it exposed to the scoffs and reproaches of the ungodly; and, on the other hand, he shows how valuable it was to the faithful. If, in the first place, the power of God ought to be extolled by us, that power shines forth in the gospel; if, again, the goodness of God deserves to be sought and loved by us, the gospel is a display of his goodness. It ought then to be reverenced and honoured, since veneration is due to God’s power; and as it avails to our salvation, it ought to be loved by us.

But observe how much Paul ascribes to the ministry of the word, when he testifies that God thereby puts forth his power to save; for he speaks not here of any secret revelation, but of vocal preaching. It hence follows, that those as it were wilfully despise the power of God, and drive away from them his delivering hand, who withdraw themselves from the hearing of the word.

At the same time, as he works not effectually in all, but only where the Spirit, the inward Teacher, illuminates the heart, he subjoins, To every one who believeth. The gospel is indeed offered to all for their salvation, but the power of it appears not everywhere: and that it is the savour of death to the ungodly, does not proceed from what it is, but from their own wickedness. By setting forth but one salvation he cuts off every other trust. When men withdraw themselves from this one salvation, they find in the gospel a sure proof of their own ruin. Since then the gospel invites all to partake of salvation without any difference, it is rightly called the doctrine of salvation: for Christ is there offered, whose peculiar office is to save that which was lost; and those who refuse to be saved by him, shall find him a Judge. But everywhere in Scripture the word salvation is simply set in opposition to the word destruction: and hence we must observe, when it is mentioned, what the subject of the discourse is. Since then the gospel delivers from ruin and the curse of endless death, its salvation is eternal life.1

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First to the Jew and then to the Greek. Under the word Greek, he includes all the Gentiles, as it is evident from the comparison that is made; for the two clauses comprehend all mankind. And it is probable that he chose especially this nation to designate other nations, because, in the first place, it was admitted, next to the Jews, into a participation of the gospel covenant; and, secondly, because the Greeks, on account of their vicinity, and the celebrity of their language, were more known to the Jews. It is then a mode of speaking, a part being taken for the whole, by which he connects the Gentiles universally with the Jews, as participators of the gospel: nor does he thrust the Jews from their own eminence and dignity, since they were the first partakers of God’s promise and calling. He then reserves for them their prerogative; but he immediately joins the Gentiles, though in the second place, as being partakers with them.

17. For1 the righteousness of God, &c. This is an explanation and a confirmation of the preceding clause—that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation. For if we seek salvation, that is, life with God, righteousness must be first sought, by which being reconciled to him, we may, through him being propitious to us, obtain that life which consists only in his favour; for, in order to be loved by God, we must first become righteous, since he regards unrighteousness with hatred. He therefore intimates, that we cannot obtain salvation otherwise than from the gospel, since nowhere else does God reveal to us his righteousness, which Edition: current; Page: [64] alone delivers us from perdition. Now this righteousness, which is the groundwork of our salvation, is revealed in the gospel: hence the gospel is said to be the power of God unto salvation. Thus he reasons from the cause to the effect.

Notice further, how extraordinary and valuable a treasure does God bestow on us through the gospel, even the communication of his own righteousness. I take the righteousness of God to mean, that which is approved before his tribunal;1 as that, on the contrary, is usually called the righteousness of men, which is by men counted and supposed to be righteousness, though it be only vapour. Paul, however, I doubt not, alludes to the many prophecies in which the Spirit makes known everywhere the righteousness of Edition: current; Page: [65] God in the future kingdom of Christ. Some explain it as the righteousness which is freely given us by God: and I indeed confess that the words will bear this sense; for God justifies us by the gospel, and thus saves us: yet the former view seems to me more suitable, though it is not what I make much of. Of greater moment is what some think, that this righteousness does not only consist in the free remission of sins, but also, in part, includes the grace of regeneration. But I consider, that we are restored to life because God freely reconciles us to himself, as we shall hereafter show in its proper place.

But instead of the expression he used before, “to every one who believeth,” he says now, from faith; for righteousness is offered by the gospel, and is received by faith. And he adds, to faith: for as our faith makes progress, and as it advances in knowledge, so the righteousness of God increases in us at the same time, and the possession of it is in a manner confirmed. When at first we taste the gospel, we indeed see God’s smiling countenance turned towards us, but at a distance: the more the knowledge of true religion grows in us, by coming as it were nearer, we behold God’s favour more clearly and more familiarly. What some think, that there is here an implied comparison between the Old and New Testament, is more refined than well-founded; for Paul does not here compare the Fathers who lived under the law with us, but points out the daily progress that is made by every one of the faithful.

As it is written, &c. By the authority of the Prophet Habakkuk he proves the righteousness of faith; for he, predicting the overthrow of the proud, adds this—that the life of the righteous consists in faith. Now we live not before God, except through righteousness: it then follows, that our righteousness is obtained by faith; and the verb being future, designates the real perpetuity of that life of which he speaks; as though he had said,—that it would not be momentary, but continue for ever. For even the ungodly swell with the false notion of having life; but when they say, “Peace and safety,” a sudden destruction comes upon them, (1 Thess. v. 3.) It is therefore a shadow, which endures Edition: current; Page: [66] only for a moment. Faith alone is that which secures the perpetuity of life; and whence is this, except that it leads us to God, and makes our life to depend on him? For Paul would not have aptly quoted this testimony had not the meaning of the Prophet been, that we then only stand, when by faith we recumb on God: and he has not certainly ascribed life to the faith of the godly, but in as far as they, having renounced the arrogance of the world, resign themselves to the protection of God alone.1

He does not indeed professedly handle this subject; and hence he makes no mention of gratuitous justification: but it is sufficiently evident from the nature of faith, that this testimony is rightly applied to the present subject. Besides, we necessarily gather from his reasoning, that there is a mutual connection between faith and the gospel: for as the just is said to live by faith, he concludes that this life is received by the gospel.

We have now the principal point or the main hinge of the first part of this Epistle,—that we are justified by faith through the mercy of God alone. We have not this, indeed, as yet distinctly expressed by Paul; but from his own words it will hereafter be made very clear—that the righteousness, which is grounded on faith, depends entirely on the mercy of God.

18. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;

19. Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them: for God hath shewed it unto them.

20. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

21. Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

22. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,

23. And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things.

18. Revelatur enim ira Dei e cœlo, super omnem impietatem et injustitiam hominum, veritatem Dei injuste continentium;

19. Quia quod cognoscitur de Deo manifestum est in ipsis: Deus enim illis manifestavit.

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20. Si quidem invisibilia ipsius, ex creatione mundi operibus intellecta, conspiciuntur, æterna quoque ejus potentia, et divinitas; ut sint inexcusabiles.

21. Quoniam quum Deum cognovissent, non tanquam Deo gloriam dederunt, aut grati fuerunt; exinaniti sunt in cogitationibus suis, et obtenebratum est stultum cor eorum.

22. Quum se putarent sapientes, stulti facti sunt,

23. Et mutaverunt gloriam incorruptibilis Dei similitudine imaginis corruptibilis hominis, et volucrum, et quadrupedum, et serpentum.

18. For1 revealed, &c. He reasons now by stating things of a contrary nature, and proves that there is no righteousness except what is conferred, or comes through the gospel; for he shows that without this all men are condemned: by it alone there is salvation to be found. And he brings, as the first proof of condemnation, the fact,—that though the structure of the world, and the most beautiful arrangement of the elements, ought to have induced man to glorify God, yet no one discharged his proper duty: it hence appears that all were guilty of sacrilege, and of wicked and abominable ingratitude.

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To some it seems that this is a main subject, and that Paul forms his discourse for the purpose of enforcing repentance; but I think that the discussion of the subject begins here, and that the principal point is stated in a former proposition; for Paul’s object was to teach us where salvation is to be found. He has already declared that we cannot obtain it except through the gospel: but as the flesh will not willingly humble itself so far as to assign the praise of salvation to the grace of God alone, Paul shows that the whole world is deserving of eternal death. It hence follows, that life is to be recovered in some other way, since we are all lost in ourselves. But the words, being well considered, will help us much to understand the meaning of the passage.

Some make a difference between impiety and unrighteousness, and think, that by the former word is meant the profanation of God’s worship, and by the latter, injustice towards men; but as the Apostle immediately refers this unrighteousness to the neglect of true religion, we shall explain both as referring to the same thing.1 And then, all the impiety of men is to be taken, by a figure in language, as meaning “the impiety of all men,” or, the impiety of which all men are guilty. But by these two words one thing is designated, and that is, ingratitude towards God; for we thereby offend in two ways: it is said to be ἀσέϐεια, impiety, as it is a dishonouring of God; it is ἀδικία, unrighteousness, because man, by transferring to himself what belongs to God, unjustly deprives God of his glory. The word wrath, according to the usage of Scripture, speaking after the manner of men, means the vengeance of God; for God, in punishing, has, according to our notion, the appearance of one in wrath. It imports, therefore, no such emotion in God, but only has a reference to the perception and feeling of the sinner who is punished. Then he says that it is revealed from heaven; though the expression, from heaven, is taken by some in the sense of an adjective, as though he had said, “the wrath of the celestial God;” yet I think it more emphatical, Edition: current; Page: [69] when taken as having this import, “Wheresoever a man may look around him, he will find no salvation; for the wrath of God is poured out on the whole world, to the full extent of heaven.”

The truth of God means, the true knowledge of God; and to hold in that, is to suppress or to obscure it: hence they are charged as guilty of robbery.—What we render unjustly, is given literally by Paul, in unrighteousness, which means the same thing in Hebrew: but we have regard to perspicuity.1

19. Inasmuch as what may be known of God, &c. He thus designates what it behoves us to know of God; and he means all that appertains to the setting forth of the glory of the Lord, or, which is the same thing, whatever ought to move and excite us to glorify God. And by this expression he intimates, that God in his greatness can by no means be fully comprehended by us, and that there are certain limits within which men ought to confine themselves, inasmuch as God accommodates to our small capacities what he testifies of himself. Insane then are all they who seek to know of themselves what God is: for the Spirit, the teacher of perfect wisdom, does not in vain invite our attention to what may be known, τὸ γνωστὸν; and by what means this is known, he immediately explains. And he said, in them rather than to them, for the sake of greater emphasis: for though the Apostle adopts everywhere Hebrew phrases, and ב, beth, is often redundant in that language, yet he seems here to have Edition: current; Page: [70] intended to indicate a manifestation, by which they might be so closely pressed, that they could not evade; for every one of us undoubtedly finds it to be engraven on his own heart.1 By saying, that God has made it manifest, he means, that man was created to be a spectator of this formed world, and that eyes were given him, that he might, by looking on so beautiful a picture, be led up to the Author himself.

20. Since his invisible things,2 &c. God is in himself invisible; but as his majesty shines forth in his works and in his creatures everywhere, men ought in these to acknowledge him, for they clearly set forth their Maker: and for this reason the Apostle in his Epistle to the Hebrews says, that this world is a mirror, or the representation of invisible things. He does not mention all the particulars which may be thought to belong to God; but he states, that we can arrive at the knowledge of his eternal power and divinity;3 for he who is the framer of all things, must necessarily be without beginning and from himself. When we arrive at this point, the divinity becomes known to us, which cannot exist except accompanied with all the attributes of a God, since they are all included under that idea.

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So that they are inexcusable. It hence clearly appears what the consequence is of having this evidence—that men cannot allege any thing before God’s tribunal for the purpose of showing that they are not justly condemned. Yet let this difference be remembered, that the manifestation of God, by which he makes his glory known in his creation, is, with regard to the light itself, sufficiently clear; but that on account of our blindness, it is not found to be sufficient. We are not however so blind, that we can plead our ignorance as an excuse for our perverseness. We conceive that there is a Deity; and then we conclude, that whoever he may be, he ought to be worshipped: but our reason here fails, because it cannot ascertain who or what sort of being God is. Hence the Apostle in Heb. xi. 3, ascribes to faith the light by which man can gain real knowledge from the work of creation, and not without reason; for we are prevented by our blindness, so that we reach not to the end in view; we yet see so far, that we cannot pretend any excuse. Both these things are strikingly set forth by Paul in Acts xiv. 17, when he says, that the Lord in past times left the nations in their ignorance, and yet that he left them not without witness (ἁμάρτυρον,) since he gave them rain and fertility from heaven. But this knowledge of God, which avails only to take away excuse, differs greatly from that which brings salvation, which Christ mentions in John xvii. 3, and in which we are to glory, as Jeremiah teaches us, ch. ix. 24.

21. For when they knew God, &c. He plainly testifies here, that God has presented to the minds of all the means of knowing him, having so manifested himself by his works, that they must necessarily see what of themselves they seek not to know—that there is some God; for the world does not by chance exist, nor could it have proceeded from itself. But we must ever bear in mind the degree of knowledge in which they continued; and this appears from what follows.

They glorified him not as God. No idea can be formed of God without including his eternity, power, wisdom, goodness, truth, righteousness, and mercy. His eternity appears evident, because he is the maker of all things—his power, because he holds all things in his hand and continues their Edition: current; Page: [72] existence—his wisdom, because he has arranged things in such an exquisite order—his goodness, for there is no other cause than himself, why he created all things, and no other reason, why he should be induced to preserve them—his justice, because in his government he punishes the guilty and defends the innocent—his mercy, because he bears with so much forbearance the perversity of men—and his truth, because he is unchangeable. He then who has a right notion of God ought to give him the praise due to his eternity, wisdom, goodness, and justice. Since men have not recognised these attributes in God, but have dreamt of him as though he were an empty phantom, they are justly said to have impiously robbed him of his own glory. Nor is it without reason that he adds, that they were not thankful;1 for there is no one who is not indebted to him for numberless benefits: yea, even on this account alone, because he has been pleased to reveal himself to us, he has abundantly made us indebted to him. But they became vain,2 &c.; that is, having forsaken the truth of God, they turned to the Edition: current; Page: [73] vanity of their own reason, all the acuteness of which is fading and passes away like vapour. And thus their foolish mind, being involved in darkness, could understand nothing aright, but was carried away headlong, in various ways, into errors and delusions. Their unrighteousness was this—they quickly choked by their own depravity the seed of right knowledge, before it grew up to ripeness.

22. While they were thinking, &c. It is commonly inferred from this passage, that Paul alludes here to those philosophers, who assumed to themselves in a peculiar manner the reputation of wisdom; and it is thought that the design of his discourse is to show, that when the superiority of the great is brought down to nothing, the common people would have no reason to suppose that they had any thing worthy of being commended: but they seem to me to have been guided by too slender a reason; for it was not peculiar to the philosophers to suppose themselves wise in the knowledge of God, but it was equally common to all nations, and to all ranks of men. There were indeed none who sought not to form some ideas of the majesty of God, and to make him such a God as they could conceive him to be according to their own reason. This presumption I hold is not learned in the schools, but is innate, and comes with us, so to speak, from the womb. It is indeed evident, that it is an evil which has prevailed in all ages—that men have allowed themselves every liberty in coining superstitions. The arrogance then which is condemned here is this—that men sought to be of themselves wise, and to draw God down to a level with their own low condition, when they ought humbly to have given him his own glory. For Paul holds this principle, that none, except through their own fault, are unacquainted with the worship due to God; as though he said, “As they have proudly exalted themselves, they have become infatuated through the righteous judgment of God.” There is an obvious reason, which contravenes the interpretation which I reject; for the error of forming an image of God did not originate with the philosophers; but they, by their consent, approved of it as received from others.1

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23. And changed, &c. Having feigned such a God as they could comprehend according to their carnal reason, they were very far from acknowledging the true God: but devised a fictitious and a new god, or rather a phantom. And what he says is, that they changed the glory of God; for as though one substituted a strange child, so they departed from the true God. Nor are they to be excused for this pretence, that they believe that God dwells in heaven, and that they count not the wood to be God, but his image; for it is a high indignity to God, to form so gross an idea of his majesty as to dare to make an image of him. But from the wickedness of such a presumption none were exempt, neither priests, nor statesmen, nor philosophers, of whom the most sound-minded, even Plato himself, sought to find out some likeness of God.

The madness then here noticed, is, that all attempted to make for themselves an image of God; which was a certain proof that their notions of God were gross and absurd. And, first, they befouled the majesty of God by forming him in the likeness of a corruptible man: for I prefer this rendering to that of mortal man, which is adopted by Erasmus; for Paul sets not the immortality of God in opposition to the mortality of man, but that glory, which is subject to no defects, to the most wretched condition of man. And then, being not satisfied with so great a crime, they descended even to beasts and to those of the most filthy kind; by Edition: current; Page: [75] which their stupidity appeared still more evident. You may see an account of these abominations in Lactantius, in Eusebius, and in Augustine in his book on the city of God.

24. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:

25. Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.

26. For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:

27. And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another: men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

28. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;

29. Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,

30. Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,

31. Without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:

32. Who, knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

24. Propterea tradidit illos Deus in cupiditates cordium suorum in immunditiem, ut ignominia afficerent corpora sua in seipsis:

25. Qui transmutarunt veritatem ejus in mendacium et coluerunt ac venerati sunt creaturam supra Creatorem, qui est benedictus in secula: Amen.

26. Propterea, inquam, tradidit illos Deus in passiones ignominiosas: ac enim feminæ ipsorum transmutarunt naturalem usum in eum qui est præter naturam:

27. Similiter et viri quoque, amisso naturali usu feminæ, exarserunt mutua libidine, alii in alios; masculi in masculis fœditatem perpetrantes et quam decebat erroris sui mercedem in seipsis recipientes.

28. Et quemadmodum non probaverunt Deum habere in notitia, tradidit illos Deus in reprobam mentem, ad facienda quæ non decerent;

29. Ut essent pleni omni injustitia, nequitia, libidine, avaritia, malitia; referti invidia, homicidio, contentione, dolo, perversitate; susurrones,

30. Obtrectatores, osores Dei, malefici, contumeliosi, fastuosi, repertores malorum, parentibus immorigeri,

31. Intelligentiæ expertes, insociabiles, affectu humanitatis carentes, fœdifragi, sine misericordiæ sensu;

32. Qui, quum Dei judicium cognoverint, quod qui talia agunt, digni sunt morte, non tantum ea faciunt, sed assentiuntur facientibus.

24. God therefore gave them up, &c. As impiety is a hidden evil, lest they should still find an evasion, he shows, by a more palpable demonstration, that they cannot escape, but Edition: current; Page: [76] must be held fast by a just condemnation, since such fruits have followed this impiety as cannot be viewed otherwise than manifest evidences of the Lord’s wrath. As the Lord’s wrath is always just, it follows, that what has exposed them to condemnation, must have preceded it. By these evidences then he now proves the apostacy and defection of men: for the Lord indeed does so punish those, who alienate themselves from his goodness, that he casts them headlong into various courses which lead to perdition and ruin. And by comparing the vices, of which they were guilty, with the impiety, of which he had before accused them, he shows that they suffered punishment through the just judgment of God: for since nothing is dearer to us than our own honour, it is extreme blindness, when we fear not to bring disgrace on ourselves; and it is the most suitable punishment for a reproach done to the Divine Majesty. This is the very thing which he treats of to the end of the chapter; but he handles it in various ways, for the subject required ample illustration.

What then, in short, he proves to us is this,—that the ingratitude of men to God is incapable of being excused; for it is manifest, by unequivocal evidences, that the wrath of God rages against them: they would have never rolled themselves in lusts so filthy, after the manner of beasts, had not the majesty of God been provoked and incensed against them. Since, then, the worst abominations abounded everywhere, he concludes that there existed among them evidences of divine vengeance. Now, as this never rages without reason, or unjustly, but ever keeps within the limits of what is right, he intimates that it hence appears that perdition, not less certain than just, impended over all.

As to the manner in which God gives up or delivers men to wickedness, it is by no means necessary in this place to discuss a question so intricate, (longam—tedious.) It is indeed certain, that he not only permits men to fall into sin, by allowing them to do so, and by conniving at them; but that he also, by his equitable judgment, so arranges things, that they are led and carried into such madness by their own lusts, as well as by the devil. He therefore adopts the Edition: current; Page: [77] word, give up, according to the constant usage of Scripture; which word they forcibly wrest, who think that we are led into sin only by the permission of God: for as Satan is the minister of God’s wrath, and as it were the executioner, so he is armed against us, not through the connivance, but by the command of his judge. God, however, is not on this account cruel, nor are we innocent, inasmuch as Paul plainly shows, that we are not delivered up into his power, except when we deserve such a punishment. Only we must make this exception, that the cause of sin is not from God, the roots of which ever abide in the sinner himself; for this must be true, “Thine is perdition, O Israel; in me only is thy help.” (Hos. xiii. 9.)1

By connecting the desires or lusts of man’s heart with uncleanness, he indirectly intimates what sort of progeny our heart generates, when left to itself. The expression, among themselves, is not without its force; for it significantly expresses Edition: current; Page: [78] how deep and indelible are the marks of infamy imprinted on our bodies.

25. Who changed, &c. He repeats what he had said before, though in different words, in order to fix it deeper in our minds. When the truth of God is turned to a lie, his glory is obliterated. It is then but just, that they should be besprinkled with every kind of infamy, who strive to take away from God his honour, and also to reproach his name.—And worshipped, &c. That I might include two words in one, I have given this rendering. He points out especially the sin of idolatry; for religious honour cannot be given to a creature, without taking it away, in a disgraceful and sacrilegious manner, from God: and vain is the excuse that images are worshipped on God’s account, since God acknowledges no such worship, nor regards it as acceptable; and the true God is not then worshipped at all, but a fictitious God, whom the flesh has devised for itself.1—What is added, Who is blessed for ever, I explain as having been said for the purpose of exposing idolaters to greater reproach, and in this way, “He is one whom they ought alone to have honoured and worshipped, and from whom it was not right to take away any thing, no, not even the least.”

26. God therefore gave them up, &c. After having introduced as it were an intervening clause, he returns to what he had before stated respecting the judgment of God: and Edition: current; Page: [79] he brings, as the first example, the dreadful crime of unnatural lust; and it hence appears that they not only abandoned themselves to beastly lusts, but became degraded beyond the beasts, since they reversed the whole order of nature. He then enumerates a long catalogue of vices which had existed in all ages, and then prevailed everywhere without any restraint.

It is not to the purpose to say, that every one was not laden with so great a mass of vices; for in arraigning the common baseness of men, it is proof enough if all to a man are constrained to acknowledge some faults. So then we must consider, that Paul here records those abominations which had been common in all ages, and were at that time especially prevalent everywhere; for it is marvellous how common then was that filthiness which even brute beasts abhor; and some of these vices were even popular. And he recites a catalogue of vices, in some of which the whole race of man were involved; for though all were not murderers, or thieves, or adulterers, yet there were none who were not found polluted by some vice or another. He calls those disgraceful passions, which are shameful even in the estimation of men, and redound to the dishonouring of God.

27. Such a reward for their error as was meet. They indeed deserved to be blinded, so as to forget themselves, and not to see any thing befitting them, who, through their own malignity, closed their eyes against the light offered them by God, that they might not behold his glory: in short, they who were not ashamed to extinguish, as much as they could, the glory of God, which alone gives us light, deserved to become blind at noonday.

28. And as they chose not, &c. There is an evident comparison to be observed in these words, by which is strikingly set forth the just relation between sin and punishment. As they chose not to continue in the knowledge of God, which alone guides our minds to true wisdom, the Lord gave them a perverted mind, which can choose nothing that is right.1 Edition: current; Page: [80] And by saying, that they chose not, (non probasse—approved not,) it is the same as though he had said, that they pursued not after the knowledge of God with the attention they ought to have done, but, on the contrary, turned away their thoughts designedly from God. He then intimates, that they, making a depraved choice, preferred their own vanities to the true God; and thus the error, by which they were deceived, was voluntary.

To do those things which were not meet. As he had hitherto referred only to one instance of abomination, which prevailed indeed among many, but was not common to all, he begins here to enumerate vices from which none could be found free: for though every vice, as it has been said, did not appear in each individual, yet all were guilty of some vices, so that every one might separately be accused of manifest depravity. As he calls them in the first instance not meet, understand him as saying, that they were inconsistent with every decision of reason, and alien to the duties of men: for he mentions it as an evidence of a perverted mind, that men addicted themselves, without any reflection, to those vices, which common sense ought to have led them to renounce.

But it is labour in vain so to connect these vices, as to make them dependent one on another, since this was not Edition: current; Page: [81] Paul’s design; but he set them down as they occurred to his mind. What each of them signifies, we shall very briefly explain.

29. Understand by unrighteousness, the violation of justice among men, by not rendering to each his due. I have rendered πονηρίαν, according to the opinion of Ammonius, wickedness; for he teaches us that πονηρον, the wicked, is δραστίκον κακου, the doer of evil. The word (nequitia) then means practised wickedness, or licentiousness in doing mischief: but maliciousness (malitia) is that depravity and obliquity of mind which leads us to do harm to our neighbour.1 For the word, πορνείαν, which Paul uses, I have put lust, (libidinem.) I do not, however, object, if one prefers to render it fornication; but he means the inward passion as well as the outward act.2 The words avarice, envy, and murder, have nothing doubtful in their meaning. Under the word strife, (contentione,)3 he includes quarrels, fightings, and seditions. We have rendered κακοηθείαν, perversity, (perversitatem;)4 which is a notorious and uncommon wickedness; that is, when a man, covered over, as it were, with hardness, has become hardened in a corrupt course of life by custom and evil habit.

30. The word θεοστυγεiivrgrς means, no doubt, haters of God; for there is no reason to take it in a passive sense, (hated of God,) since Paul here proves men to be guilty by manifest vices. Those, then, are designated, who hate God, whose justice they seem to resist by doing wrong. Whisperers (susurrones) and slanderers (obtrectatores)5 are to be thus distinguished; the former, by secret accusations, break off Edition: current; Page: [82] the friendships of good men, inflame their minds with anger, defame the innocent, and sow discords; and the latter, through an innate malignity, spare the reputation of no one, and, as though they were instigated by the fury of evil-speaking, they revile the deserving as well as the undeserving. We have translated ὑϐριστὰς, villanous, (maleficos;) for the Latin authors are wont to call notable injuries villanies, such as plunders, thefts, burnings, and sorceries; and these were the vices which Paul meant to point out here.1 I have rendered the word ὑπερήϕανους, used by Paul, insolent, (contumeliosos;) for this is the meaning of the Greek word: and the reason for the word is this,—because such being raised, as it were, on high, look down on those who are, as it were, below them with contempt, and they cannot bear to look on their equals. Haughty are they who swell with the empty wind of overweeningness. Unsociable2 are those who, by their iniquities, unloose the bands of society, or those in whom there is no sincerity or constancy of faith, who may be called truce-breakers.

31. Without the feelings of humanity are they who have put off the first affections of nature towards their own relations. As he mentions the want of mercy as an evidence of human nature being depraved, Augustine, in arguing against the Stoics, concludes, that mercy is a Christian virtue.

32. Who, knowing the judgment3 of God, &c. Though this passage is variously explained, yet the following appears to Edition: current; Page: [83] me the correctest interpretation,—that men left nothing undone for the purpose of giving unbridled liberty to their sinful propensities; for having taken away all distinction between good and evil, they approved in themselves and in others those things which they knew displeased God, and would be condemned by his righteous judgment. For it is the summit of all evils, when the sinner is so void of shame, that he is pleased with his own vices, and will not bear them to be reproved, and also cherishes them in others by his consent and approbation. This desperate wickedness is thus described in Scripture: “They boast when they do evil,” (Prov. ii. 14.) “She has spread out her feet, and gloried in her wickedness,” (Ezek. xvi. 25.) For he who is ashamed is as yet healable; but when such an impudence is contracted through a sinful habit, that vices, and not virtues, please us, and are approved, there is no more any hope of reformation. Such, then, is the interpretation I give; for I see that the Apostle meant here to condemn something more grievous and more wicked than the very doing of vices: what that is I know not, except we refer to that which is the summit of all wickedness,—that is, when wretched men, having cast away all shame, undertake the patronage of vices in opposition to the righteousness of God.

CHAPTER II.

1. Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.

2. But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things.

1. Propterea inexcusabilis es, O homo, quicunque judicas: in quo enim judicas alterum, teipsum condemnas; eadem enim facis dum judicas.

2. Novimus autem quod judicium Dei est secundum veritatem in eos qui talia agunt.

This reproof is directed against hypocrites, who dazzle the eyes of men by displays of outward sanctity, and even think themselves to be accepted before God, as though they had given him full satisfaction. Hence Paul, after having stated the grosser vices, that he might prove that none are just Edition: current; Page: [84] before God, now attacks saintlings (sanctulos) of this kind, who could not have been included in the first catalogue. Now the inference is too simple and plain for any one to wonder how the Apostle derived his argument; for he makes them inexcusable, because they themselves knew the judgment of God, and yet transgressed the law; as though he said, “Though thou consentest not to the vices of others, and seemest to be avowedly even an enemy and a reprover of vices; yet as thou art not free from them, if thou really examinest thyself, thou canst not bring forward any defence.”

For in what thou judgest another, &c. Besides the striking resemblance there is between the two Greek verbs, κρίνειν and κατακρίνειν, (to judge and to condemn,) the enhancing of their sin ought to be noticed; for his mode of speaking is the same, as though he said, “Thou art doubly deserving of condemnation; for thou art guilty of the same vices which thou blamest and reprovest in others.” It is, indeed, a well-known saying,—that they who scrutinize the life of others lay claim themselves to innocence, temperance, and all virtues; and that those are not worthy of any indulgence who allow in themselves the same things which they undertake to correct in others. For thou, judging, doest the same things: so it is literally; but the meaning is, “Though thou judgest, thou yet doest the same things.” And he says that they did them, because they were not in a right state of mind; for sin properly belongs to the mind. They then condemned themselves on this account,—because, in reproving a thief, or an adulterer, or a slanderer, they did not merely condemn the persons, but those very vices which adhered to themselves.1

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2. But we know that the judgment of God, &c. The design of Paul is to shake off from hypocrites their self-complacencies, that they may not think that they can really gain any thing, though they be applauded by the world, and though they regard themselves guiltless; for a far different trial awaits them in heaven. But as he charges them with inward impurity, which, being hid from the eyes of men, cannot be proved and convicted by human testimonies, he summons them to the tribunal of God, to whom darkness itself is not hid, and by whose judgment the case of sinners, be they willing or unwilling, must be determined.

Moreover, the truth of judgment will in two ways appear, because God will punish sin without any respect of persons, in whomsoever it will be found; and he will not heed outward appearances, nor be satisfied with any outward work, except what has proceeded from real sincerity of heart. It hence follows, that the mask of feigned sanctity will not prevent him from visiting secret wickedness with judgment. It is, no doubt, a Hebrew idiom; for truth in Hebrew means often the inward integrity of the heart, and thus stands opposed not only to gross falsehood, but also to the outward appearance of good works. And then only are hypocrites awakened, when they are told that God will take an account, not only of their disguised righteousness, but also of their secret motives and feelings.1

3. And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?

4. Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness, and forbearance, and long-suffering;2 not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?

5. But, after thy hardness and impenitent heart, treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God;

6. Who will render to every man according to his deeds:

7. To them who, by patient continuance in well-doing, seek for glory, and honour, and immortality, eternal life;

8. But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath,

9. Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile:

10. But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good; to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile.

3. Existimas autem, O homo, qui judicas eos qui talia faciunt, et eadem facis, quod ipse effugies judicium Dei?

4. An divitias bonitatis ipsius tolerantiæque, ac lenitatis contemnis; ignorans quod bonitas Dei te ad pœnitentiam deducit?

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5. Sed, juxta duritiam tuam, et cor pœnitere nescium, thesaurizas tibi iram in diem iræ et revelationis justi judicii Dei;

6. Qui redditurus est unicuique secundam ipsius opera:

7. Iis quidem, qui per boni operis perseverantiam, gloriam et honorem et immortalitatem quærunt, vitam æternam;

8. Iis vero qui sunt contentiosi, ac veritati immorigeri, injustitiæ autem obtemperant, excandescentia, ira, tribulatio,

9. Et anxietas in omnem animam hominis perpetrantis malum, Iudæi primum simul et Græci:

10. At gloria et honor et pax omni operanti bonum, Iudæo primum simul et Græco.

3. And thinkest thou, O man, &c. As rhetoricians teach us, that we ought not to proceed to give strong reproof before the crime be proved, Paul may seem to some to have acted unwisely here for having passed so severe a censure, when he had not yet proved the accusation which he had brought forward. But the fact is otherwise; for he adduced not his accusation before men, but appealed to the judgment of conscience; and thus he deemed that proved which he had in view—that they could not deny their iniquity, if they examined themselves and submitted to the scrutiny of God’s tribunal. And it was not without urgent necessity, that he with so much sharpness and severity rebuked their fictitious sanctity; for men of this class will with astonishing security trust in themselves, except their vain confidence be forcibly shaken from them. Let us then remember, that this is the best mode of dealing with hypocrisy, in order to awaken it from its inebriety, that is, to draw it forth to the light of God’s judgment.

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That thou shalt escape, &c. This argument is drawn from the less; for since our sins are subject to the judgment of men, much more are they to that of God, who is the only true Judge of all. Men are indeed led by a divine instinct to condemn evil deeds; but this is only an obscure and faint resemblance of the divine judgment. They are then extremely besotted, who think that they can escape the judgment of God, though they allow not others to escape their own judgment. It is not without an emphatical meaning that he repeats the word man; it is for the purpose of presenting a comparison between man and God.

4. Dost thou despise the riches? &c. It does not seem to me, as some think, that there is here an argument, conclusive on two grounds, (dilemma,) but an anticipation of an objection: for as hypocrites are commonly transported with prosperity, as though they had merited the Lord’s kindness by their good deeds, and become thus more hardened in their contempt of God, the Apostle anticipates their arrogance, and proves, by an argument taken from a reason of an opposite kind, that there is no ground for them to think that God, on account of their outward prosperity, is propitious to them, since the design of his benevolence is far different, and that is, to convert sinners to himself. Where then the fear of God does not rule, confidence, on account of prosperity, is a contempt and a mockery of his great goodness. It hence follows, that a heavier punishment will be inflicted on those whom God has in this life favoured; because, in addition to their other wickedness, they have rejected the fatherly invitation of God. And though all the gifts of God are so many evidences of his paternal goodness, yet as he often has a different object in view, the ungodly absurdly congratulate themselves on their prosperity, as though they were dear to him, while he kindly and bountifully supports them.

Not knowing that the goodness of God, &c. For the Lord by his kindness shows to us, that it is he to whom we ought to turn, if we desire to secure our wellbeing, and at the same time he strengthens our confidence in expecting mercy. If we use not God’s bounty for this end, we abuse it. But Edition: current; Page: [88] yet it is not to be viewed always in the same light; for when the Lord deals favourably with his servants and gives them earthly blessings, he makes known to them by symbols of this kind his own benevolence, and trains them up at the same time to seek the sum and substance of all good things in himself alone: when he treats the transgressors of his law with the same indulgence, his object is to soften by his kindness their perverseness; he yet does not testify that he is already propitious to them, but, on the contrary, invites them to repentance. But if any one brings this objection—that the Lord sings to the deaf as long as he does not touch inwardly their hearts; we must answer—that no fault can be found in this case except with our own depravity. But I prefer rendering the word which Paul here uses, leads, rather than invites, for it is more significant; I do not, however, take it in the sense of driving, but of leading as it were by the hand.

5. But according to thy hardness, &c. When we become hardened against the admonitions of the Lord, impenitence follows; and they who are not anxious about repentance openly provoke the Lord.1

This is a remarkable passage: we may hence learn what I have already referred to—that the ungodly not only accumulate for themselves daily a heavier weight of God’s judgments, as long as they live here, but that the gifts of God also, which they continually enjoy, shall increase their condemnation; for an account of them all will be required: and it will then be found, that it will be justly imputed to them as an extreme wickedness, that they had been made worse through God’s bounty, by which they ought surely to have been improved. Let us then take heed, lest by unlawful use of blessings we lay up for ourselves this cursed treasure.

For the day, &c.; literally, in the day; but it is put for εἰς ἡμέραν, for the day. The ungodly gather now the indignation Edition: current; Page: [89] of God against themselves, the stream of which shall then be poured on their heads: they accumulate hidden destruction, which then shall be drawn out from the treasures of God. The day of the last judgment is called the day of wrath, when a reference is made to the ungodly; but it will be a day of redemption to the faithful. And thus all other visitations of God are ever described as dreadful and full of terror to the ungodly; and on the contrary, as pleasant and joyful to the godly. Hence whenever the Scripture mentions the approach of the Lord, it bids the godly to exult with joy; but when it turns to the reprobate, it proclaims nothing but dread and terror. “A day of wrath,” saith Zephaniah, “shall be that day, a day of tribulation and distress, a day of calamity and wretchedness, a day of darkness and of thick darkness, a day of mist and of whirlwind.” (Zeph. i. 15.) You have a similar description in Joel ii. 2, &c. And Amos exclaims, “Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord! what will it be to you? The day of the Lord will be darkness, and not light.” (Amos v. 18.) Farther, by adding the word revelation, Paul intimates what this day of wrath is to be,—that the Lord will then manifest his judgment: though he gives daily some indications of it, he yet suspends and holds back, till that day, the clear and full manifestation of it; for the books shall then be opened; the sheep shall then be separated from the goats, and the wheat shall be cleansed from the tares.

6. Who will render to every one, &c. As he had to do with blind saintlings, who thought that the wickedness of their hearts was well covered, provided it was spread over with some disguises, I know not what, of empty works, he pointed out the true character of the righteousness of works, even that which is of account before God; and he did this, lest they should feel confident that it was enough to pacify him, if they brought words and trifles, or leaves only. But there is not so much difficulty in this verse, as it is commonly thought. For the Lord, by visiting the wickedness of the reprobate with just vengeance, will recompense them with what they have deserved: and as he sanctifies those whom he has previously resolved to glorify, he will also crown their Edition: current; Page: [90] good works, but not on account of any merit: nor can this be proved from this verse; for though it declares what reward good works are to have, it does yet by no means show what they are worth, or what price is due to them. And it is an absurd inference, to deduce merit from reward.

7. To them indeed, who by perseverance, &c.; literally, patience; by which word something more is expressed. For it is perseverance, when one is not wearied in constantly doing good; but patience also is required in the saints, by which they may continue firm, though oppressed with various trials. For Satan suffers them not by a free course to come to the Lord; but he strives by numberless hinderances to impede them, and to turn them aside from the right way. And when he says, that the faithful, by continuing in good works, seek glory and honour, he does not mean that they aspire after any thing else but the favour of God, or that they strive to attain any thing higher, or more excellent: but they cannot seek him, without striving, at the same time, for the blessedness of his kingdom, the description of which is contained in the paraphrase given in these words. The meaning then is,—that the Lord will give eternal life to those who, by attention to good works, strive to attain immortality.1

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8. But to those who are contentious, &c. There is some irregularity in the passage; first, on account of its tenor being interrupted, for the thread of the discourse required, that the second clause of the contrast should be thus connected,—“The Lord will render to them, who by perseverance in good works, seek glory, and honour, and immortality, eternal life; but to the contentious and the disobedient, eternal death.” Then the conclusion might be joined,—“That for the former are prepared glory, and honour, and incorruption; and that for the latter are laid up wrath and misery.” There is another thing,—These words, indignation, wrath, tribulation, and anguish, are joined to two clauses in the context. However, the meaning of the passage is by no means obscure; and with this we must be satisfied in the Apostolic writings. From other writings must eloquence be learnt: here spiritual wisdom is to be sought, conveyed in a plain and simple style.1

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Contention is mentioned here for rebellion and stubbornness; for Paul was contending with hypocrites who, by their gross and supine self-indulgence, trifled with God. By the word truth, is simply meant the revealed will of God, which alone is the light of truth: for it is what belongs to all the ungodly, that they ever prefer to be in bondage to iniquity, rather than to receive the yoke of God; and whatever obedience they may pretend, yet they never cease perversely to clamour and struggle against God’s word. For as they who are openly wicked scoff at the truth, so hypocrites fear not to set up in opposition to it their artificial modes of worship. The Apostle further adds, that such disobedient persons obey or serve iniquity; for there is no middle course, which those who are unwilling to be in subjection to the law of the Lord can take, so as to be kept from falling immediately into the service of sin. And it is the just reward of outrageous licentiousness, that those become the bondslaves of sin who cannot endure the service of God. Indignation and wrath, so the character of the words induces me to render them; for θυμος in Greek means what the Latins call excandescentia—indignation, as Cicero teaches us, (Tusc. 4,) even a sudden burning of anger. As to the other words I follow Erasmus. But observe, that of the four which are mentioned, the two last are, as it were, the effects of the two first; for they who perceive that God is displeased and angry with them are immediately filled with confusion.

We may add, that though he might have briefly described, even in two words, the blessedness of the godly and also the misery of the reprobate, he yet enlarges on both subjects, and for this end—that he might more effectually strike men Edition: current; Page: [93] with the fear of God’s wrath, and sharpen their desire for obtaining grace through Christ: for we never fear God’s judgment as we ought, except it be set as it were by a lively description before our eyes; nor do we really burn with desire for future life, except when roused by strong incentives, (multis flabellis incitati—incited by many fans.)

9. To the Jew first, &c. He simply places, I have no doubt, the Jew in opposition to the Gentile; for those whom he calls Greeks he will presently call Gentiles. But the Jews take the precedence in this case, for they had, in preference to others, both the promises and the threatenings of the law; as though he had said, “This is the universal rule of the divine judgment; it shall begin with the Jews, and it shall include the whole world.”

11. For there is no respect of persons with God.

12. For as many as have sinned without law, shall also perish without law; and as many as have sinned in the law, shall be judged by the law,

13. (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.

11. Siquidem non est acceptio personarum apud Deum.

12. Quicunque enim sine Lege peccaverunt sine Lege etiam peribunt; quicunque vero in Lege peccaverunt per Legem judicabuntur,

13. Non enim Legis auditores justi sunt apud Deum, sed qui Legem faciunt justificabuntur.

11. There is no respect of persons, &c. He has hitherto generally arraigned all mortals as guilty; but now he begins to bring home his accusation to the Jews and to the Gentiles separately: and at the same time he teaches us, that it is no objection that there is a difference between them, but that they are both without any distinction exposed to eternal death. The Gentiles pretended ignorance as their defence; the Jews gloried in the honour of having the law: from the former he takes away their subterfuge, and he deprives the latter of their false and empty boasting.

There is then a division of the whole human race into two classes; for God had separated the Jews from all the rest, but the condition of all the Gentiles was the same. He now teaches us, that this difference is no reason why both should not be involved in the same guilt. But the word person is taken in Scripture for all outward things, which are wont to be regarded as possessing any value or esteem. When therefore Edition: current; Page: [94] thou readest, that God is no respecter of persons, understand that what he regards is purity of heart or inward integrity; and that he hath no respect for those things which are wont to be highly valued by men, such as kindred, country, dignity, wealth, and similar things; so that respect of persons is to be here taken for the distinction or the difference there is between one nation and another.1 But if any hence objects and says, “That then there is no such thing as the gratuitous election of God;” it may be answered, That there is a twofold acceptation of men before God; the first, when he chooses and calls us from nothing, through gratuitous goodness, as there is nothing in our nature which can be approved by him; the second, when after having regenerated us, he confers on us his gifts, and shows favour to the image of his Son which he recognises in us.

12. Whosoever have sinned without law,2 &c. In the former part of this section he assails the Gentiles; though no Moses was given them to publish and to ratify a law from the Lord, he yet denies this omission to be a reason why they deserved Edition: current; Page: [95] not the just sentence of death for their sins; as though he had said—that the knowledge of a written law was not necessary for the just condemnation of a sinner. See then what kind of advocacy they undertake, who through misplaced mercy, attempt, on the ground of ignorance, to exempt the nations who have not the light of the gospel from the judgment of God.

Whosoever have sinned under the law, &c. As the Gentiles, being led by the errors of their own reason, go headlong into ruin, so the Jews possess a law by which they are condemned;1 for this sentence has been long ago pronounced, “Cursed are all they who continue not in all its precepts.” (Deut. xxvii. 26.) A worse condition then awaits the Jewish sinners, since their condemnation is already pronounced in their own law.

13. For the hearers of the law, &c. This anticipates an objection which the Jews might have adduced. As they had heard that the law was the rule of righteousness, (Deut. iv. 1,) they gloried in the mere knowledge of it: to obviate this mistake, he declares that the hearing of the law or any knowledge of it is of no such consequence, that any one should on that account lay claim to righteousness, but that works must be produced, according to this saying, “He who will do these shall live in them.” The import then of this verse is the following,—“That if righteousness be sought from the law, the law must be fulfilled; for the righteousness of the law consists in the perfection of works.” They who pervert this passage for the purpose of building up justification by works, deserve most fully to be laughed at even by children. It is therefore improper and beyond what is needful, to introduce here a long discussion on the subject, with the view of exposing so futile a sophistry: for the Apostle only urges here on the Jews what he had mentioned, the decision of the law,—That by the law they could not be justified, except they fulfilled the law, that if they transgressed Edition: current; Page: [96] it, a curse was instantly pronounced on them. Now we do not deny but that perfect righteousness is prescribed in the law: but as all are convicted of transgression, we say that another righteousness must be sought. Still more, we can prove from this passage that no one is justified by works; for if they alone are justified by the law who fulfil the law, it follows that no one is justified; for no one can be found who can boast of having fulfilled the law.1

14. For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:

15. Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another,

16. In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.

14. Quum enim Gentes, quæ Legem non habent, natura quæ Legis sunt faciant, ipsæ, Legem non habentes, sibi ipsæ sunt Lex:

15. Quæ ostendunt opus Legis scriptum in cordibus suis, simul attestante ipsorum conscientia et cogitationibus inter se accusantibus aut etiam excusantibus,

16. In die qua judicabit Deus occulta hominum, secundum Evangelium meum, per Iesum Christum.

14. For when the Gentiles, &c. He now states what proves the former clause; for he did not think it enough to condemn us by mere assertion, and only to pronounce on us the just judgment of God; but he proceeds to prove this by reasons, in order to excite us to a greater desire for Christ, and to a greater love towards him. He indeed shows that ignorance is in vain pretended as an excuse by the Gentiles, since they prove by their own deeds that they have some rule of righteousness: for there is no nation so lost to every thing human, that it does not keep within the limits of some laws. Since then all nations, of themselves and without a monitor, are disposed to make laws for themselves, it is beyond all question evident that they have some notions of justice and rectitude, which the Greeks call preconceptions, προληψεις, and which are implanted by nature in the Edition: current; Page: [97] hearts of men. They have then a law, though they are without law: for though they have not a written law, they are yet by no means wholly destitute of the knowledge of what is right and just; as they could not otherwise distinguish between vice and virtue; the first of which they restrain by punishment, and the latter they commend, and manifest their approbation of it by honouring it with rewards. He sets nature in opposition to a written law, meaning that the Gentiles had the natural light of righteousness, which supplied the place of that law by which the Jews were instructed, so that they were a law to themselves.1

15. Who show the work of the law2 written, &c.; that is, they prove that there is imprinted on their hearts a discrimination and judgment by which they distinguish between what is just and unjust, between what is honest and dishonest. He means not that it was so engraven on their will, that they sought and diligently pursued it, but that they were so mastered by the power of truth, that they could not disapprove of it. For why did they institute religious rites, except that they were convinced that God ought to be worshipped? Why were they ashamed of adultery and theft, except that they deemed them evils?

Without reason then is the power of the will deduced from this passage, as though Paul had said, that the keeping of the law is within our power; for he speaks not of the power to fulfil the law, but of the knowledge of it. Nor is the word heart to be taken for the seat of the affections, but Edition: current; Page: [98] only for the understanding, as it is found in Deut. xxix. 4, “The Lord hath not given thee a heart to understand;” and in Luke xxiv. 25, “O foolish men, and slow in heart to believe.”

Nor can we conclude from this passage, that there is in men a full knowledge of the law, but that there are only some seeds of what is right implanted in their nature, evidenced by such acts as these—All the Gentiles alike instituted religious rites, they made laws to punish adultery, and theft, and murder, they commended good faith in bargains and contracts. They have thus indeed proved, that God ought to be worshipped, that adultery, and theft, and murder are evils, that honesty is commendable. It is not to our purpose to inquire what sort of God they imagined him to be, or how many gods they devised; it is enough to know, that they thought that there is a God, and that honour and worship are due to him. It matters not whether they permitted the coveting of another man’s wife, or of his possessions, or of any thing which was his,—whether they connived at wrath and hatred; inasmuch as it was not right for them to covet what they knew to be evil when done.

Their conscience at the same time attesting, &c. He could not have more forcibly urged them than by the testimony of their own conscience, which is equal to a thousand witnesses. By the consciousness of having done good, men sustain and comfort themselves; those who are conscious of having done evil, are inwardly harassed and tormented. Hence came these sayings of the heathens—“A good conscience is the widest sphere; but a bad one is the cruellest executioner, and more fiercely torments the ungodly than any furies can do.” There is then a certain knowledge of the law by nature, which says, “This is good and worthy of being desired; that ought to be abhorred.”

But observe how intelligently he defines conscience: he says, that reasons come to our minds, by which we defend what is rightly done, and that there are those which accuse and reprove us for our vices;1 and he refers this process of Edition: current; Page: [99] accusation and defence to the day of the Lord; not that it will then first commence, for it is now continually carried on, but that it will then also be in operation; and he says this, that no one should disregard this process, as though it were vain and evanescent. And he has put, in the day, instead of, at the day,—a similar instance to what we have already observed.

16. In which God shall judge the secrets of men.1 Most suitable to the present occasion is this periphrastic definition of judgment: it teaches those, who wilfully hide themselves in the recesses of insensibility, that the most secret thoughts and those now completely hid in the depths of their hearts, shall then be brought forth to the light. So he speaks in another place; in order to show to the Corinthians what little value belongs to human judgment, which regards only the outward action, he bids them to wait until the Lord came, who would bring to light the hidden things of darkness, Edition: current; Page: [100] and reveal the secrets of the heart. (1 Cor. iv. 5.) When we hear this, let it come to our minds, that we are warned that if we wish to be really approved by our Judge, we must strive for sincerity of heart.

He adds, according to my gospel, intimating, that he announced a doctrine, to which the judgments of men, naturally implanted in them, gave a response: and he calls it his gospel, on account of the ministry; for the authority for setting forth the gospel resides in the true God alone; and it was only the dispensing of it that was committed to the Apostles. It is indeed no matter of surprise, that the gospel is in part called the messenger and the announcer of future judgment: for if the fulfilment and completion of what it promises be deferred to the full revelation of the heavenly kingdom, it must necessarily be connected with the last judgment: and further, Christ cannot be preached without being a resurrection to some, and a destruction to others; and both these things have a reference to the day of judgment. The words, through Jesus Christ, I apply to the day of judgment, though they are regarded otherwise by some; and the meaning is,—that the Lord will execute judgment by Christ, for he is appointed by the Father to be the Judge of the living and of the dead,—which the Apostles always mention among the main articles of the gospel. Thus the sentence will be full and complete, which would otherwise be defective.

17. Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God,

18. And knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law;

19. And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness,

20. An instructer of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law.

21. Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal?

22. Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege?

23. Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God?

24. For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written.1

17. Ecce, tu Iudæus cognominaris, et acquiescis in Lege, et gloriaris in Deo,

18. Et nosti voluntatem, et probas eximia, institutus ex Lege;

19. Confidisque teipsum esse ducem cæcorum, lumen eorum qui sunt in tenebris,

20. Eruditorem insipientium, doctorem imperitorum, habentem formam cognitionis ac veritatis in Lege:

21. Qui igitur doces alterum, teipsum non doces; qui concionaris, non furandum, furaris;

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22. Qui dicis, non mœchandum, mœcharis; qui detestaris idola, sacrilegium perpetras;

23. Qui de Lege gloriaris, Deum per Legis transgressionem dehonestas:

24. Nomen enim Dei propter vos probro afficitur inter gentes, quemadmodum scriptum est.

17. Behold, thou art named a Jew, &c. Some old copies read εἰ δὲ, though indeed; which, were it generally received, would meet my approbation; but as the greater part of the manuscripts is opposed to it, and the sense is not unsuitable, I retain the old reading, especially as it is only a small difference of one letter.2

Having now completed what he meant to say of the Gentiles, he returns to the Jews; and that he might, with greater force, beat down their great vanity, he allows them all those privileges, by which they were beyond measure transported and inflated: and then he shows how insufficient they were for the attainment of true glory, yea, how they turned to their reproach. Under the name Jew he includes all the privileges of the nation, which they vainly pretended were derived from the law and the prophets; and so he comprehends all the Israelites, all of whom were then, without any difference, called Jews.

But at what time this name first originated it is uncertain, except that it arose, no doubt, after the dispersion.3 Josephus, in the eleventh book of his Antiquities, thinks that it was taken from Judas Maccabæus, under whose auspices the liberty and honour of the people, after having for Edition: current; Page: [102] some time fallen, and been almost buried, revived again. Though I allow this opinion to be probable, yet, if there be some to whom it is not satisfactory, I will offer them a conjecture of my own. It seems, indeed, very likely, that after having been degraded and scattered through so many disasters, they were not able to retain any certain distinction as to their tribes; for a census could not have been made at that time, nor did there exist a regular government, which was necessary to preserve an order of this kind; and they dwelt scattered and in disorder; and having been worn out by adversities, they were no doubt less attentive to the records of their kindred. But though you may not grant these things to me, yet it cannot be denied but that a danger of this kind was connected with such disturbed state of things. Whether, then, they meant to provide for the future, or to remedy an evil already received, they all, I think, assumed the name of that tribe, in which the purity of religion remained the longest, and which, by a peculiar privilege, excelled all the rest, as from it the Redeemer was expected to come; for it was their refuge in all extremities, to console themselves with the expectation of the Messiah. However this may be, by the name of Jews they avowed themselves to be the heirs of the covenant which the Lord had made with Abraham and his seed.

And restest in the law, and gloriest in God, &c. He means not that they rested in attending to the law, as though they applied their minds to the keeping of it; but, on the contrary, he reproves them for not observing the end for which the law had been given; for they had no care for its observance, and were inflated on this account only,—because they were persuaded that the oracles of God belonged to them. In the same way they gloried in God, not as the Lord commands by his Prophet,—to humble ourselves, and to seek our glory in him alone, (Jer. ix. 24,)—but being without any knowledge of God’s goodness, they made him, of whom they were inwardly destitute, peculiarly their own, and assumed to be his people, for the purpose of vain ostentation before men. This, then, was not the glorying of the heart, but the boasting of the tongue.

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18. And knowest his will, and approvest things excellent, &c. He now concedes to them the knowledge of the divine will, and the approval of things useful; and this they had attained from the doctrine of the law. But there is a twofold approval,—one of choice, when we embrace the good we approve; the other of judgment, by which indeed we distinguish good from evil, but by no means strive or desire to follow it. Thus the Jews were so learned in the law that they could pass judgment on the conduct of others, but were not careful to regulate their life according to that judgment. But as Paul reproves their hypocrisy, we may, on the other hand, conclude, that excellent things are then only rightly approved (provided our judgment proceeds from sincerity) when God is attended to; for his will, as it is revealed in the law, is here appointed as the guide and teacher of what is to be justly approved.1

19. And believest thyself, &c. More is still granted to them; as though they had not only what was sufficient for themselves, but also that by which they could enrich others. He grants, indeed, that they had such abundance of learning, as that others might have been supplied.2

20. I take what follows, having the form of knowledge, as a Edition: current; Page: [104] reason for the preceding; and it may be thus explained,—“because thou hast the form of knowledge.” For they professed to be the teachers of others, because they seemed to carry in their breasts all the secrets of the law. The word form is put for model (exemplar—pattern);1 for Paul has adopted μόρϕωσιν and not τύπον: but he intended, I think, to point out the conspicuous pomp of their teaching, and what is commonly called display; and it certainly appears that they were destitute of that knowledge which they pretended. But Paul, by indirectly ridiculing the perverted use of the law, intimates, on the other hand, that right knowledge must be sought from the law, in order that the truth may have a solid basis.

21. Thou, who then teachest another, teachest not thyself, &c.2 Though the excellencies (encomia—commendations) Edition: current; Page: [105] which he has hitherto stated respecting the Jews, were such as might have justly adorned them, provided the higher ornaments were not wanting; yet as they included qualifications of a neutral kind, which may be possessed even by the ungodly and corrupted by abuse, they are by no means sufficient to constitute true glory. And hence Paul, not satisfied with merely reproving and taunting their arrogance in trusting in these things alone, employs them for the purpose of enhancing their disgraceful conduct; for he exposes himself to no ordinary measure of reproach, who not only renders useless the gifts of God, which are otherwise valuable and excellent, but by his wickedness vitiates and contaminates them. And a strange counsellor is he, who consults not for his own good, and is wise only for the benefit of others. He shows then that the praise which they appropriated to themselves, turned out to their own disgrace.

Thou who preachest, steal not, &c. He seems to have alluded to a passage in Psalm l. 16, where God says to the wicked, “Why dost thou declare my statutes, and takest my covenant in thy mouth? And thou hatest reform, and hast cast my words behind thee: when thou seest a thief, thou joinest him, and with adulterers is thy portion.” And as this reproof was suitable to the Jews in old time, who, relying on the mere knowledge of the law, lived in no way better than if they had no law; so we must take heed, lest it should be turned against us at this day: and indeed it may be well applied to many, who, boasting of some extraordinary knowledge of the gospel, abandon themselves to every kind of uncleanness, as though the gospel were not a rule of life. That we may not then so heedlessly trifle with the Lord, let us remember what sort of judgment impends over such prattlers, (logodædalis—word-artificers,) who make a show of God’s word by mere garrulity.

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22. Thou who abhorrest idols, &c. He fitly compares sacrilege to idolatry, as it is a thing of the same kind; for sacrilege is simply a profanation of the Divine Majesty, a sin not unknown to heathen poets. On this account Ovid (Metamor. 3,) calls Lycurgus sacrilegious for despising the rites of Bacchus; and in his Fasti he calls those sacrilegious hands which violated the majesty of Venus. But as the Gentiles ascribed the majesty of their gods to idols, they only thought it a sacrilege when any one plundered what was dedicated to their temples, in which, as they believed, the whole of religion centred. So at this day, where superstition reigns, and not the word of God, they acknowledge no other kind of sacrilege than the stealing of what belongs to churches, as there is no God but in idols, no religion but in pomp and magnificence.1

Now we are here warned, first, not to flatter ourselves and to despise others, when we have performed only some portions of the law,—and, secondly, not to glory in having outward idolatry removed, while we care not to drive away and to eradicate the impiety that lieth hid in our hearts.

23. Thou who gloriest in the law, &c. Though every transgressor dishonours God, (for we are all born for this end—to serve him in righteousness and holiness;) yet he justly imputes in this respect a special fault to the Jews; for as they Edition: current; Page: [107] avowed God as their Lawgiver, and yet had no care to form their life according to his rule, they clearly proved that the majesty of their God was not so regarded by them, but that they easily despised him. In the same manner do they at this day dishonour Christ, by transgressing the gospel, who prattle idly about its doctrine, while yet they tread it under foot by their unbridled and licentious mode of living.

24. For the name of God, &c. I think this quotation is taken from Ezek. xxxvi. 20, rather than from Isaiah lii. 5; for in Isaiah there are no reproofs given to the people, but that chapter in Ezekiel is full of reproofs. But some think that it is a proof from the less to the greater, according to this import, “Since the Prophet upbraided, not without cause, the Jews of his time, that on account of their captivity, the glory and power of God were ridiculed among the Gentiles, as though he could not have preserved the people, whom he had taken under his protection, much more are ye a disgrace and dishonour to God, whose religion, being judged of by your wicked life, is blasphemed.” This view I do not reject, but I prefer a simpler one, such as the following,—“We see that all the reproaches cast on the people of Israel do fall on the name of God; for as they are counted, and are said to be the people of God, his name is as it were engraven on their foreheads: it must hence be, that God, whose name they assume, is in a manner defamed by men, through their wicked conduct.” It was then a monstrous thing, that they who derived their glory from God should have disgraced his holy name; for it behoved them surely to requite him in a different manner.1

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25. For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision.

26. Therefore, if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision?

27. And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law?

28. For he is not a Jew which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh:

29. But he is a Jew which is one inwardly: and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.

25. Nam circumcisio quidem prodest, si Legem observes; quod si transgressor Legis fueris, circumcisio tua in præputium versa est.

26. Si ergo præputium justitias Legis servaverit, nonne præputium ejus pro circumcisione censebitur?

27. Et judicabit quod ex natura est præputium (si Legem servaverit) te qui per literam et circumcisionem transgressor es Legis?

28. Non enim qui est in aperto Iudæus est; nec quæ in aperto est circumcisio in carne, ea est circumcisio:

29. Sed qui est in occulto Iudæus; et circumcisio cordis in spiritu non litera; cujus laus non ex hominibus est sed ex Deo.

25. For circumcision indeed profits, &c. He dissipates by anticipation what the Jews might have objected in opposition to him in the defence of their own cause: for since circumcision was a symbol of the Lord’s covenant, by which he had chosen Abraham and his seed as his peculiar people, they seemed not to have gloried in vain; but as they neglected what the sign signified, and regarded only the outward form, he gives this answer—That they had no reason to lay claim to any thing on account of the bare sign. The true character of circumcision was a spiritual promise, which required faith: the Jews neglected both, the promise as well as faith. Then foolish was their confidence. Hence it is, that he omits Edition: current; Page: [109] to state here the main use of circumcision, and proceeds to expose their gross error, as he does in his Epistle to the Galatians. And this ought to be carefully noticed; for if he were explaining the whole character and design of circumcision, it would have been inconsistent in him not to have made mention of grace and free promise: but in both instances he spoke according to what the subject he had in hand required, and therefore he only discussed that part which was controverted.

They thought that circumcision was of itself sufficient for the purpose of obtaining righteousness. Hence, speaking according to such an opinion, he gives this reply—That if this benefit be expected from circumcision, it is on this condition, that he who is circumcised, must serve God wholly and perfectly. Circumcision then requires perfection. The same may be also said of our baptism: when any one confidently relies on the water of baptism alone, and thinks that he is justified, as though he had obtained holiness by that ordinance itself, the end of baptism must be adduced as an objection; which is, that the Lord thereby calls us to holiness of life: the grace and promise, which baptism testifies (testificatur) and seals, (obsignat,) need not in this case to be mentioned; for our business is with those who, being satisfied with the empty shadow of baptism, care not for nor consider what is material (solidum—substantial) in it. And this very thing you may observe in Paul—that when he speaks to the faithful of signs, apart from controversy, he connects them with the efficacy and fulfilment of the promises which belong to them; but when he contends with the absurd and unskilful interpreters of signs, he omits all mention of the proper and true character of signs, and directs his whole discourse against their perverted interpretation.

Now many, seeing that Paul brings forward circumcision rather than any other part of the law, suppose that he takes away justification only from ceremonies: but the matter is far otherwise; for it always happens, that those who dare to set up their own merits against the righteousness of God, glory more in outward observances than in real goodness; Edition: current; Page: [110] for no one, who is seriously touched and moved by the fear of God, will ever dare to raise up his eyes to heaven, since the more he strives after true righteousness, the clearer he sees how far he is from it. But as to the Pharisees, who were satisfied with imitating holiness by an outward disguise, it is no wonder that they so easily deluded themselves. Hence Paul, after having left the Jews nothing, but this poor subterfuge of being justified by circumcision, does now also take from them even this empty pretence.

26. If then the uncircumcision, &c. This is a very strong argument. Every thing is below its end and subordinate to it. Circumcision looks to the law, and must therefore be inferior to it: it is then a greater thing to keep the law than circumcision, which was for its sake instituted. It hence follows, that the uncircumcised, provided he keeps the law, far excels the Jew with his barren and unprofitable circumcision, if he be a transgressor of the law: and though he is by nature polluted, he shall yet be so sanctified by keeping the law, that uncircumcision shall be imputed to him for circumcision. The word uncircumcision, is to be taken in its proper sense in the second clause; but in the first, figuratively, for the Gentiles, the thing for the persons.

It must be added—that no one ought anxiously to inquire what observers of the law are those of which Paul speaks here, inasmuch no such can be found; for he simply intended to lay down a supposed case—that if any Gentile could be found who kept the law, his righteousness would be of more value without circumcision, than the circumcision of the Jew without righteousness. And hence I refer what follows, And what is by nature uncircumcision shall judge thee, &c., not to persons, but to the case that is supposed, according to what is said of the Queen of the south, that she shall come, &c., (Matt. xii. 42,) and of the men of Nineveh, that they shall rise up in judgment, &c., (Luke xi. 32.) For the very words of Paul lead us to this view—“The Gentile,” he says, “being a keeper of the law, shall judge thee, who art a transgressor, though he is uncircumcised, and thou hast the literal circumcision.”

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27. By the letter and circumcision, &c. A construction1 which means a literal circumcision. He does not mean that they violated the law, because they had the literal circumcision; but because they continued, though they had the outward rite, to neglect the spiritual worship of God, even piety, justice, judgment, and truth, which are the chief matters of the law.2

28. For a Jew is not he, &c. The meaning is, that a real Jew is not to be ascertained, either by natural descent, or by profession, or by an external symbol; that the circumcision which constitutes a Jew, does not consist in an outward sign only, but that both are inward. And what he subjoins with regard to true circumcision, is taken from various passages of Scripture, and even from its general teaching; for the people are everywhere commanded to circumcise their hearts, and it is what the Lord promises to do. The fore-skin was cut off, not indeed as the small corruption of one part, but as that of the whole nature. Circumcision then signified the mortification of the whole flesh.

29. What he then adds, in the spirit, not in the letter, understand thus: He calls the outward rite, without piety, the letter, and the spiritual design of this rite, the spirit; for Edition: current; Page: [112] the whole importance of signs and rites depends on what is designed; when the end in view is not regarded, the letter alone remains, which in itself is useless. And the reason for this mode of speaking is this,—where the voice of God sounds, all that he commands, except it be received by men in sincerity of heart, will remain in the letter, that is, in the dead writing; but when it penetrates into the heart, it is in a manner transformed into spirit. And there is an allusion to the difference between the old and the new covenant, which Jeremiah points out in ch. xxxi. 33; where the Lord declares that his covenant would be firm and permanent when engraven on the inward parts. Paul had also the same thing in view in another place, (2 Cor. iii. 6,) where he compares the law with the gospel, and calls the former “the letter,” which is not only dead but killeth; and the latter he signalizes with the title of “spirit.” But extremely gross has been the folly of those who have deduced a double meaning from the “letter,” and allegories from the “spirit.”

Whose praise is not from men, &c. As men fix their eyes only on those things which are visible, he denies that we ought to be satisfied with what is commendable in the estimation of men, who are often deceived by outward splendour; but that we ought to be satisfied with the all-seeing eyes of God, from which the deepest secrets of the heart are not hid. He thus again summons hypocrites, who soothe themselves with false opinions, to the tribunal of God.

CHAPTER III.

1. What advantage1 then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision?

2. Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.

1. Quæ igitur prærogativa Iudæi, aut quæ utilitas circumcisionis?

2. Multa per omnem modum; ac primùm quidem, quòd illis credita sunt oracula Dei.

1. Though Paul has clearly proved that bare circumcision Edition: current; Page: [113] brought nothing to the Jews, yet since he could not deny but that there was some difference between the Gentiles and the Jews, which by that symbol was sealed to them by the Lord, and since it was inconsistent to make a distinction, of which God was the author, void and of no moment, it remained for him to remove also this objection. It was indeed evident, that it was a foolish glorying in which the Jews on this account indulged; yet still a doubt remained as to the design of circumcision; for the Lord would not have appointed it had not some benefit been intended. He therefore, by way of an objection, asks, what it was that made the Jew superior to the Gentile; and he subjoins a reason for this by another question, What is the benefit of circumcision? For this separated the Jews from the common class of men; it was a partition-wall, as Paul calls ceremonies, which kept parties asunder.

2. Much in every way, &c.; that is, very much. He begins here to give the sacrament its own praise; but he concedes not, that on this account the Jews ought to have been proud; for when he teaches that they were sealed by the symbol of circumcision, by which they were counted the children of God, he does not allow that they became superior to others through any merit or worthiness of their own, but through the free mercy of God. If then regard be had to them as men, he shows that they were on a level with others; but if the favours of God be taken to the account, he admits that they possessed what made them more eminent than other men.

First, indeed, because intrusted to them, &c. Some think there is here an unfinished period, for he sets down what he does not afterwards complete. But the word first seems not to me to be a note of number, but means “chiefly” or especially,1 and is to be taken in this sense—“Though it were but this one thing, that they have the oracles2 of God committed Edition: current; Page: [114] to them, it might be deemed sufficient to prove their superiority.” And it is worthy of being noticed, that the advantage of circumcision is not made to consist in the naked sign, but its value is derived from the word; for Paul asks here what benefit the sacrament conferred on the Jews, and he answers, that God had deposited with them the treasure of celestial wisdom. It hence follows, that, apart from the word, no excellency remained. By oracles he means the covenant which God revealed first to Abraham and to his posterity, and afterwards sealed and unfolded by the law and the Prophets.

Now the oracles were committed to them, for the purpose of preserving them as long as it pleased the Lord to continue his glory among them, and then of publishing them during the time of their stewardship through the whole world: they were first depositaries, and secondly dispensers. But if this benefit was to be so highly esteemed when the Lord favoured one nation only with the revelation of his word, we can never sufficiently reprobate our ingratitude, who receive his word with so much negligence or with so much carelessness, not to say disdain.

3. For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?

4. God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.

3. Quid enim si quidem fuerunt increduli? num incredulitas eorum fidem Dei faciet irritam?

4. Ne ita sit; quin sit Deus verax, omnis autem homo mendax; quemadmodum scriptum est, ut justificeris in sermonibus tuis, et vincas quum judicaris.1

3. What indeed if some, &c. As before, while regarding the Jews as exulting in the naked sign, he allowed them no not even a spark of glory; so now, while considering the nature of the sign, he testifies that its virtue (virtutem, efficacy) is not destroyed, no, not even by their inconstancy. Edition: current; Page: [115] As then he seemed before to have intimated that whatever grace there might have been in the sign of circumcision, it had wholly vanished through the ingratitude of the Jews, he now, anticipating an objection, again asks what opinion was to be formed of it. There is here indeed a sort of reticence, as he expresses less than what he intended to be understood; for he might have truly said that a great part of the nation had renounced the covenant of God; but as this would have been very grating to the ears of the Jews, he mitigated its severity, and mentioned only some.

Shall their unbelief, &c. Καταργεiivrgrν is properly to render void and ineffectual; a meaning most suitable to this passage. For Paul’s inquiry is not so much whether the unbelief of men neutralizes the truth of God, so that it should not in itself remain firm and constant, but whether it hinders its effect and fulfilment as to men. The meaning then is, “Since most of the Jews are covenant-breakers, is God’s covenant so abrogated by their perfidiousness that it brings forth no fruit among them? To this he answers, that it cannot be that the truth of God should lose its stability through man’s wickedness. Though then the greater part had nullified and trodden under foot God’s covenant, it yet retained its efficacy and manifested its power, not indeed as to all, but with regard to a few of that nation: and it is then efficacious, when the grace or the blessing of the Lord avails to eternal salvation. But this cannot be, except when the promise is received by faith; for it is in this way that a mutual covenant is on both sides confirmed. He then means that some ever remained in that nation, who by continuing to believe in the promise, had not fallen away from the privileges of the covenant.

4. But let God be true, &c. Whatever may be the opinion of others, I regard this as an argument taken from the necessary consequence of what is opposed to it, by which Paul invalidates the preceding objection. For since these two things stand together, yea, necessarily accord, that God is true and that man is false, it follows that the truth of God is not nullified by the falsehood of men; for except he did now set these two things in opposition, the one to the other, Edition: current; Page: [116] he would afterwards have in vain laboured to refute what was absurd, and show how God is just, though he manifests his justice by our unjustice. Hence the meaning is by no means ambiguous,—that the faithfulness of God is so far from being nullified by the perfidy and apostasy of men, that it thereby becomes more evident. “God,” he says, “is true, not only because he is prepared to stand faithfully to his promises, but because he also really fulfils whatever he declares; for he so speaks, that his command becomes a reality. On the other hand, man is false, not only because he often violates his pledged faith, but because he naturally seeks falsehood and shuns the truth.”

The first clause contains the primary axiom of all Christian philosophy; the latter is taken from Ps. cxvi. 11, where David confesses that there is nothing certain from man or in man.

Now this is a remarkable passage, and contains a consolation that is much needed; for such is the perversity of men in rejecting and despising God’s word, that its truth would be often doubted were not this to come to our minds, that God’s verity depends not on man’s verity. But how does this agree with what has been said previously—that in order to make the divine promise effectual, faith, which receives it, is on the part of men necessary? for faith stands opposed to falsehood. This seems, indeed, to be a difficult question; but it may with no great difficulty be answered, and in this way—the Lord, notwithstanding the lies of men, and though these are hinderances to his truth, does yet find a way for it through a pathless track, that he may come forth a conqueror, and that is, by correcting in his elect the inbred unbelief of our nature, and by subjecting to his service those who seem to be unconquerable. It must be added, that the discourse here is concerning the corruption of nature, and not the grace of God, which is the remedy for that corruption.

That thou mightest be justified, &c. The sense is, So far is it that the truth of God is destroyed by our falsehood and unfaithfulness, that it thereby shines forth and appears more evident, according to the testimony of David, who says, that Edition: current; Page: [117] as he was a sinner, God was a just and righteous Judge in whatever he determined respecting him, and that he would overcome all the calumnies of the ungodly who murmured against his righteousness. By the words of God, David means the judgments which he pronounces upon us; for the common application of these to promises is too strained: and so the particle that, is not so much final, nor refers to a far-fetched consequence, but implies an inference according to this purport, “Against thee have I sinned; justly then dost thou punish me.” And that Paul has quoted this passage according to the proper and real meaning of David, is clear from the objection that is immediately added, “How shall the righteousness of God remain perfect if our iniquity illustrates it?” For in vain, as I have already observed, and unseasonably has Paul arrested the attention of his readers with this difficulty, except David meant, that God, in his wonderful providence, elicited from the sins of men a praise to his own righteousness. The second clause in Hebrew is this, “And that thou mightest be pure in thy judgment;” which expression imports nothing else but that God in all his judgments is worthy of praise, how much soever the ungodly may clamour and strive by their complaints disgracefully to efface his glory. But Paul has followed the Greek version, which answered his purpose here even better. We indeed know that the Apostles in quoting Scripture often used a freer language than the original; for they counted it enough to quote what was suitable to their subject: hence they made no great account of words.

The application then of this passage is the following: Since all the sins of mortals must serve to illustrate the glory of the Lord, and since he is especially glorified by his truth, it follows, that even the falsehood of men serves to confirm rather than to subvert his truth. Though the word κρίνεσθαι, may be taken actively as well as passively, yet the Greek translators, I have no doubt, rendered it passively, contrary to the meaning of the Prophet.1

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5. But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? (I speak as a man)

6. God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world?

7. For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory; why yet am I also judged as a sinner?

8. And not rather, (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,) Let us do evil, that good may come? whose damnation is just.

5. Quòd si injustitia nostra Dei justitiam commendat, quid dicemus? num injustus est Deus qui infert iram? Secundum hominem dico.

6. Ne ita sit: nam quomodo judicabit Deus mundum?

7. Si enim veritas Dei per meum mendacium excelluit in ejus gloriam; quid etiamnum et ego velut peccator judicor;

8. Et non (quemadmodum exprobratur nobis, et quemadmodum aiunt quidam nos dicere) Faciamus mala, ut veniant bona? quorum judicium justum est.

5. But if our unrighteousness, &c. Though this is a digression from the main subject, it was yet necessary for the Apostle to introduce it, lest he should seem to give to the ill-disposed an occasion to speak evil, which he knew would be readily laid hold on by them. For since they were watching for every opportunity to defame the gospel, they had, in the testimony of David, what they might have taken for the purpose of founding a calumny,—“If God seeks nothing Edition: current; Page: [119] else, but to be glorified by men, why does he punish them, when they offend, since by offending they glorify him? Without cause then surely is he offended, if he derives the reason of his displeasure from that by which he is glorified.” There is, indeed, no doubt, but that this was an ordinary, and everywhere a common calumny, as it will presently appear. Hence Paul could not have covertly passed it by; but that no one should think that he expressed the sentiments of his own mind, he premises that he assumes the person of the ungodly; and at the same time, he sharply touches, by a single expression, on human reason; whose work, as he intimates, is ever to bark against the wisdom of God; for he says not, “according to the ungodly,” but “according to man,” or as man. And thus indeed it is, for all the mysteries of God are paradoxes to the flesh: and at the same time it possesses so much audacity, that it fears not to oppose them, and insolently to assail what it cannot comprehend. We are hence reminded, that if we desire to become capable of understanding them, we must especially labour to become freed from our own reason, (proprio sensu,) and to give up ourselves, and unreservedly to submit to his Edition: current; Page: [120] word.—The word wrath, taken here for judgment, refers to punishment; as though he said, “Is God unjust, who punishes those sins which set forth his righteousness?”

6. By no means, &c. In checking this blasphemy he gives not a direct reply to the objection, but begins with expressing his abhorrence of it, lest the Christian religion should even appear to include absurdities so great. And this is more weighty than if he adopted a simple denial; for he implies, that this impious expression deserved to be regarded with horror, and not to be heard. He presently subjoins what may be called an indirect refutation; for he does not distinctly refute the calumny, but gives only this reply,—that the objection was absurd. Moreover, he takes an argument from an office which belongs to God, by which he proves it to be impossible,—God shall judge the world; he cannot then be unjust.

This argument is not derived, so to speak, from the mere power of God, but from his exercised power, which shines forth in the whole arrangement and order of his works; as though he said,—“It is God’s work to judge the world, that is, to rectify it by his own righteousness, and to reduce to the best order whatever there is in it out of order: he cannot then determine any thing unjustly.” And he seems to allude to a passage recorded by Moses, in Gen. xviii. 25, where it is said, that when Abraham prayed God not to deliver Sodom wholly to destruction, he spoke to this purpose,—“It is not meet, that thou who art to judge the earth, shouldest destroy the just with the ungodly: for this is not thy work, nor can it be done by thee.” A similar declaration is found in Job xxxiv. 17,—“Should he who hates judgment exercise power?” For though there are found among men unjust judges, yet this happens, because they usurp authority contrary to law and right, or because they are inconsiderately raised to that eminence, or because they degenerate from themselves. But there is nothing of this kind with regard to God. Since, then, he is by nature judge, it must be that he is just, for he cannot deny himself. Paul then proves from what is impossible, that God is absurdly accused of unrighteousness; for to him peculiarly and naturally belongs Edition: current; Page: [121] the work of justly governing the world. And though what Paul teaches extends to the constant government of God, yet I allow that it has a special reference to the last judgment; for then only a real restoration of just order will take place. But if you wish for a direct refutation, by which profane things of this kind may be checked, take this, and say, “That it comes not through what unrighteousness is, that God’s righteousness becomes more illustrious, but that our wickedness is so surpassed by God’s goodness, that it is turned to serve an end different from that to which it tends.”

7. If indeed1 the truth of God, &c. This objection, I have no doubt, is adduced in the person of the ungodly; for it is a sort of an explanation of the former verse, and would have been connected with it, had not the Apostle, moved with indignation, broken off the sentence in the middle. The meaning of the objection is,—“If by our unfaithfulness the truth of God becomes more conspicuous, and in a manner confirmed, and hence more glory redounds to him, it is by no means just, that he, who serves to display God’s glory, should be punished as a sinner.”2

8. And not, &c. This is an elliptical sentence, in which a word is to be understood. It will be complete, if you read it thus,—“and why is it not rather said, (as we are reproached, &c.) that we are to do evils, that good things may Edition: current; Page: [122] come?” But the Apostle deigns not to answer the slander; which yet we may check by the most solid reason. The pretence, indeed, is this,—“If God is by our iniquity glorified, and if nothing can be done by man in this life more befitting than to promote the glory of God, then let us sin to advance his glory!” Now the answer to this is evident,—“That evil cannot of itself produce any thing but evil; and that God’s glory is through our sin illustrated, is not the work of man, but the work of God; who, as a wonderful worker, knows how to overcome our wickedness, and to convert it to another end, so as to turn it contrary to what we intend, to the promotion of his own glory.” God has prescribed to us the way, by which he would have himself to be glorified by us, even by true piety, which consists in obedience to his word. He who leaps over this boundary, strives not to honour God, but to dishonour him. That it turns out otherwise, is to be ascribed to the Providence of God, and not to the wickedness of man; through which it comes not, that the majesty of God is not injured, nay, wholly overthrown.1

(As we are reproached,) &c. Since Paul speaks so reverently of the secret judgments of God, it is a wonder that his enemies should have fallen into such wantonness as to calumniate him: but there has never been so much reverence and seriousness displayed by God’s servants as to be sufficient to check impure and virulent tongues. It is not then a new thing, that adversaries at this day load with so many false accusations, and render odious our doctrine, which we ourselves know to be the pure gospel of Christ, and all the angels, as well as the faithful, are our witnesses. Nothing can be imagined more monstrous than what we read here was laid to the charge of Paul, to the end, that his preaching Edition: current; Page: [123] might be rendered hateful to the inexperienced. Let us then bear this evil, when the ungodly abuse the truth which we preach by their calumnies: nor let us cease, on this account, constantly to defend the genuine confession of it, inasmuch as it has sufficient power to crush and to dissipate their falsehoods. Let us, at the same time, according to the Apostle’s example, oppose, as much as we can, all malicious subtilties, (technis—crafts, wiles,) that the base and the abandoned may not, without some check, speak evil of our Creator.

Whose judgment is just. Some take this in an active sense, as signifying that Paul so far assents to them, that what they objected was absurd, in order that the doctrine of the gospel might not be thought to be connected with such paradoxes: but I approve more of the passive meaning; for it would not have been suitable simply to express an approval of such a wickedness, which, on the contrary, deserved to be severely condemned; and this is what Paul seems to me to have done. And their perverseness was, on two accounts, to be condemned,—first, because this impiety had gained the assent of their minds; and secondly, because, in traducing the gospel, they dared to draw from it their calumny.

9. What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin.

9. Quid ergo? præcellimus?1 Nequaquam: ante enim constituimus tàm Judæos quàm Græcos, omnes sub peccato esse.

9. What then? He returns from his digression to his subject. For lest the Jews should object that they were deprived of their right, as he had mentioned those distinctions of honour, for which they thought themselves superior to the Gentiles, he now at length replies to the question—in what Edition: current; Page: [124] respect they excelled the Gentiles. And though his answer seems in appearance to militate against what he had said before, (for he now strips those of all dignity to whom he had attributed so much,) there is yet no discord; for those privileges in which he allowed them to be eminent, were separate from themselves, and dependent on God’s goodness, and not on their own merit: but here he makes inquiry as to their own worthiness, whether they could glory in any respect in themselves. Hence the two answers he gives so agree together, that the one follows from the other; for while he extols their privileges, by including them among the free benefits of God, he shows that they had nothing of their own. Hence, what he now answers might have been easily inferred; for since it was their chief superiority, that God’s oracles were deposited with them, and they had it not through their own merit, there was nothing left for them, on account of which they could glory before God. Now mark the holy contrivance (sanctum artificium) which he adopts; for when he ascribes pre-eminency to them, he speaks in the third person; but when he strips them of all things, he puts himself among them, that he might avoid giving offence.

For we have before brought a charge, &c. The Greek verb which Paul adopts, αἰτιάσθαι, is properly a forensic term; and I have therefore preferred to render it, “We have brought a charge;”1 for an accuser in an action is said to charge a crime, which he is prepared to substantiate by testimonies and other proofs. Now the Apostle had summoned all mankind universally before the tribunal of God, that he might include all under the same condemnation: and it is to no purpose for any one to object, and say that the Apostle here not only brings a charge, but more especially proves it; for a charge is not true except it depends on solid and strong evidences, according to what Cicero says, who, in a certain place, distinguishes between a charge and a slander. We Edition: current; Page: [125] must add, that to be under sin means that we are justly condemned as sinners before God, or that we are held under the curse which is due to sin; for as righteousness brings with it absolution, so sin is followed by condemnation.

10. As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:

11. There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.

12. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

13. Their throat is an open sepulchre: with their tongues they have used deceit: the poison of asps is under their lips:

14. Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness:

15. Their feet are swift to shed blood:

16. Destruction and misery are in their ways:

17. And the way of peace have they not known:

18. There is no fear of God before their eyes.

10. Sicut scriptum, Quòd non est justus quisquam, ne unus quidem;

11. Non est intelligens, non est qui requirat Deum;

12. Omnes declinarunt, simul facti sunt inutiles; non est qui exerceat benignitatem, ne ad unum quidem:

13. Sepulchrum apertum guttur eorum; linguis dolosè egerunt: venenum aspidum sub labiis eorum:

14. Quorum os execratione et amarulentia plenum:

15. Veloces pedes eorum ad effundendum sanguinem;

16. Contritio et calamitas in viis corum;

17. Et viam pacis non noverunt:

18. Non est timor Dei præ oculis eorum.1

10. As it is written, &c. He has hitherto used proofs or arguments to convince men of their iniquity; he now begins to reason from authority; and it is to Christians the strongest kind of proof, when authority is derived from the only true God. And hence let ecclesiastical teachers learn what their office is; for since Paul asserts here no truth but what he confirms by the sure testimony of Scripture, much less ought such a thing to be attempted by those, who have no other commission but to preach the gospel, which they have received through Paul and others.

There is none righteous, &c. The Apostle, who gives the meaning rather than the entire words, seems, in the first place, before he comes to particulars, to state generally the substance of what the Prophet declares to be in man, and Edition: current; Page: [126] that is—that none is righteous:1 he afterwards particularly enumerates the effects or fruits of this unrighteousness.

11. The first effect is, that there is none that understands: and then this ignorance is immediately proved, for they seek not God; for empty is the man in whom there is not the knowledge of God, whatever other learning he may possess; yea, the sciences and the arts, which in themselves are good, are empty things, when they are without this groundwork.

12. It is added,2 There is no one who doeth kindness. By this we are to understand, that they had put off every feeling of humanity. For as the best bond of mutual concord among us is the knowledge of God, (as he is the common Father of all, he wonderfully unites us, and without him there is nothing but disunion,) so inhumanity commonly follows where there is ignorance of God, as every one, when he despises others, loves and seeks his own good.

13. It is further added, Their throat is an open grave;3 that is, a gulf to swallow up men. It is more than if he had said, that they were devourers (ἀνθρωποϕάγους—men-eaters;) Edition: current; Page: [127] for it is an intimation of extreme barbarity, when the throat is said to be so great a gulf, that it is sufficient to swallow down and devour men whole and entire. Their tongues are deceitful, and, the poison of asps is under their lips, import the same thing.

14. Then he says, that their mouth is full of cursing and bitterness,1—a vice of an opposite character to the former; but the meaning is, that they are in every way full of wickedness; for if they speak fair, they deceive and blend poison with their flatteries; but if they draw forth what they have in their hearts, bitterness and cursing stream out.

16. Very striking is the sentence that is added from Isaiah, Ruin and misery are in all their ways;2 for it is a representation of ferociousness above measure barbarous, which produces solitude and waste by destroying every thing wherever it prevails: it is the same as the description which Pliny gives of Domitian.

17. It follows, The way of peace they have not known: they are so habituated to plunders, acts of violence and wrong, to savageness and cruelty, that they know not how to act kindly and courteously.

18. In the last clause3 he repeats again, in other words, Edition: current; Page: [128] what we have noticed at the beginning—that every wickedness flows from a disregard of God: for as the principal part of wisdom is the fear of God, when we depart from that, there remains in us nothing right or pure. In short, as it is a bridle to restrain our wickedness, so when it is wanting, we feel at liberty to indulge every kind of licentiousness.

And that these testimonies may not seem to any one to have been unfitly produced, let us consider each of them in connection with the passages from which they have been taken. David says in Ps. xiv. 1, that there was such perverseness in men, that God, when looking on them all in their different conditions, could not find a righteous man, no, not one. It then follows, that this evil pervaded mankind universally; for nothing is hid from the sight of God. He speaks indeed at the end of the Psalm of the redemption of Israel: but we shall presently show how men become holy, and how far they are exempt from this condition. In the other Psalms he speaks of the treachery of his enemies, while he was exhibiting in himself and in his descendants a type of the kingdom of Christ: hence we have in his adversaries the representatives of all those, who being alienated from Christ, are not led by his Spirit. Isaiah expressly mentions Israel; and therefore his charge applies with still greater force against the Gentiles. What, then? There is no doubt but that the character of men is described in those words, in order that we may see what man is when left to himself; for Scripture testifies that all men are in this state, who are not regenerated by the grace of God. The condition of the saints would be nothing better, were not this depravity corrected in them: and that they may still remember that they differ nothing from others by nature, they do find in the relies of their flesh (by which they are always encompassed) the seeds of those evils, which would constantly produce fruits, were they not prevented by being mortified; and for this mortification they are indebted to God’s mercy and not to their own nature. We may add, Edition: current; Page: [129] that though all the vices here enumerated are not found conspicuously in every individual, yet they may be justly and truly ascribed to human nature, as we have already observed on chap. i. 26.

19. Now we know, that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law; that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.

20. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

19. Scimus autem quòd quæcunque Lex dicit, iis qui in Lege sunt loquitur; ut omne os obstruatur, et obnoxius fiat omnis mundus Deo.1

20. Quoniam ex operibus Legis non justificabitur omnis caro coram ipso; per Legem enim agnitio peccati.

19. Now we know, &c. Leaving the Gentiles, he distinctly addresses his words to the Jews; for he had a much more difficult work in subduing them, because they, though no less destitute of true righteousness than the Gentiles, yet covered themselves with the cloak of God’s covenant, as though it was a sufficient holiness to them to have been separated from the rest of the world by the election of God. And he indeed mentions those evasions, which he well understood the Jews were ready to bring forward; for whatever was said in the law unfavourably of mankind, they usually applied to the Gentiles, as though they were exempt from the common condition of men, and no doubt they would have been so, had they not fallen from their own dignity. Hence, that no false conceit as to their own worthiness should be a hinderance to them, and that they might not confine to the Gentiles alone what applied to them in common with others, Paul here anticipates them, and shows, from what Scripture declares, that they were not only blended with the multitude, but that condemnation was peculiarly denounced on them. And we indeed see the discretion of the Apostle in undertaking Edition: current; Page: [130] taking to refute these objections; for to whom but to the Jews had the law been given, and to whose instruction but theirs ought it to have served? What then it states respecting others is as it were accidental; or as they say, πάρεργον, an appendage; but it applies its teaching mainly to its own disciples.

Under the law. He says that the Jews were those to whom the law was destined, it hence follows, that it especially regards them; and under the word law he includes also the Prophets, and so the whole of the Old Testament.—That every mouth may be stopped, &c.; that is, that every evasion may be cut off, and every occasion for excuse. It is a metaphor taken from courts of law, where the accused, if he has anything to plead as a lawful defence, demands leave to speak, that he might clear himself from the things laid to his charge; but if he is convicted by his own conscience, he is silent, and without saying a word waits for his condemnation, being even already by his own silence condemned. Of the same meaning is this saying in Job xl. 4, “I will lay my hand on my mouth.” He indeed says, that though he was not altogether without some kind of excuse, he would yet cease to justify himself, and submit to the sentence of God. The next clause contains the explanation; for his mouth is stopped, who is so fast held by the sentence of condemnation, that he can by no means escape. According to another sense, to be silent before the Lord is to tremble at his majesty, and to stand mute, being astonished at his brightness.1

20. Therefore by the works of the law, &c. It is a matter of doubt, even among the learned, what the works of the law mean. Some extend them to the observance of the whole law, while others confine them to the ceremonies alone. Edition: current; Page: [131] The addition of the word law induced Chrysostom, Origen, and Jerome to assent to the latter opinion;1 for they thought that there is a peculiar intimation in this appendage, that the expression should not be understood as including all works. But this difficulty may be very easily removed: for seeing works are so far just before God as we seek by them to render to him worship and obedience, in order expressly to take away the power of justifying from all works, he has mentioned those, if there be any, which can possibly justify; for the law hath promises, without which there would be no value in our works before God. You hence see the reason why Paul expressly mentioned the works of the law; for it is by the law that a reward is apportioned to works. Nor was this unknown to the schoolmen, who held it as an approved and common maxim, that works have no intrinsic worthiness, but become meritorious by covenant. And though they were mistaken, inasmuch as they saw not that works are ever polluted with vices, which deprive them of any merit, yet this principle is still true, that the reward for works depends on the free promise of the law. Wisely then and rightly does Paul speak here; for he speaks not of mere works, but distinctly and expressly refers to the keeping of the law, the subject which he is discussing.2

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As to those things which have been adduced by learned men in defence of this opinion, they are weaker than they might have been. They think that by mentioning circumcision, an example is propounded, which belonged to ceremonies only: but why Paul mentioned circumcision, we have already explained; for none swell more with confidence in works than hypocrites, and we know that they glory only in external masks; and then circumcision, according to their view, was a sort of initiation into the righteousness of the law; and hence it seemed to them a work of primary excellence, and indeed the basis as it were of the righteousness of works.—They also allege what is said in the Epistle to the Galatians, where Paul handles the same subject, and refers to ceremonies only; but that also is not sufficiently strong to support what they wish to defend. It is certain that Paul had a controversy with those who inspired the people with a false confidence in ceremonies; that he might cut off this confidence, he did not confine himself to ceremonies, nor did he speak specifically of what value they were; but he included the whole law, as it is evident from those passages which are derived from that source. Such also was the character of the disputation held at Jerusalem by the disciples.

But we contend, not without reason, that Paul speaks here of the whole law; for we are abundantly supported by the thread of reasoning which he has hitherto followed and continues to follow, and there are many other passages which will not allow us to think otherwise. It is therefore a truth, which deserves to be remembered as the first in importance,—that by keeping the law no one can attain righteousness. He had before assigned the reason, and he will repeat it presently again, and that is, that all, being to a man guilty of transgression, are condemned for unrighteousness by the law. And these two things—to be justified by Edition: current; Page: [133] works—and to be guilty of transgressions, (as we shall show more at large as we proceed,) are wholly inconsistent the one with the other.—The word flesh, without some particular specification, signifies men;1 though it seems to convey a meaning somewhat more general, as it is more expressive to say, “All mortals,” than to say, “All men,” as you may see in Gallius.

For by the law, &c. He reasons from what is of an opposite character,—that righteousness is not brought to us by the law, because it convinces us of sin and condemns us; for life and death proceed not from the same fountain. And as he reasons from the contrary effect of the law, that it cannot confer righteousness on us, let us know, that the argument does not otherwise hold good, except we hold this as an inseparable and unvarying circumstance,—that by showing to man his sin, it cuts off the hope of salvation. It is indeed by itself, as it teaches us what righteousness is, the way to salvation: but our depravity and corruption prevent it from being in this respect of any advantage to us. It is also necessary in the second place to add this,—that whosoever is found to be a sinner, is deprived of righteousness; for to devise with the sophisters a half kind of righteousness, so that works in part justify, is frivolous: but nothing is in this respect gained, on account of man’s corruption.

21. But now the righteousness of God without the law2 is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;

22. Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe; for there is no difference:

21. Nunc autem sine Lege justitia Dei manifesta est, testimonio comprobata Legis et prophetarum;

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22. Justitia, inquam, Dei per fidem Iesu Christi, in omnes et super omnes credentes; non est sanè distinctio:

21. But now without the law, &c. It is not certain for what distinct reason he calls that the righteousness of God, which we obtain by faith; whether it be, because it can alone stand before God, or because the Lord in his mercy confers it on us. As both interpretations are suitable, we contend for neither. This righteousness then, which God communicates to man, and accepts alone, and owns as righteousness, has been revealed, he says, without the law, that is, without the aid of the law; and the law is to be understood as meaning works; for it is not proper to refer this to its teaching, which he immediately adduces as bearing witness to the gratuitous righteousness of faith. Some confine it to ceremonies; but this view I shall presently show to be unsound and frigid. We ought then to know, that the merits of works are excluded. We also see that he blends not works with the mercy of God; but having taken away and wholly removed all confidence in works, he sets up mercy alone.

It is not unknown to me, that Augustine gives a different explanation; for he thinks that the righteousness of God is the grace of regeneration; and this grace he allows to be free, because God renews us, when unworthy, by his Spirit; and from this he excludes the works of the law, that is, those works, by which men of themselves endeavour, without renovation, to render God indebted to them. (Deum promereri—to oblige God.) I also well know, that some new speculators proudly adduce this sentiment, as though it were at this day revealed to them. But that the Apostle includes all works without exception, even those which the Lord produces in his own people, is evident from the context.

For no doubt Abraham was regenerated and led by the Spirit of God at the time when he denied that he was justified Edition: current; Page: [135] by works. Hence he excluded from man’s justification not only works morally good, as they commonly call them, and such as are done by the impulse of nature, but also all those which even the faithful can perform.1 Again, since this is a definition of the righteousness of faith, “Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven,” there is no question to be made about this or that kind of work; but the merit of works being abolished, the remission of sins alone is set down as the cause of righteousness.

They think that these two things well agree,—that man is justified by faith through the grace of Christ,—and that he is yet justified by the works, which proceed from spiritual regeneration; for God gratuitously renews us, and we also receive his gift by faith. But Paul takes up a very different principle,—that the consciences of men will never be tranquillized until they recumb on the mercy of God alone.2 Hence, in another place, after having taught us that God is in Christ justifying men, he expresses the manner,—“By not imputing to them their sins.” In like manner, in his Epistle to the Galatians, he puts the law in opposition to faith with regard to justification; for the law promises life to those who do what it commands, (Gal. iii. 12;) and it requires not only the outward performance of works, but also sincere love to God. It hence follows, that in the righteousness of faith, no merit of works is allowed. It then appears Edition: current; Page: [136] evident, that it is but a frivolous sophistry to say, that we are justified in Christ, because we are renewed by the Spirit, inasmuch as we are the members of Christ,—that we are justified by faith, because we are united by faith to the body of Christ,—that we are justified freely, because God finds nothing in us but sin.

But we are in Christ, because we are out of ourselves; and justified by faith, because we must recumb on the mercy of God alone, and on his gratuitous promises; and freely, because God reconciles us to himself by burying our sins. Nor can this indeed be confined to the commencement of justification, as they dream; for this definition—“Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven”—was applicable to David, after he had long exercised himself in the service of God; and Abraham, thirty years after his call, though a remarkable example of holiness, had yet no works for which he could glory before God, and hence his faith in the promise was imputed to him for righteousness; and when Paul teaches us that God justifies men by not imputing their sins, he quotes a passage, which is daily repeated in the Church. Still more, the conscience, by which we are disturbed on the score of works, performs its office, not for one day only, but continues to do so through life. It hence follows that we cannot remain, even to death, in a justified state, except we look to Christ only, in whom God has adopted us, and regards us now as accepted. Hence also is their sophistry confuted, who falsely accuse us of asserting, that according to Scripture we are justified by faith only, while the exclusive word only, is nowhere to be found in Scripture. But if justification depends not either on the law, or on ourselves, why should it not be ascribed to mercy alone? and if it be from mercy only, it is then by faith only.

The particle now may be taken adversatively, and not with reference to time; as we often use now for but.1 But if you prefer to regard it as an adverb of time, I willingly admit it, Edition: current; Page: [137] so that there may be no room to suspect an evasion; yet the abrogation of ceremonies alone is not to be understood; for it was only the design of the Apostle to illustrate by a comparison the grace by which we excel the fathers. Then the meaning is, that by the preaching of the gospel, after the appearance of Christ in the flesh, the righteousness of faith was revealed. It does not, however, hence follow, that it was hid before the coming of Christ; for a twofold manifestation is to be here noticed: the first in the Old Testament, which was by the word and sacraments; the other in the New, which contains the completion of ceremonies and promises, as exhibited in Christ himself: and we may add, that by the gospel it has received a fuller brightness.

Being proved [or approved] by the testimony,1 &c. He adds this, lest in the conferring of free righteousness the gospel should seem to militate against the law. As then he has denied that the righteousness of faith needs the aid of the law, so now he asserts that it is confirmed by its testimony. If then the law affords its testimony to gratuitous righteousness, it is evident that the law was not given for this end, to teach men how to obtain righteousness by works. Hence they pervert it, who turn it to answer any purpose of this kind. And further, if you desire a proof of this truth, examine in order the chief things taught by Moses, and you will find that man, being cast from the kingdom of God, had no other restoration from the beginning than that contained in the evangelical promises through the blessed seed, by whom, as it had been foretold, the serpent’s head was to be bruised, and through whom a blessing to the nations had been promised: you will find in the commandments a demonstration of your iniquity, and from the sacrifices and oblations you may learn that satisfaction and cleansing are to be obtained in Christ alone.2 When you come to the Prophets Edition: current; Page: [138] you will find the clearest promises of gratuitous mercy. On this subject see my Institutes.

22. Even the righteousness of God, &c.1 He shows in few words what this justification is, even that which is found in Christ and is apprehended by faith. At the same time, by introducing again the name of God, he seems to make God the founder, (autorem, the author,) and not only the approver of the righteousness of which he speaks; as though he had said, that it flows from him alone, or that its origin is from heaven, but that it is made manifest to us in Christ.

When therefore we discuss this subject, we ought to proceed in this way: First, the question respecting our justification is to be referred, not to the judgment of men, but to the judgment of God, before whom nothing is counted righteousness, but perfect and absolute obedience to the law; which appears clear from its promises and threatenings: if no one is found who has attained to such a perfect measure of holiness, it follows that all are in themselves destitute of righteousness. Secondly, it is necessary that Christ should come to our aid; who, being alone just, can render us just by transferring to us his own righteousness. You now see how the righteousness of faith is the righteousness of Christ. When therefore we are justified, the efficient cause is the mercy of God, the meritorious is Christ, the instrumental is the word in connection with faith.2 Hence faith is said to justify, because it is the instrument by which we receive Christ, in whom righteousness is conveyed to us. Having Edition: current; Page: [139] been made partakers of Christ, we ourselves are not only just, but our works also are counted just before God, and for this reason, because whatever imperfections there may be in them, are obliterated by the blood of Christ; the promises, which are conditional, are also by the same grace fulfilled to us; for God rewards our works as perfect, inasmuch as their defects are covered by free pardon.

Unto all and upon all,1 &c. For the sake of amplifying, he repeats the same thing in different forms; it was, that he might more fully express what we have already heard, that faith alone is required, that the faithful are not distinguished by external marks, and that hence it matters not whether they be Gentiles or Jews.

23. For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God:

24. Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus;

25. Whom God hath set forth to be a propitation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;

26. To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness; that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.

23. Omnes enim peccaverunt, et destituuntur gloriâ Dei;

24. Justificati gratis ipsius gratiâ per redemptionem quæ est in Christo Iesu:

25. Quem proposuit Deus propitiatorium per fidem in sanguine ipsius, in demonstrationem justitiæ suæ, propter remissionem delictorum,

26. Quæ priùs extiterunt in tolerantiâ Dei; ad demonstrationem justitiæ suæ, in hoc tempore; ut sit ipse justus et justificans eum qui est ex fide Iesu.

There is indeed no difference, &c. He urges on all, without exception, the necessity of seeking righteousness in Christ; as though he had said, “There is no other way of attaining righteousness; for some cannot be justified in this Edition: current; Page: [140] and others in that way; but all must alike be justified by faith, because all are sinners, and therefore have nothing for which they can glory before God.” But he takes as granted that every one, conscious of his sin, when he comes before the tribunal of God, is confounded and lost under a sense of his own shame; so that no sinner can bear the presence of God, as we see an example in the case of Adam. He again brings forward a reason taken from the opposite side; and hence we must notice what follows. Since we are all sinners, Paul concludes, that we are deficient in, or destitute of, the praise due to righteousness. There is then, according to what he teaches, no righteousness but what is perfect and absolute. Were there indeed such a thing as half righteousness, it would yet be necessary to deprive the sinner entirely of all glory: and hereby the figment of partial righteousness, as they call it, is sufficiently confuted; for if it were true that we are justified in part by works, and in part by grace, this argument of Paul would be of no force—that all are deprived of the glory of God because they are sinners. It is then certain, there is no righteousness where there is sin, until Christ removes the curse; and this very thing is what is said in Gal. iii. 10, that all who are under the law are exposed to the curse, and that we are delivered from it through the kindness of Christ. The glory of God I take to mean the approbation of God, as in John xii. 43, where it is said, that “they loved the glory of men more than the glory of God.” And thus he summons us from the applause of a human court to the tribunal of heaven.1

24. Being justified freely, &c. A participle is here put for a verb according to the usage of the Greek language. Edition: current; Page: [141] The meaning is,—that since there remains nothing for men, as to themselves, but to perish, being smitten by the just judgment of God, they are to be justified freely through his mercy; for Christ comes to the aid of this misery, and communicates himself to believers, so that they find in him alone all those things in which they are wanting. There is, perhaps, no passage in the whole Scripture which illustrates in a more striking manner the efficacy of his righteousness; for it shows that God’s mercy is the efficient cause, that Christ with his blood is the meritorious cause, that the formal or instrumental cause is faith in the word, and that, moreover, the final cause is the glory of the divine justice and goodness.

With regard to the efficient cause, he says, that we are justified freely, and further, by his grace; and he thus repeats the word to show that the whole is from God, and nothing from us. It might have been enough to oppose grace to merits; but lest we should imagine a half kind of grace, he affirms more strongly what he means by a repetition, and claims for God’s mercy alone the whole glory of our righteousness, which the sophists divide into parts and mutilate, that they may not be constrained to confess their own poverty.—Through the redemption, &c. This is the material,—Christ by his obedience satisfied the Father’s justice, (judicium—judgment,) and by undertaking our cause he liberated us from the tyranny of death, by which we were held captive; as on account of the sacrifice which he offered is our guilt removed. Here again is fully confuted the gloss of those who make righteousness a quality; for if we are counted righteous before God, because we are redeemed by a price, we certainly derive from another what is not in us. And Paul immediately explains more clearly what this redemption is, and what is its object, which is to reconcile us to God; for he calls Christ a propitiation, (or, if we prefer an allusion to an ancient type,) a propitiatory. But what he means is, that we are not otherwise just than through Christ propitiating the Father for us. But it is necessary for us to examine the words.1

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25. Whom God hath set forth, &c. The Greek verb, προτίθέναι, means sometimes to determine beforehand, and sometimes to set forth. If the first meaning be taken, Paul refers to the gratuitous mercy of God, in having appointed Christ as our Mediator, that he might appease the Father by the sacrifice of his death: nor is it a small commendation of God’s grace that he, of his own good will, sought out a way by which he might remove our curse. According to this view, the passage fully harmonizes with that in John iii. 16, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son.” Yet if we embrace this meaning, it will remain still true, that God hath set him forth in due time, whom he had appointed as a Mediator. There seems to be an allusion in the word, ἱλαστήριον, as I have said, to the ancient propitiatory; for he teaches us that the same thing was really exhibited in Christ, which had been previously typified. As, however, the other view cannot be disproved, should any Edition: current; Page: [143] prefer it, I shall not undertake to decide the question. What Paul especially meant here is no doubt evident from his words; and it was this,—that God, without having regard to Christ, is always angry with us,—and that we are reconciled to him when we are accepted through his righteousness. God does not indeed hate in us his own workmanship, that is, as we are formed men; but he hates our uncleanness, which has extinguished the light of his image. When the washing of Christ cleanses this away, he then loves and embraces us as his own pure workmanship.

A propitiation through faith in his blood, &c. I prefer thus literally to retain the language of Paul; for it seems indeed to me that he intended, by one single sentence, to declare that God is propitious to us as soon as we have our trust resting on the blood of Christ; for by faith we come to the possession of this benefit. But by mentioning blood only, he did not mean to exclude other things connected with redemption, but, on the contrary, to include the whole under one word: and he mentioned “blood,” because by it we are cleansed. Thus, by taking a part for the whole, he points out the whole work of expiation. For, as he had said before, that God is reconciled in Christ, so he now adds, that this reconciliation is obtained by faith, mentioning, at the same time, what it is that faith ought mainly to regard in Christ—his blood.

For (propter) the remission of sins,1 &c. The casual preposition Edition: current; Page: [144] imports as much as though he had said, “for the sake of remission,” or, “to this end, that he might blot out sins.” And this definition or explanation again confirms what I have already often reminded you,—that men are pronounced just, not because they are such in reality, but by imputation: for he only uses various modes of expression, that he might more clearly declare, that in this righteousness there is no merit of ours; for if we obtain it by the remission of sins, we conclude that it is not from ourselves; and further, since remission itself is an act of God’s bounty alone, every merit falls to the ground.

It may, however, be asked, why he confines pardon to preceding sins? Though this passage is variously explained, yet it seems to me probable that Paul had regard to the legal expiations, which were indeed evidences of a future satisfaction, but could by no means pacify God. There is a similar passage in Heb. ix. 15, where it is said, that by Christ a redemption was brought from sins, which remained under the former Testament. You are not, however, to understand that no sins but those of former times were expiated by the death of Christ—a delirious notion, which some fanatics Edition: current; Page: [145] have drawn from a distorted view of this passage. For Paul teaches us only this,—that until the death of Christ there was no way of appeasing God, and that this was not done or accomplished by the legal types: hence the reality was suspended until the fulness of time came. We may further say, that those things which involve us daily in guilt must be regarded in the same light; for there is but one true expiation for all.

Some, in order to avoid what seems inconsistent, have held that former sins are said to have been forgiven, lest there should seem to be a liberty given to sin in future. It is indeed true that no pardon is offered but for sins committed; not that the benefit of redemption fails or is lost, when we afterwards fall, as Novatus and his sect dreamed, but that it is the character of the dispensation of the gospel, to set before him who will sin the judgment and wrath of God, and before the sinner his mercy. But what I have already stated is the real sense.

He adds, that this remission was through forbearance; and this I take simply to mean gentleness, which has stayed the judgment of God, and suffered it not to burst forth to our ruin, until he had at length received us into favour. But there seems to be here also an implied anticipation of what might be said; that no one might object, and say that this favour had only of late appeared. Paul teaches us, that it was an evidence of forbearance.

26. For a demonstration,1 &c. The repetition of this clause Edition: current; Page: [146] is emphatical; and Paul designedly made it, as it was very needful; for nothing is more difficult than to persuade man that he ought to disclaim all things as his own, and to ascribe them all to God. At the same time mention was intentionally made twice of this demonstration, that the Jews might open their eyes to behold it.—At this time, &c. What had been ever at all times, he applies to the time when Christ was revealed, and not without reason; for what was formerly known in an obscure manner under shadows, God openly manifested in his Son. So the coming of Christ was the time of his good pleasure, and the day of salvation. God had indeed in all ages given some evidence of his righteousness ;ebut it appeared far brighter when the sun of righteousness shone. Noticed, then, ought to be the comparison between the Old and the New Testament; for then only was revealed the righteousness of God when Christ appeared.

That he might be just, &c. This is a definition of that righteousness which he has declared was revealed when Christ was given, and which, as he has taught us in the first chapter, is made known in the gospel: and he affirms that it consists of two parts—The first is, that God is just, not indeed as one among many, but as one who contains within himself all fulness of righteousness; for complete and full praise, such as is due, is not otherwise given to him, but when he alone obtains the name and the honour of being just, while the whole human race is condemned for injustice: and then the other part refers to the communication of righteousness; for God by no means keeps his riches laid up in himself, but pours them forth upon men. Then the righteousness of God shines in us, whenever he justifies us by faith in Christ; for in vain were Christ given us for righteousness, unless there was the fruition of him by faith. It hence follows, that all were unjust and lost in themselves, until a remedy from heaven was offered to them.1

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27. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.

28. Therefore we conclude, that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

27. Ubi ergo gloriatio?1 exclusa est. Per quam legem? operum? Nequaquam; sed per legem fidei.

28. Constituimus ergo, fide justificari hominem sine operibus Legis.

27. Where then is glorying? The Apostle, after having, with reasons abundantly strong, cast down men from their confidence in works, now triumphs over their folly: and this exulting conclusion was necessary; for on this subject, to teach us would not have been enough; it was necessary that the Holy Spirit should loudly thunder, in order to lay prostrate our loftiness. But he says that glorying is beyond all doubt excluded, for we cannot adduce anything of our own, which is worthy of being approved or commended by God. If the material of glorying be merit, whether you name that of congruity or of condignity, by which man would conciliate God, you see that both are here annihilated; for he treats not of the lessening or the modifying of merit, but Paul leaves not a particle behind. Besides, since by faith glorying in works is so taken away, that faith cannot be truly preached, without wholly depriving man of all praise by ascribing all to God’s mercy—it follows, that we are assisted by no works in obtaining righteousness.

Of works? In what sense does the Apostle deny here, that our merits are excluded by the law, since he has before proved that we are condemned by the law? for if the law delivers us over to death, what glorying can we obtain from it? Does it not on the contrary deprive us of all glorying and cover us with shame? He then indeed showed, that our sin is laid open by what the law declares, for the keeping of it is what we have all neglected: but he means here, that were righteousness to be had by the law of works, our Edition: current; Page: [148] glorying would not be excluded; but as it is by faith alone, there is nothing that we can claim for ourselves; for faith receives all from God, and brings nothing except an humble confession of want.

This contrast between faith and works ought to be carefully noticed: works are here mentioned without any limitation, even works universally. Then he neither speaks of ceremonies only, nor specifically of any external work, but includes all the merits of works which can possibly be imagined.

The name of law is here, with no strict correctness, given to faith: but this by no means obscures the meaning of the Apostle; for what he understands is, that when we come to the rule of faith, the whole glorying in works is laid prostrate; as though he said—“The righteousness of works is indeed commended by the law, but that of faith has its own law, which leaves to works, whatever they may be, no righteousness.”1

28. We then conclude, &c. He now draws the main proposition, as one that is incontrovertible, and adds an explanation. Justification by faith is indeed made very clear, while works are expressly excluded. Hence, in nothing do our adversaries labour more in the present day than in attempts to blend faith with the merits of works. They indeed allow that man is justified by faith; but not by faith alone; yea, they place the efficacy of justification in love, though in words they ascribe it to faith. But Paul affirms in this passage that justification is so gratuitous, that he makes it quite evident, that it can by no means be associated with the merit of works. Why he names the works of the law, I Edition: current; Page: [149] have already explained; and I have also proved that it is quite absurd to confine them to ceremonies. Frigid also is the gloss, that works are to be taken for those which are outward, and done without the Spirit of Christ. On the contrary, the word law that is added, means the same as though he called them meritorious; for what is referred to is the reward promised in the law.1

What James says, that man is not justified by faith alone, but also by works, does not at all militate against the preceding view. The reconciling of the two views depends chiefly on the drift of the argument pursued by James. For the question with him is not, how men attain righteousness before God, but how they prove to others that they are justified; for his object was to confute hypocrites, who vainly boasted that they had faith. Gross then is the sophistry, not to admit that the word, to justify, is taken in a different sense by James, from that in which it is used by Paul; for they handle different subjects. The word, faith, is also no doubt capable of various meanings. These two things must be taken to the account, before a correct judgment can be formed on the point. We may learn from the context, that James meant no more than that man is not made or proved to be just by a feigned or dead faith, and that he must prove his righteousness by his works. See on this subject my Institutes.

29. Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also:

30. Seeing it is one God2 which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.

29. Num Iudæorum Deus tantùm? an non et Gentium? certè et Gentium.

30. Quandoquidem unus Deus, qui justificabit circumcisionem ex fide, et præputium per fidem.

29. Is he the God of the Jews only? The second proposition is, that this righteousness belongs no more to the Jews than to the Gentiles: and it was a great matter that this Edition: current; Page: [150] point should be urged, in order that a free passage might be made for the kingdom of Christ through the whole world. He does not then ask simply or expressly, whether God was the Creator of the Gentiles, which was admitted without any dispute; but whether he designed to manifest himself as a Saviour also to them. As he had put all mankind on a level, and brought them to the same condition, if there be any difference between them, it is from God, not from themselves, who have all things alike: but if it be true that God designs to make all the nations of the earth partakers of his mercy, then salvation, and righteousness, which is necessary for salvation, must be extended to all. Hence under the name, God, is conveyed an intimation of a mutual relationship, which is often mentioned in Scripture,—“I shall be to you a God, and you shall be to me a people.” (Jer. xxx. 22.) For the circumstance, that God, for a time, chose for himself a peculiar people, did not make void the origin of mankind, who were all formed after the image of God, and were to be brought up in the world in the hope of a blessed eternity.

30. Who shall justify,1 &c. In saying that some are justified by faith, and some through faith, he seems to have indulged himself in varying his language, while he expresses the same thing, and for this end,—that he might, by the way, touch on the folly of the Jews, who imagined a difference between themselves and the Gentiles, though on the subject of justification there was no difference whatever; for since men became partakers of this grace by faith only, and since faith in all is the same, it is absurd to make a distinction in what is so much alike. I am hence led to think that there is something ironical in the words, as though he said,—“If any wishes to have a difference made between the Gentile and the Jew, let him take this,—that the one obtains righteousness by faith, and the other through faith.” But it may be, that some will prefer this distinction,—that Edition: current; Page: [151] the Jews were justified by faith, because they were born the heirs of grace, as the right of adoption was transmitted to them from the Fathers,—and that the Gentiles were justified through faith, because the covenant to them was adventitious.

31. Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.

31. Legem igitur irritam facimus per fidem? Ne ita sit: sed Legem stabilimus.

31. Do we then make, &c. When the law is opposed to faith, the flesh immediately suspects that there is some contrariety, as though the one were adverse to the other: and this false notion prevails, especially among those who are imbued with wrong ideas as to the law, and leaving the promises, seek nothing else through it but the righteousness of works. And on this account, not only Paul, but our Lord himself, was evil spoken of by the Jews, as though in all his preaching he aimed at the abrogation of the law. Hence it was that he made this protest,—“I came not to undo, but to fulfil the law.” (Matt. v. 17.)

And this suspicion regards the moral as well as the ceremonial law; for as the gospel has put an end to the Mosaic ceremonies, it is supposed to have a tendency to destroy the whole dispensation of Moses. And further, as it sweeps away all the righteousness of works, it is believed to be opposed to all those testimonies of the law, by which the Lord has declared, that he has thereby prescribed the way of righteousness and salvation. I therefore take this defence of Paul, not only as to ceremonies, nor as to the commandments which are called moral, but with regard to the whole law universally.1

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For the moral law is in reality confirmed and established through faith in Christ, inasmuch as it was given for this end—to lead man to Christ by showing him his iniquity; and without this it cannot be fulfilled, and in vain will it require what ought to be done; nor can it do anything but irritate lust more and more, and thus finally increase man’s condemnation; but where there is a coming to Christ, there is first found in him the perfect righteousness of the law, which becomes ours by imputation, and then there is sanctification, by which our hearts are prepared to keep the law; it is indeed imperfectly done, but there is an aiming at the work. Similar is the case with ceremonies, which indeed cease and vanish away when Christ comes, but they are in reality confirmed by him; for when they are viewed in themselves they are vain and shadowy images, and then only do they attain anything real and solid, when their end is regarded. In this then consists their chief confirmation, when they have obtained their accomplishment in Christ. Let us then also bear in mind, so to dispense the gospel that by our mode of teaching the law may be confirmed; but let it be sustained by no other strength than that of faith in Christ.

CHAPTER IV.

1. What shall we then say that Abraham, our father as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?

2. For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory, but not before God.

3. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.1

1. Quid ergo dicemus, invenisse Abraham patrem nostrum secundum carnem?

2. Si enim Abraham ex operibus justificatus est, habet quo glorietur, sed non apud Deum.

3. Quid enim Scriptura dicit? Credidit Abraham Deo, et imputatum est illi in justitiam.

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1. What then, &c. This is a confirmation by example; and it is a very strong one, since all things are alike with regard to the subject and the person; for he was the father of the faithful, to whom we ought all to be conformed; and there is also but one way and not many ways by which righteousness may be obtained by all. In many other things one example would not be sufficient to make a common rule; but as in the person of Abraham there was exhibited a mirror and pattern of righteousness, which belongs in common to the whole Church, rightly does Paul apply what has been written of him alone to the whole body of the Church, and at the same time he gives a check to the Jews, who had nothing more plausible to glory in than that they were the children of Abraham; and they could not have dared to claim to themselves more holiness than what they ascribed to the holy patriarch. Since it is then evident that he was justified freely, his posterity, who claimed a righteousness of their own by the law, ought to have been made silent even through shame.

According to the flesh, &c. Between this clause and the word father there is put in Paul’s text the verb ἑυρηκέναι, in this order—“What shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh?” On this account, some interpreters think that the question is—“What has Abraham obtained according to the flesh?” If this exposition be approved, the words according to the flesh mean naturally or from himself. It is, however, probable that they are to be connected with the word father.1 Besides, as we are wont to be more touched by domestic examples, the dignity of their race, in which the Jews took too much pride, is here Edition: current; Page: [154] again expressly mentioned. But some regard this as spoken in contempt, as they are elsewhere called the carnal children of Abraham, being not so spiritually or in a legitimate sense. But I think that it was expressed as a thing peculiar to the Jews; for it was a greater honour to be the children of Abraham by nature and descent, than by mere adoption, provided there was also faith. He then concedes to the Jews a closer bond of union, but only for this end—that he might more deeply impress them that they ought not to depart from the example of their father.

2. For if Abraham, &c. This is an incomplete argument,1 which may be made in this form—“If Abraham was justified by works, he might justly glory: but he had nothing for which he could glory before God; then he was not justified by works.” Thus the clause but not before God, is the minor proposition; and to this must be added the conclusion which I have stated, though it is not expressed by Paul. He calls that glorying when we pretend to have anything of our own to which a reward is supposed to be due at God’s tribunal. Edition: current; Page: [155] Since he takes this away from Abraham, who of us can claim for himself the least particle of merit?

3. For what saith the Scripture? This is a proof of the minor proposition, or of what he assumed, when he denied that Abraham had any ground for glorying: for if Abraham was justified, because he embraced, by faith, the bountiful mercy of God, it follows, that he had nothing to glory in; for he brought nothing of his own, except a confession of his misery, which is a solicitation for mercy. He, indeed, takes it as granted, that the righteousness of faith is the refuge, and, as it were, the asylum of the sinner, who is destitute of works. For if there be any righteousness by the law or by works, it must be in men themselves; but by faith they derive from another what is wanting in themselves; and hence the righteousness of faith is rightly called imputative.

The passage, which is quoted, is taken from Gen. xv. 6; in which the word believe is not to be confined to any particular expression, but it refers to the whole covenant of salvation, and the grace of adoption, which Abraham apprehended by faith. There is, indeed, mentioned there the promise of a future seed; but it was grounded on gratuitous adoption:1 and it ought to be observed, that salvation without the grace of God is not promised, nor God’s grace without salvation; and again, that we are not called to the grace of God nor to the hope of salvation, without having righteousness offered to us.

Taking this view, we cannot but see that those understand not the principles of theology, who think that this testimony recorded by Moses, is drawn aside from its obvious meaning by Paul: for as there is a particular promise there stated, they understand that he acted rightly and faithfully in believing it, and was so far approved by God. But they are in this mistaken; first, because they have not considered that believing extends to the whole context, and ought not Edition: current; Page: [156] to be confined to one clause. But the principal mistake is, that they begin not with the testimony of God’s favour. But God gave this, to make Abraham more assured of his adoption and paternal favour; and included in this was eternal salvation by Christ. Hence Abraham, by believing, embraced nothing but the favour offered to him, being persuaded that it would not be void. Since this was imputed to him for righteousness, it follows, that he was not otherwise just, than as one trusting in God’s goodness, and venturing to hope for all things from him. Moses does not, indeed, tell us what men thought of him, but how he was accounted before the tribunal of God. Abraham then laid hold on the benignity of God offered to him in the promise, through which he understood that righteousness was communicated to him. It is necessary, in order to form an opinion of righteousness, to understand this relation between the promise and faith; for there is in this respect the same connection between God and us, as there is, according to the lawyers, between the giver and the person to whom any thing is given, (datorem et donatarium—the donor and the donee:) for we can no otherwise attain righteousness, than as it is brought to us, as it were, by the promise of the gospel; and we realize its possession by faith.1

How to reconcile what James says, which seems somewhat Edition: current; Page: [157] contrary to this view, I have already explained, and intend to explain more fully, when I come, if the Lord will permit, to expound that Epistle.

Only let us remember this,—that those to whom righteousness is imputed, are justified; since these two things are mentioned by Paul as being the same. We hence conclude, that the question is not, what men are in themselves, but how God regards them? not that purity of conscience and integrity of life are to be separated from the gratuitous favour of God; but that when the reason is asked, why God loves us and owns us as just, it is necessary that Christ should come forth as one who clothes us with his own righteousness.

4. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.

5. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.

4. Ei quidem qui operatur merces non imputatur secundum gratiam, sed secundum debitum:

5. Ei verò qui non operatur, credit autem in eum qui justificat impium, imputatur fides sua in justitiam.

4. To him indeed who works, &c. It is not he, whom he calls a worker, who is given to good works, to which all the children of God ought to attend, but the person who seeks to merit something by his works: and in a similar way he calls him no worker who depends not on the merit of what he does. He would not, indeed, have the faithful to be idle; but he only forbids them to be mercenaries, so as to demand any thing from God, as though it were justly their due.

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We have before reminded you, that the question is not here how we are to regulate our life, but how we are to be saved: and he argues from what is contrary,—that God confers not righteousness on us because it is due, but bestows it as a gift. And indeed I agree with Bucer, who proves that the argument is not made to depend on one expression, but on the whole passage, and formed in this manner, “If one merits any thing by his work, what is merited is not freely imputed to him, but rendered to him as his due. Faith is counted for righteousness, not that it procures any merit for us, but because it lays hold on the goodness of God: hence righteousness is not due to us, but freely bestowed.” For as Christ of his own good-will justifies us through faith, Paul always regards this as an evidence of our emptiness; for what do we believe, except that Christ is an expiation to reconcile us to God? The same truth is found in other words in Gal. iii. 11, where it is said, “That no man is justified by the law, it is evident, for the just shall by faith live: but the law is not by faith; but he who doeth these things shall live in them.” Inasmuch, then, as the law promises reward to works, he hence concludes, that the righteousness of faith, which is free, accords not with that which is operative: this could not be were faith to justify by means of works.—We ought carefully to observe these comparisons, by which every merit is entirely done away.

5. But believes on him, &c. This is a very important sentence, in which he expresses the substance and nature both of faith and of righteousness. He indeed clearly shews that faith brings us righteousness, not because it is a meritorious act, but because it obtains for us the favour of God.1 Nor does he declare only that God is the giver of righteousness, Edition: current; Page: [159] but he also arraigns us of unrighteousness, in order that the bounty of God may come to aid our necessity: in short, no one will seek the righteousness of faith except he who feels that he is ungodly; for this sentence is to be applied to what is said in this passage,—that faith adorns us with the righteousness of another, which it seeks as a gift from God. And here again, God is said to justify us when he freely forgives sinners, and favours those, with whom he might justly be angry, with his love, that is, when his mercy obliterates our unrighteousness.

6. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works,

7. Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.

8. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.

6. Quemadmodum etiam David finit beatudinem hominis, cui Deus imputat justitiam absque operibus,

7. Beati quorum remissæ sunt iniquitates, et quorum tecta sunt peccata:

8. Beatus vir, cui non imputavit Dominus peccatum.

6. As David also defines, &c. We hence see the sheer sophistry of those who limit the works of the law to ceremonies; for he now simply calls those works, without anything added, which he had before called the works of the law. Since no one can deny that a simple and unrestricted mode of speaking, such as we find here, ought to be understood of every work without any difference, the same view must be held throughout the whole argument. There is indeed nothing less reasonable than to remove from ceremonies only the power of justifying, since Paul excludes all works indefinitely. To the same purpose is the negative clause,—that God justifies men by not imputing sin: and by these words we are taught that righteousness, according Edition: current; Page: [160] to Paul, is nothing else than the remission of sins; and further, that this remission is gratuitous, because it is imputed without works, which the very name of remission indicates; for the creditor who is paid does not remit, but he who spontaneously cancels the debt through mere kindness. Away, then, with those who teach us to redeem pardon for our sins by satisfactions; for Paul borrows an argument from this pardon to prove the gratuitous gift of righteousness.1 How then is it possible for them to agree with Paul? They say, “We must satisfy by works the justice of God, that we may obtain the pardon of our sins:” but he, on the contrary, reasons thus,—“The righteousness of faith is gratuitous, and without works, because it depends on the remission of sins.” Vicious, no doubt, would be this reasoning, if any works interposed in the remission of sins.

Dissipated also, in like manner, by the words of the Prophet, are the puerile fancies of the schoolmen respecting half remission. Their childish fiction is,—that though the fault is remitted, the punishment is still retained by God. But the Prophet not only declares that our sins are covered, that is, removed from the presence of God; but also adds, that they are not imputed. How can it be consistent, that God should punish those sins which he does not impute? Safe then does this most glorious declaration remain to us—“That he is justified by faith, who is cleared before God by a gratuitous remission of his sins.” We may also hence learn, the unceasing perpetuity of gratuitous righteousness Edition: current; Page: [161] through life: for when David, being wearied with the continual anguish of his own conscience, gave utterance to this declaration, he no doubt spoke according to his own experience; and he had now served God for many years. He then had found by experience, after having made great advances, that all are miserable when summoned before God’s tribunal; and he made this avowal, that there is no other way of obtaining blessedness, except the Lord receives us into favour by not imputing our sins. Thus fully refuted also is the romance of those who dream, that the righteousness of faith is but initial, and that the faithful afterwards retain by works the possession of that righteousness which they had first attained by no merits.

It invalidates in no degree what Paul says, that works are sometimes imputed for righteousness, and that other kinds of blessedness are mentioned. It is said in Ps. cvi. 30, that it was imputed to Phinehas, the Lord’s priest, for righteousness, because he took away reproach from Israel by inflicting punishment on an adulterer and a harlot. It is true, we learn from this passage, that he did a righteous deed; but we know that a person is not justified by one act. What is indeed required is perfect obedience, and complete in all its parts, according to the import of the promise,—“He who shall do these things shall live in them.” (Deut. iv. 1.) How then was this judgment which he inflicted imputed to him for righteousness? He must no doubt have been previously justified by the grace of God: for they who are already clothed in the righteousness of Christ, have God not only propitious to them, but also to their works, the spots and blemishes of which are covered by the purity of Christ, lest they should come to judgment. As works, infected with no defilements, are alone counted just, it is quite evident that no human work whatever can please God, except through a favour of this kind. But if the righteousness of faith is the only reason why our works are counted just, you see how absurd is the argument,—“That as righteousness is ascribed to works, righteousness is not by faith only.” But I set against them this invincible argument, that all works Edition: current; Page: [162] are to be condemned as those of unrighteousness, except a man be justified solely by faith.

The like is said of blessedness: they are pronounced blessed who fear the Lord, who walk in his ways, (Ps. cxxviii. 1,) who meditate on his law day and night, (Ps. i. 2:) but as no one doeth these things so perfectly as he ought, so as fully to come up to God’s command, all blessedness of this kind is nothing worth, until we be made blessed by being purified and cleansed through the remission of sins, and thus cleansed, that we may become capable of enjoying that blessedness which the Lord promises to his servants for attention to the law and to good works. Hence the righteousness of works is the effect of the righteousness of God, and the blessedness arising from works is the effect of the blessedness which proceeds from the remission of sins. Since the cause ought not and cannot be destroyed by its own effect, absurdly do they act, who strive to subvert the righteousness of faith by works.

But some one may say, “Why may we not maintain, on the ground of these testimonies, that man is justified and made blessed by works? for the words of Scripture declare that man is justified and made blessed by works as well as by faith.” Here indeed we must consider the order of causes as well as the dispensation of God’s grace: for inasmuch as whatever is declared, either of the righteousness of works or of the blessedness arising from them, does not exist, until this only true righteousness of faith has preceded, and does alone discharge all its offices, this last must be built up and established, in order that the other may, as a fruit from a tree, grow from it and flourish.

9. Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only,1 or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness.

10. How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision.

9. Beatudo ergo ista in circumcisionem modò, an et in præputium Edition: current; Page: [163] competit? Dicimus enim quòd imputata fuit Abrahæ fides in justitiam.

10. Quomodo igitur imputata fuit? in circumcisione quum esset, an in præputio? non in circumcisione, sed in præputio.

As circumcision and uncircumcision are alone mentioned, some unwisely conclude, that the only question is, that righteousness is not attained by the ceremonies of the law. But we ought to consider what sort of men were those with whom Paul was reasoning; for we know that hypocrites, whilst they generally boast of meritorious works, do yet disguise themselves in outward masks. The Jews also had a peculiar way of their own, by which they departed, through a gross abuse of the law, from true and genuine righteousness. Paul had said, that no one is blessed but he whom God reconciles to himself by a gratuitous pardon; it hence follows, that all are accursed, whose works come to judgment. Now then this principle is to be held, that men are justified, not by their own worthiness, but by the mercy of God. But still, this is not enough, except remission of sins precedes all works, and of these the first was circumcision, which initiated the Jewish people into the service of God. He therefore proceeds to demonstrate this also.

We must ever bear in mind, that circumcision is here mentioned as the initial work, so to speak, of the righteousness of the law: for the Jews gloried not in it as the symbol of God’s favour, but as a meritorious observance of the law: and on this account it was that they regarded themselves better than others, as though they possessed a higher excellency before God. We now see that the dispute is not about one rite, but that under one thing is included every work of the law; that is, every work to which reward can be due. Circumcision then was especially mentioned, because it was the basis of the righteousness of the law.

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But Paul maintains the contrary, and thus reasons: “If Abraham’s righteousness was the remission of sins, (which he safely takes as granted,) and if Abraham attained this before circumcision, it then follows that remission of sins is not given for preceding merits.” You see that the argument rests on the order of causes and effects; for the cause is always before its effect; and righteousness was possessed by Abraham before he had circumcision.

11. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also:

12. And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised.

11. Et signum accepit circumcisionis, sigillum justitiæ fidei quæ fuerat in præputio; ut esset pater omnium credentium per præputium, quo ipsis quoque imputetur justitia;

12. Et pater circumcisionis, non iis qui sunt ex circumcisione tantum, sed qui insistunt vestigiis fidei, quæ fuit in præputio patris nostri Abrahæ.

11. And he received the sign, &c. In order to anticipate an objection, he shows that circumcision was not unprofitable and superfluous, though it could not justify; but it had another very remarkable use, it had the office of sealing, and as it were of ratifying the righteousness of faith. And yet he intimates at the same time, by stating what its object was, that it was not the cause of righteousness, it indeed tended to confirm the righteousness of faith, and that already obtained in uncircumcision. He then derogates or takes away nothing from it.

We have indeed here a remarkable passage with regard to the general benefits of sacraments. According to the testimony of Paul, they are seals by which the promises of God are in a manner imprinted on our hearts, (Dei promissiones cordibus nostris quodammodo imprimuntur,) and the certainty of grace confirmed (sancitur gratiæ certitudo.) And though by themselves they profit nothing, yet God has designed them to be the instruments (instrumenta) of his grace; and he effects by the secret grace of his Spirit, that Edition: current; Page: [165] they should not be without benefit in the elect. And though they are dead and unprofitable symbols to the reprobate, they yet ever retain their import and character (vim suam et naturam:) for though our unbelief may deprive them of their effect, yet it cannot weaken or extinguish the truth of God. Hence it remains a fixed principle, that sacred symbols are testimonies, by which God seals his grace on our hearts.

As to the symbol of circumcision, this especially is to be said, that a twofold grace was represented by it. God had promised to Abraham a blessed seed, from whom salvation was to be expected by the whole world. On this depended the promise—“I will be to thee a God.” (Gen. xvii. 7.) Then a gratuitous reconciliation with God was included in that symbol: and for this reason it was necessary that the faithful should look forward to the promised seed. On the other hand, God requires integrity and holiness of life; he indicated by the symbol how this could be attained, that is, by cutting off in man whatever is born of the flesh, for his whole nature had become vicious. He therefore reminded Abraham by the external sign, that he was spiritually to cut off the corruption of the flesh; and to this Moses has also alluded in Deut. x. 16. And to show that it was not the work of man, but of God, he commanded tender infants to be circumcised, who, on account of their age, could not have performed such a command. Moses has indeed expressly mentioned spiritual circumcision as the work of divine power, as you will find in Deut. xxx. 6, where he says, “The Lord will circumcise thine heart:” and the Prophets afterwards declared the same thing much more clearly.

As there are two points in baptism now, so there were formerly in circumcision; for it was a symbol of a new life, and also of the remission of sins. But the fact as to Abraham himself, that righteousness preceded circumcision, is not always the case in sacraments, as it is evident from the case of Isaac and his posterity: but God intended to give such an instance once at the beginning, that no one might ascribe salvation to external signs.1

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That he might be the father, &c. Mark how the circumcision of Abraham confirms our faith with regard to gratuitous righteousness; for it was the sealing of the righteousness of faith, that righteousness might also be imputed to us who believe. And thus Paul, by a remarkable dexterity, makes to recoil on his opponents what they might have adduced as an objection: for since the truth and import (veritas et vis) of circumcision were found in an uncircumcised state, there was no ground for the Jews to elevate themselves so much above the Gentiles.

But as a doubt might arise, whether it behoves us, after the example of Abraham, to confirm also the same righteousness by the sign of circumcision, how came the Apostle to make this omission? Even because he thought that the question was sufficiently settled by the drift of his argument: for as this truth had been admitted, that circumcision availed only to seal the grace of God, it follows, that it is now of no benefit to us, who have a sign instituted in its place by our Lord. As then there is no necessity now for circumcision, where baptism is, he was not disposed to contend unnecessarily for that respecting which there was no doubt, that is, why the righteousness of faith was not sealed to the Gentiles in the same way as it was to Abraham. To believe in uncircumcision means, that the Gentiles, being satisfied with their own condition, did not introduce the seal of circumcision: and so the proposition δια, by, is put for εν, in.1

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12. To them who are not, &c. The verb, are, is in this place to be taken for, “are deemed to be:” for he touches the carnal descendants of Abraham, who, having nothing but outward circumcision, confidently gloried in it. The other thing, which was the chief matter, they neglected; for the faith of Abraham, by which alone he obtained salvation, they did not imitate. It hence appears, how carefully he distinguished between faith and the sacrament; not only that no one might be satisfied with the one without the other, as though it were sufficient for justifying; but also that faith alone might be set forth as accomplishing everything: for while he allows the circumcised Jews to be justified, he expressly makes this exception—provided in true faith they followed the example of Abraham; for why does he mention faith while in uncircumcision, except to show, that it is alone sufficient, without the aid of anything else? Let us then beware, lest any of us, by halving things, blend together the two modes of justification.

What we have stated disproves also the scholastic dogma respecting the difference between the sacraments of the Old and those of the New Testament; for they deny the power of justifying to the former, and assign it to the latter. But if Paul reasons correctly, when he argues that circumcision does not justify, because Abraham was justified by faith, the same reason holds good for us, while we deny that men are justified by baptism, inasmuch as they are justified by the same faith with that of Abraham.

13. For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.

13. Non enim per Legem promissio Abrahæ et semini ejus data est, ut esset hæres mundi; sed per justitiam fidei.

13. For the promise, &c. He now more clearly sets the law and faith in opposition, the one to the other, which he had before in some measure done; and this ought to be carefully observed: for if faith borrows nothing from the law in order to justify, we hence understand, that it has respect to nothing else but to the mercy of God. And further, the romance of those who would have this to have been said of Edition: current; Page: [168] ceremonies, may be easily disproved; for if works contributed anything towards justification, it ought not to have been said, through the written law, but rather, through the law of nature. But Paul does not oppose spiritual holiness of life to ceremonies, but faith and its righteousness. The meaning then is, that heirship was promised to Abraham, not because he deserved it by keeping the law, but because he had obtained righteousness by faith. And doubtless (as Paul will presently show) consciences can then only enjoy solid peace, when they know that what is not justly due is freely given them.1

Hence also it follows, that this benefit, the reason for which applies equally to both, belongs to the Gentiles no less than to the Jews; for if the salvation of men is based on the goodness of God alone, they check and hinder its course, as much as they can, who exclude from it the Gentiles.

That he should be the heir of the world,2 &c. Since he now Edition: current; Page: [169] speaks of eternal salvation, the Apostle seems to have somewhat unseasonably led his readers to the world; but he includes generally under this word world, the restoration which was expected through Christ. The chief thing was indeed the restoration of life; it was yet necessary that the fallen state of the whole world should be repaired. The Apostle, in Heb. i. 2, calls Christ the heir of all the good things of God; for the adoption which we obtain through his favour restores to us the possession of the inheritance which we lost in Adam; and as under the type of the land of Canaan, not only the hope of a heavenly life was exhibited to Abraham, but also the full and complete blessing of God, the Apostle rightly teaches us, that the dominion of the world was promised to him. Some taste of this the godly have in the present life; for how much soever they may at times be oppressed with want, yet as they partake with a peaceable conscience of those things which God has created for their use, and as they enjoy through his mercy and good-will his earthly benefits no otherwise than as pledges and earnests of eternal life, their poverty does in no degree prevent them from acknowledging heaven, and the earth, and the sea, as their own possessions.

Though the ungodly swallow up the riches of the world, they can yet call nothing as their own; but they rather snatch them as it were by stealth; for they possess them under the curse of God. It is indeed a great comfort to the godly in their poverty, that though they fare slenderly, they yet steal nothing of what belongs to another, but receive their lawful allowance from the hand of their celestial Father, until they enter on the full possession of their inheritance, when all creatures shall be made subservient to their glory; for both heaven and earth shall be renewed for this end,—that according to their measure they may contribute to render glorious the kingdom of God.

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14. For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect:

15. Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression.

14. Si enim ii qui sunt ex Lege hæredes sunt, exinanita est fides et abolita est promissio:

15. Nam Lex iram efficit; siquidem ubi non est Lex, neque etiam transgressio.

14. For if they who are of the law, &c. He takes his argument from what is impossible or absurd, that the favour which Abraham obtained from God, was not promised to him through any legal agreement, or through any regard to works; for if this condition had been interposed—that God would favour those only with adoption who deserved, or who performed the law, no one could have dared to feel confident that it belonged to him: for who is there so conscious of so much perfection that he can feel assured that the inheritance is due to him through the righteousness of the law? Void then would faith be made; for an impossible condition would not only hold the minds of men in suspense and anxiety, but fill them also with fear and trembling: and thus the fulfilment of the promises would be rendered void; for they avail nothing but when received by faith. If our adversaries had ears to hear this one reason, the contest between us might easily be settled.

The Apostle assumes it as a thing indubitable, that the promises would by no means be effectual except they were received with full assurance of mind. But what would be the case if the salvation of men was based on the keeping of the law? consciences would have no certainty, but would be harassed with perpetual inquietude, and at length sink in despair; and the promise itself, the fulfilment of which depended on what is impossible, would also vanish away without producing any fruit. Away then with those who teach the common people to seek salvation for themselves by works, seeing that Paul declares expressly, that the promise is abolished if we depend on works. But it is especially necessary that this should be known,—that when there is a reliance on works, faith is reduced to nothing. And hence we also learn what faith is, and what sort of righteousness ought that of works to be, in which men may safely trust.

The Apostle teaches us, that faith perishes, except the Edition: current; Page: [171] soul rests on the goodness of God. Faith then is not a naked knowledge either of God or of his truth; nor is it a simple persuasion that God is, that his word is the truth; but a sure knowledge of God’s mercy, which is received from the gospel, and brings peace of conscience with regard to God, and rest to the mind. The sum of the matter then is this,—that if salvation depends on the keeping of the law, the soul can entertain no confidence respecting it, yea, that all the promises offered to us by God will become void: we must thus become wretched and lost, if we are sent back to works to find out the cause or the certainty of salvation.

15. For the law causeth wrath, &c. This is a confirmation of the last verse, derived from the contrary effect of the law; for as the law generates nothing but vengeance, it cannot bring grace. It can indeed show to the good and the perfect the way of life: but as it prescribes to the sinful and corrupt what they ought to do, and supplies them with no power for doing, it exhibits them as guilty before the tribunal of God. For such is the viciousness of our nature, that the more we are taught what is right and just, the more openly is our iniquity discovered, and especially our contumacy, and thus a heavier judgment is incurred.

By wrath, understand God’s judgment, which meaning it has everywhere. They who explain it of the wrath of the sinner, excited by the law, inasmuch as he hates and execrates the Lawgiver, whom he finds to be opposed to his lusts, say what is ingenious, but not suitable to this passage; for Paul meant no other thing, than that condemnation only is what is brought on us all by the law, as it is evident from the common use of the expression, and also from the reason which he immediately adds.

Where there is no law, &c. This is the proof, by which he confirms what he had said; for it would have been difficult to see how God’s wrath is kindled against us through the law, unless it had been made more apparent. And the reason is, that as the knowledge of God’s justice is discovered by the law, the less excuse we have, and hence the more grievously we offend against God; for they who despise the known will of God, justly deserve to sustain a heavier punishment, Edition: current; Page: [172] than those who offend through ignorance. But the Apostle speaks not of the mere transgression of what is right, from which no man is exempt; but he calls that a transgression, when man, having been taught what pleases and displeases God, knowingly and wilfully passes over the boundaries fixed by God’s word; or, in other words, transgression here is not a mere act of sin, but a wilful determination to violate what is right.1 The particle, οudaivrgr, where, which I take as an adverb, some consider to be a relative, of which; but the former reading is the most suitable, and the most commonly received. Whichever reading you may follow, the meaning will be the same,—that he who is not instructed by the written law, when he sins, is not guilty of so great a transgression, as he is who knowingly breaks and transgresses the law of God.

16. Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all,

17. (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.

16. Propterea ex fide, ut secundum gratiam, quo firma sit promissio universo semini non ei quod est ex Lege solùm, sed quod est ex fide Abrahæ, qui est pater omnium nostrûm,

17. (Sicut scriptum est, Quòd patrem multarum gentium posui te,) coram Deo, cui credidit, qui vivificat mortuos et vocat ea quæ non sunt tanquàm sint.

16. It is therefore of faith, &c. This is the winding up of the argument; and you may summarily include the whole Edition: current; Page: [173] of it in this statement,—“If the heirship of salvation comes to us by works, then faith in it vanishes, the promise of it is abolished; but it is necessary that both these should be sure and certain; hence it comes to us by faith, so that its stability, being based on the goodness of God alone, may be secured.” See how the Apostle, regarding faith as a thing firm and certain, considers hesitancy and doubt as unbelief, by which faith is abolished, and the promise abrogated. And yet this doubting is what the schoolmen call a moral conjecture, and which, alas! they substitute for faith.

That it might be by grace, &c. Here, in the first place, the Apostle shows, that nothing is set before faith but mere grace; and this, as they commonly say, is its object: for were it to look on merits, absurdly would Paul infer, that whatever it obtains for us is gratuitous. I will repeat this again in other words,—“If grace be everything that we obtain by faith, then every regard for works is laid in the dust.” But what next follows more fully removes all ambiguity,—that the promise then only stands firm, when it recumbs on grace: for by this expression Paul confirms this truth, that as long as men depend on works, they are harassed with doubts; for they deprive themselves of what the promises contain. Hence, also, we may easily learn, that grace is not to be taken, as some imagine, for the gift of regeneration, but for a gratuitous favour: for as regeneration is never perfect, it can never suffice to pacify souls, nor of itself can it make the promise certain.

Not to that only which is of the law, &c. Though these words mean in another place those who, being absurd zealots of the law, bind themselves to its yoke, and boast of their confidence in it, yet here they mean simply the Jewish nation, to whom the law of the Lord had been delivered. For Paul teaches us in another passage, that all who remain bound to the dominion of the law, are subject to a curse; it is then certain that they are excluded from the participation of grace. He does not then call them the servants of the law, who, adhering to the righteousness of works, renounce Christ; but they were those Jews who had been brought up in the law, and yet professed the name of Christ. But that the Edition: current; Page: [174] sentence may be made clearer, let it be worded thus,—“Not to those only who are of the law, but to all who imitate the faith of Abraham, though they had not the law before.”

Who is the father of us all, &c. The relative has the meaning of a causative particle; for he meant to prove, that the Gentiles were become partakers of this grace, inasmuch as by the same oracle, by which the heirship was conferred on Abraham and his seed, were the Gentiles also constituted his seed: for he is said to have been made the father, not of one nation, but of many nations; by which was presignified the future extension of grace, then confined to Israel alone. For except the promised blessing had been extended to them, they could not have been counted as the offspring of Abraham. The past tense of the verb, according to the common usage of Scripture, denotes the certainty of the Divine counsel; for though nothing then was less apparent, yet as God had thus decreed, he is rightly said to have been made the father of many nations. Let the testimony of Moses be included in a parenthesis, that this clause, “Who is the father of us all,” may be connected with the other, “before God,” &c.: for it was necessary to explain also what that relationship was, that the Jews might not glory too much in their carnal descent. Hence he says, “He is our father before God;” which means the same as though he had said, “He is our spiritual father;” for he had this privilege, not from his own flesh, but from the promise of God.1

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17. Whom he believed, who quickens the dead, &c. In this circuitous form is expressed the very substance of Abraham’s faith, that by his example an opening might be made for the Gentiles. He had indeed to attain, in a wonderful way, the promise which he had heard from the Lord’s mouth, since there was then no token of it. A seed was promised to him as though he was in vigour and strength; but he was as it were dead. It was hence necessary for him to raise up his thoughts to the power of God, by which the dead are quickened. It was therefore not strange that the Gentiles, who were barren and dead, should be introduced into the same society. He then who denies them to be capable of grace, does wrong to Abraham, whose faith was sustained by this thought,—that it matters not whether he was dead or not who is called by the Lord; to whom it is an easy thing, even by a word, to raise the dead through his own power.

We have here also a type and a pattern of the call of us all, by which our beginning is set before our eyes, not as to our first birth, but as to the hope of future life,—that when we are called by the Lord we emerge from nothing; for whatever we may seem to be we have not, no, not a spark of anything good, which can render us fit for the kingdom of God. That we may indeed on the other hand be in a suitable state to hear the call of God, we must be altogether dead in ourselves. The character of the divine calling is, that they who are dead are raised by the Lord, that they who are nothing begin to be something through his power. The word call ought not to be confined to preaching, but it is to be taken, according to the usage of Scripture, for raising up; and it is intended to set forth more fully the power of God, who raises up, as it were by a nod only, whom he wills.1

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18. Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be.

18. Qui præter (vel supra) spem super spe credidit, ut esset1 pater multarum gentium, secundum quod dictum erat, Sic erit semen tuum.

18. Who against hope, &c. If we thus read, the sense is, that when there was no probable reason, yea, when all things were against him, he yet continued to believe. And, doubtless, there is nothing more injurious to faith than to fasten our minds to our eyes, that we may from what we see, seek a reason for our hope. We may also read, “above hope,” and perhaps more suitably; as though he had said that by his faith he far surpassed all that he could conceive; for except faith flies upward on celestial wings, so as to look down on all the perceptions of the flesh as on things far below, it will stick fast in the mud of the world. But Paul uses the word hope twice in this verse: in the first instance, he means a probable evidence for hoping, such as can be derived from nature and carnal reason; in the second, he refers to faith given by God;2 for when he had no ground Edition: current; Page: [177] for hoping he yet in hope relied on the promise of God; and he thought it a sufficient reason for hoping, that the Lord had promised, however incredible the thing was in itself.

According to what had been said, &c. So have I preferred to render it, that it may be applied to the time of Abraham; for Paul meant to say, that Abraham, when many temptations were drawing him to despair, that he might not fail, turned his thoughts to what had been promised to him, “Thy seed shall equal the stars of heaven and the sands of the sea;” but he designedly adduced this quotation incomplete, in order to stimulate us to read the Scriptures. The Apostles, indeed, at all times, in quoting the Scriptures, took a scrupulous care to rouse us to a more diligent reading of them.

19. And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb:

20. He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;

21. And being fully persuaded, that what he had promised, he was able also to perform.

22. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.

19. Ac fide minimè debilitatus, non consideravit suum ipsius corpus jam emortuum, centenarius quum ferè esset, nec emortuam vulvam Saræ:

20. Nec vero in Dei promissionem per incredulitatem disquisivit; sed roboratus est fide, tribuens gloriam Deo;

21. Ac certè persuasus, quod ubi quid promisit, possit etiam præstare.

22. Ideo et imputatum illi est in justitiam.

19. In faith, &c. If you prefer to omit one of the negatives you may render it thus, “Being weak in faith, he considered not his own body,” &c.; but this makes no sense. He indeed shows now more fully what might have hindered, yea, and wholly turned Abraham aside from receiving the promise. A seed from Sarah was promised to him at a time when he was not by nature fit for generating, nor Sarah for conceiving. Whatever he could see as to himself was opposed to the accomplishment of the promise. Hence, that he might yield to the truth of God, he withdrew his mind from those things which presented themselves to his own view, and as Edition: current; Page: [178] it were forgot himself. You are not however to think, that he had no regard whatever to his own body, now dead, since Scripture testifies to the contrary; for he reasoned thus with himself, “Shall a child be born to a man an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, who is ninety, bear a son?” But as he laid aside the consideration of all this, and resigned his own judgment to the Lord, the Apostle says, that he considered not, &c.; and truly it was a greater effort to withdraw his thoughts from what of itself met his eyes, than if such a thing came into his mind.

And that the body of Abraham was become through age incapable of generating, at the time he received the Lord’s blessing, is quite evident from this passage, and also from Gen. xvii. and xviii., so that the opinion of Augustine is by no means to be admitted, who says somewhere, that the impediment was in Sarah alone. Nor ought the absurdity of the objection to influence us, by which he was induced to have recourse to this solution; for he thought it inconsistent to suppose that Abraham in his hundredth year was incapable of generating, as he had afterwards many children. But by this very thing God rendered his power more visible, inasmuch as he, who was before like a dry and barren tree, was so invigorated by the celestial blessing, that he not only begot Isaac, but, as though he was restored to the vigour of age, he had afterwards strength to beget others. But some one may object and say, that it is not beyond the course of nature that a man should beget children at that age. Though I allow that such a thing is not a prodigy, it is yet very little short of a miracle. And then, think with how many toils, sorrows, wanderings, distresses, had that holy man been exercised all his life; and it must be confessed, that he was no more debilitated by age, than worn out and exhausted by toils. And lastly, his body is not called barren simply but comparatively; for it was not probable that he, who was unfit for begetting in the flower and vigour of age, should begin only now when nature had decayed.

The expression, being not weak in faith, take in this sense—that he vacillated not, nor fluctuated, as we usually do under difficult circumstances. There is indeed a twofold Edition: current; Page: [179] weakness of faith—one is that which, by succumbing to trying adversities, occasions a falling away from the supporting power of God—the other arises from imperfection, but does not extinguish faith itself: for the mind is never so illuminated, but that many relics of ignorance remain; the heart is never so strengthened, but that much doubting cleaves to it. Hence with these vices of the flesh, ignorance and doubt, the faithful have a continual conflict, and in this conflict their faith is often dreadfully shaken and distressed, but at length it comes forth victorious; so that they may be said to be strong even in weakness.

20. Nor did he through unbelief make an inquiry, &c. Though I do not follow the old version, nor Erasmus, yet my rendering is not given without reason. The Apostle seems to have had this in view,—That Abraham did not try to find out, by weighing the matter in the balance of unbelief, whether the Lord was able to perform what he had promised. What is properly to inquire or to search into anything, is to examine it through diffidence or mistrust, and to be unwilling to admit what appears not credible, without thoroughly sifting it.1 He indeed asked, how it could come to pass, but that was the asking of one astonished; as the case was with the Virgin Mary, when she inquired of the angel how could that be which he had announced; and there are other similar instances. The saints then, when a message is brought them respecting the works of God, the greatness of which exceeds their comprehension, do indeed burst forth into expressions of wonder; but from this wonder they soon pass on to lay hold on the power of God: on the contrary, the wicked, when they examine a message, scoff at and reject it as a fable. Such, as you will find, was the case with the Jews, when they asked Christ how he could give his Edition: current; Page: [180] flesh to be eaten. For this reason it was, that Abraham was not reproved when he laughed and asked, how could a child be born to a man an hundred years old, and to a woman of ninety; for in his astonishment he fully admitted the power of God’s word. On the other hand, a similar laughter and inquiry on the part of Sarah were not without reproof, because she regarded not the promise as valid.

If these things be applied to our present subject, it will be evident, that the justification of Abraham had no other beginning than that of the Gentiles. Hence the Jews reproach their own father, if they exclaim against the call of the Gentiles as a thing unreasonable. Let us also remember, that the condition of us all is the same with that of Abraham. All things around us are in opposition to the promises of God: He promises immortality; we are surrounded with mortality and corruption: He declares that he counts us just; we are covered with sins: He testifies that he is propitious and kind to us; outward judgments threaten his wrath. What then is to be done? We must with closed eyes pass by ourselves and all things connected with us, that nothing may hinder or prevent us from believing that God is true.

But he was strengthened, &c. This is of the same import with a former clause, when it is said, that he was not weak in faith. It is the same as though he had said, that he overcame unbelief by the constancy and firmness of faith.1 No one indeed comes forth a conqueror from this contest, but he who borrows weapons and strength from the word of God. From what he adds, giving glory to God, it must be observed, that no greater honour can be given to God, than by faith to seal his truth; as, on the other hand, no greater dishonour can be done to him, than to refuse his offered favour, or to discredit his word. It is hence the chief thing in honouring God, obediently to embrace his promises: and true religion begins with faith.

21. That what he had promised, &c. As all men acknowledge Edition: current; Page: [181] God’s power, Paul seems to say nothing very extraordinary of the faith of Abraham; but experience proves, that nothing is more uncommon, or more difficult, than to ascribe to God’s power the honour which it deserves. There is indeed no obstacle, however small and insignificant, by which the flesh imagines the hand of God is restrained from working. Hence it is, that in the slightest trials, the promises of God slide away from us. When there is no contest, it is true, no one, as I have said, denies that God can do all things; but as soon as anything comes in the way to impede the course of God’s promise, we cast down God’s power from its eminence. Hence, that it may obtain from us its right and its honour, when a contest comes, we ought to determine thus,—That it is no less sufficient to overcome the obstacles of the world, than the strong rays of the sun are to dissipate the mists. We are indeed wont ever to excuse ourselves, that we derogate nothing from God’s power, whenever we hesitate respecting his promises, and we commonly say, “The thought, that God promises more in his word than he can perform, (which would be a falsehood and blasphemy against him,) is by no means the cause of our hesitation; but that it is the defect which we feel in ourselves.” But we do not sufficiently exalt the power of God, unless we think it to be greater than our weakness. Faith then ought not to regard our weakness, misery, and defects, but to fix wholly its attention on the power of God alone; for if it depends on our righteousness or worthiness, it can never ascend to the consideration of God’s power. And it is a proof of the unbelief, of which he had before spoken, when we mete the Lord’s power with our own measure. For faith does not think that God can do all things, while it leaves him sitting still, but when, on the contrary, it regards his power in continual exercise, and applies it, especially to the accomplishment of his word: for the hand of God is ever ready to execute whatever he has declared by his mouth.

It seems strange to me, that Erasmus approved of the relative in the masculine gender; for though the sense is not changed, we may yet come nearer to the Greek words of Edition: current; Page: [182] Paul. The verb, I know, is passive;1 but the abruptness may be lessened by a little change.

22. And it was therefore imputed,2 &c. It becomes now more clear, how and in what manner faith brought righteousness to Abraham; and that was, because he, leaning on God’s word, rejected not the promised favour. And this connection of faith with the word ought to be well understood and carefully remembered; for faith can bring us nothing more than what it receives from the word. Hence he does not become immediately just, who is imbued only with a general and confused idea that God is true, except he reposes on the promise of his favour.

23. Now, it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him;

24. But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead;

25. Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.

23. Non est autem scriptum propter ipsum tantùm, imputatum fuisse illi;

24. Sed etiam propter nos, quibus imputabitur credentibus in eum, qui excitavit Iesum Dominum nostrum ex mortuis:

25. Qui traditus fuit propter delicta nostra, et excitatus propter nostram justificationem.

23. Now it was not written, &c. A proof from example is not always valid, of which I have before reminded you; lest this should be questioned, Paul expressly affirms, that in the person of Abraham was exhibited an example of a common righteousness, which belongs equally to all.

We are, by this passage, reminded of the duty of seeking profit from the examples recorded in Scripture. That history is the teacher of what life ought to be, is what heathens Edition: current; Page: [183] have with truth said; but as it is handed down by them, no one can derive from it sound instruction. Scripture alone justly claims to itself an office of this kind. For in the first place it prescribes general rules, by which we may test every other history, so as to render it serviceable to us: and in the second place, it clearly points out what things are to be followed, and what things are to be avoided. But as to doctrine, which it especially teaches, it possesses this peculiarity,—that it clearly reveals the providence of God, his justice and goodness towards his own people, and his judgments on the wicked.

What then is recorded of Abraham is by Paul denied to have been written only for his sake; for the subject is not what belongs to the special call of one or of any particular person; but that way of obtaining righteousness is described, which is ever the same with regard to all; and it is what belonged to the common father of the faithful, on whom the eyes of all ought to be fixed.

If then we would make a right and proper use of sacred histories, we must remember so to use them as to draw from them sound doctrine. They instruct us, in some parts, how to frame our life; in others, how to strengthen faith; and then, how we are to be stirred up to serve the Lord. In forming our life, the example of the saints may be useful; and we may learn from them sobriety, chastity, love, patience, moderation, contempt of the world, and other virtues. What will serve to confirm faith is the help which God ever gave them, the protection which brought comfort in adversities, and the paternal care which he ever exercised over them. The judgments of God, and the punishments inflicted on the wicked, will also aid us, provided they fill us with that fear which imbues the heart with reverence and devotion.

But by saying, not on his account only, he seems to intimate, that it was written partly for his sake. Hence some think, that what Abraham obtained by faith was commemorated to his praise, because the Lord will have his servants to be for ever remembered, according to what Solomon says, that their name will be blessed. (Prov. x. 7.) But what if you take the words, not on his account only, in a simpler Edition: current; Page: [184] form, as though it were some singular privilege, not fit to be made an example of, but yet suitable to teach us, who must be justified in the same manner? This certainly would be a more appropriate sense.

24. Who believe on him, &c. I have already reminded you of the design of those periphrastic expressions: Paul introduced them, that he might, according to what the passages may require, describe in various ways the real character of faith—of which the resurrection of Christ is not the smallest part; for it is the ground of our hope as to eternal life. Had he said only, that we believe in God, it could not have been so readily learnt how this could serve to obtain righteousness; but when Christ comes forth and presents to us in his own resurrection a sure pledge of life, it then appears evident from what fountain the imputation of righteousness flows.

25. Who was delivered for our offences,1 &c. He expands and illustrates more at large the doctrine to which I have just referred. It indeed greatly concerns us, not only to have our minds directed to Christ, but also to have it distinctly made known how he attained salvation for us. And Edition: current; Page: [185] though Scripture, when it treats of our salvation, dwells especially on the death of Christ, yet the Apostle now proceeds farther: for as his purpose was more explicitly to set forth the cause of our salvation, he mentions its two parts; and says, first, that our sins were expiated by the death of Christ,—and secondly, that by his resurrection was obtained our righteousness. But the meaning is, that when we possess the benefit of Christ’s death and resurrection, there is nothing wanting to the completion of perfect righteousness. By separating his death from his resurrection, he no doubt accommodates what he says to our ignorance; for it is also true that righteousness has been obtained for us by that obedience of Christ, which he exhibited in his death, as the Apostle himself teaches us in the following chapter. But as Christ, by rising from the dead, made known how much he had effected by his death, this distinction is calculated to teach us that our salvation was begun by the sacrifice, by which our sins were expiated, and was at length completed by his resurrection: for the beginning of righteousness is to be reconciled to God, and its completion is to attain life by having death abolished. Paul then means, that satisfaction for our sins was given on the cross: for it was necessary, in order that Christ might restore us to the Father’s favour, that our sins should be abolished by him; which could not have been done had he not on their account suffered the punishment, which we were not equal to endure. Hence Isaiah says, that the chastisement of our peace was upon him. (Isa. liii. 5.) But he says that he was delivered, and not, that he died; for expiation depended on the eternal goodwill of God, who purposed to be in this way pacified.

And was raised again for our justification. As it would not have been enough for Christ to undergo the wrath and judgment of God, and to endure the curse due to our sins, without his coming forth a conqueror, and without being received into celestial glory, that by his intercession he might reconcile God to us, the efficacy of justification is ascribed to his resurrection, by which death was overcome; not that the sacrifice of the cross, by which we are reconciled to God, contributes nothing towards our justification, but that the Edition: current; Page: [186] completeness of his favour appears more clear by his coming to life again.1

But I cannot assent to those who refer this second clause to newness of life; for of that the Apostle has not begun to speak; and further, it is certain that both clauses refer to the same thing. For if justification means renovation, then that he died for our sins must be taken in the same sense, as signifying, that he acquired for us grace to mortify the flesh; which no one admits. Then, as he is said to have died for our sins, because he delivered us from the evil of death by suffering death as a punishment for our sins; so he is now said to have been raised for our justification, because he fully restored life to us by his resurrection: for he was first smitten by the hand of God, that in the person of the sinner he might sustain the misery of sin; and then he was raised to life, that he might freely grant to his people righteousness and life.2 He therefore still speaks of imputative justification; and this will be confirmed by what immediately follows in the next chapter.

CHAPTER V.

1. Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ:

2. By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

1. Iustificatus ergo ex fide, pacem habemus apud Deum per Dominum nostrum Iesum Christum;

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2. Per quem accessum habuimus fide in gratiam istam in qua stetimus, et gloriamur super spe gloriæ Dei.

1. Being then justified, &c. The Apostle begins to illustrate by the effects, what he has hitherto said of the righteousness of faith: and hence the whole of this chapter is taken up with amplifications, which are no less calculated to explain than to confirm. He had said before, that faith is abolished, if righteousness is sought by works; and in this case perpetual inquietude would disturb miserable souls, as they can find nothing substantial in themselves: but he teaches us now, that they are rendered quiet and tranquil, when we have obtained righteousness by faith, We have peace with God; and this is the peculiar fruit of the righteousness of faith. When any one strives to seek tranquillity of conscience by works, (which is the case with profane and ignorant men,) he labours for it in vain; for either his heart is asleep through his disregard or forgetfulness of God’s judgment, or else it is full of trembling and dread, until it reposes on Christ, who is alone our peace.

Then peace means tranquillity of conscience, which arises from this,—that it feels itself to be reconciled to God. This the Pharisee has not, who swells with false confidence in his own works; nor the stupid sinner, who is not disquieted, because he is inebriated with the sweetness of vices: for though neither of these seems to have a manifest disquietude, as he is who is smitten with a consciousness of sin; yet as they do not really approach the tribunal of God, they have no reconciliation with him; for insensibility of conscience is, as it were, a sort of retreating from God. Peace with God is opposed to the dead security of the flesh, and for this reason,—because the first thing is, that every one should become awakened as to the account he must render of his life; and no one can stand boldly before God, but he who relies on a gratuitous reconciliation; for as long as he is God, all must otherwise tremble and be confounded. And this is the strongest of proofs, that our opponents do nothing but prate to no purpose, when they ascribe righteousness to Edition: current; Page: [188] works; for this conclusion of Paul is derived from this fact,—that miserable souls always tremble, except they repose on the grace of Christ.

2. Through whom we have access,1 &c. Our reconciliation with God depends only on Christ; for he only is the beloved Son, and we are all by nature the children of wrath. But this favour is communicated to us by the gospel; for the gospel is the ministry of reconciliation, by the means of which we are in a manner brought into the kingdom of God. Rightly then does Paul set before our eyes in Christ a sure pledge of God’s favour, that he might more easily draw us away from every confidence in works. And as he teaches us by the word access, that salvation begins with Christ, he excludes those preparations by which foolish men imagine that they can anticipate God’s mercy; as though he said, Edition: current; Page: [189] “Christ comes not to you, nor helps you, on account of your merits.” He afterwards immediately subjoins, that it is through the continuance of the same favour that our salvation becomes certain and sure; by which he intimates, that perseverance is not founded on our power and diligence, but on Christ; though at the same time by saying, that we stand, he indicates that the gospel ought to strike deep roots into the hearts of the godly, so that being strengthened by its truth, they may stand firm against all the devices of Satan and of the flesh. And by the word stand, he means, that faith is not a changeable persuasion, only for one day; but that it is immutable, and that it sinks deep into the heart, so that it endures through life. It is then not he, who by a sudden impulse is led to believe, that has faith, and is to be reckoned among the faithful; but he who constantly, and, so to speak, with a firm and fixed foot, abides in that station appointed to him by God, so as to cleave always to Christ.

And glory in the hope, &c. The reason that the hope of a future life exists and dares to exult, is this,—because we rest on God’s favour as on a sure foundation: for Paul’s meaning is, that though the faithful are now pilgrims on the earth, they yet by hope scale the heavens, so that they quietly enjoy in their own bosoms their future inheritance. And hereby are subverted two of the most pestilent dogmas of the sophists. What they do in the first place is, they bid Christians to be satisfied with moral conjecture as to the perception of God’s favour towards them; and secondly, they teach that all are uncertain as to their final perseverance. But except there be at present a sure knowledge, and a firm and undoubting persuasion as to the future, who would dare to glory? The hope of the glory of God has shone upon us through the gospel, which testifies that we shall be participators of the Divine nature; for when we shall see God face to face, we shall be like him. (2 Peter i. 4; 1 John iii. 2.)

3. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;

4. And patience, experience; and experience, hope:

5. And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto us.

3. Neque id modò, sed gloriamur1 etiam in afflictionibus; scientes quòd tribulatio patientiam efficiat;

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4. Patientia verò probationem; probatio autem spem:

5. Porrò spes non pudefacit, quoniam dilectio Dei diffusa est in cordibus nostris per Spiritum sanctum, qui datus est nobis.

3. Not only so, &c. That no one might scoffingly object and say, that Christians, with all their glorying, are yet strangely harassed and distressed in this life, which condition is far from being a happy one,—he meets this objection, and declares, not only that the godly are prevented by these calamities from being blessed, but also that their glorying is thereby promoted. To prove this he takes his argument from the effects, and adopts a remarkable gradation, and at last concludes, that all the sorrows we endure contribute to our salvation and final good.

By saying that the saints glory in tribulations, he is not to be understood, as though they dreaded not, nor avoided adversities, or were not distressed with their bitterness when they happened, (for there is no patience when there is no feeling of bitterness;) but as in their grief and sorrow they are not without great consolation, because they regard that whatever they bear is dispensed to them for good by the hand of a most indulgent Father, they are justly said to glory: for whenever salvation is promoted, there is not wanting a reason for glorying.

We are then taught here what is the design of our tribulations, if indeed we would prove ourselves to be the children of God. They ought to habituate us to patience; and if they do not answer this end, the work of the Lord is rendered void and of none effect through our corruption: for how does he prove that adversities do not hinder the glorying of the faithful, except that by their patience in enduring them, they feel the help of God, which nourishes and confirms their hope? They then who do not learn patience, do not, it is certain, make good progress. Nor is it any Edition: current; Page: [191] objection, that there are recorded in Scripture some complaints full of despondency, which the saints had made: for the Lord sometimes so depresses and straitens for a time his people, that they can hardly breathe, and can hardly remember any source of consolation; but in a moment he brings to life those who he had nearly sunk in the darkness of death. So that what Paul says is always accomplished in them—“We are in every way oppressed, but not made anxious; we are in danger, but we are not in despair; we suffer persecution, but we are not forsaken; we are cast down, but we are not destroyed.” (2 Cor. iv. 8.)

Tribulation produces (efficiat) patience, &c. This is not the natural effect of tribulation; for we see that a great portion of mankind are thereby instigated to murmur against God, and even to curse his name. But when that inward meekness, which is infused by the Spirit of God, and the consolation, which is conveyed by the same Spirit, succeed in the place of our stubbornness, then tribulations become the means of generating patience; yea, those tribulations, which in the obstinate can produce nothing but indignation and clamorous discontent.

4. Patience, probation, &c. James, adopting a similar gradation, seems to follow a different order; for he says, that patience proceeds from probation: but the different meaning of the word is what will reconcile both. Paul takes probation for the experience which the faithful have of the sure protection of God, when by relying on his aid they overcome all difficulties, even when they experience, whilst in patiently enduring they stand firm, how much avails the power of the Lord, which he has promised to be always present with his people. James takes the same word for tribulation itself, according to the common usage of Scripture; for by these God proves and tries his servants: and they are often called trials.1

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According then to the present passage, we then only make advances in patience as we ought, when we regard it as having been continued to us by God’s power, and thus entertain hope as to the future, that God’s favour, which has ever succoured us in our necessities, will never be wanting to us. Hence he subjoins, that from probation arises hope; for ungrateful we should be for benefits received, except the recollection of them confirms our hope as to what is to come.

5. Hope maketh not ashamed, &c.;1 that is, it regards salvation as most certain. It hence appears, that the Lord tries us by adversities for this end,—that our salvation may thereby be gradually advanced. Those evils then cannot render us miserable, which do in a manner promote our happiness. And thus is proved what he had said, that the godly have reasons for glorying in the midst of their afflictions.

For the love of God, &c. I do not refer this only to the last sentence, but to the whole of the preceding passage. I therefore would say,—that by tribulations we are stimulated to patience, and that patience finds an experiment of divine help, by which we are more encouraged to entertain hope; for however we may be pressed and seem to be nearly consumed, we do not yet cease to feel God’s favour towards us, which affords the richest consolation, and much more abundant than when all things happen prosperously. For as that happiness, which is so in appearance, is misery itself, when God is adverse to and displeased with us; so when he Edition: current; Page: [193] is propitious, even calamities themselves will surely be turned to a prosperous and a joyful issue. Seeing all things must serve the will of the Creator, who, according to his paternal favour towards us, (as Paul declares in the eighth chapter,) overrules all the trials of the cross for our salvation, this knowledge of divine love towards us is instilled into our hearts by the Spirit of God; for the good things which God has prepared for his servants are hid from the ears and the eyes and the minds of men, and the Spirit alone is he who can reveal them. And the word diffused, is very emphatical; for it means that the revelation of divine love towards us is so abounding that it fills our hearts; and being thus spread through every part of them, it not only mitigates sorrow in adversities, but also, like a sweet seasoning, it renders tribulations to be loved by us.1

He says further, that the Spirit is given, that is, bestowed through the gratuitous goodness of God, and not conferred for our merits; according to what Augustine has well observed, who, though he is mistaken in his view of the love of God, Edition: current; Page: [194] gives this explanation,—that we courageously bear adversities, and are thus confirmed in our hope, because we, having been regenerated by the Spirit, do love God. It is indeed a pious sentiment, but not what Paul means: for love is not to be taken here in an active but a passive sense. And certain it is, that no other thing is taught by Paul than that the true fountain of all love is, when the faithful are convinced that they are loved by God, and that they are not slightly touched with this conviction, but have their souls thoroughly imbued with it.

6. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.

7. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.

8. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

9. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.

6. Christus enim, quum adhuc essemus infirmi secundum rationem temporis, pro impiis mortuus est:

7. Vix sanè pro justo quis moriatur; nam pro bono forsan aliquis etiam mori audeat.

8. Confirmat autem erga nos charitatem Deus quòd peccatores quum adhuc essemus, Christus pro nobis mortuus est:

9. Multo igitur magis, justificati nunc per sanguinem ejus, servabimur per ipsum ab ira.

6. For Christ, &c. I ventured not in my version to allow myself so much liberty as to give this rendering, “In the time in which we were weak;” and yet I prefer this sense. An argument begins here, which is from the greater to the less, and which he afterwards pursues more at large: and though he has not woven the thread of his discourse so very distinctly, yet its irregular structure does not disturb the meaning. “If Christ,” he says, “had mercy on the ungodly, if he reconciled enemies to his Father, if he has done this by the virtue of his death, much more easily will he save them when justified, and keep those restored to favour in the possession of it, especially when the influence of his life is added to the virtue of his death.”1 The time of weakness Edition: current; Page: [195] some consider to be that, when Christ first began to be manifested to the world, and they think that those are called weak, who were like children under the tuition of the law. I apply the expression to every one of us, and I regard that time to be meant, which precedes the reconciliation of each one with God. For as we are all born the children of wrath, so we are kept under that curse until we become partakers of Christ. And he calls those weak, who have nothing in themselves but what is sinful; for he calls the same immediately afterwards ungodly. And it is nothing new, that weakness should be taken in this sense. He calls, in 1 Cor. xii. 22, the covered parts of the body weak; and, in 2 Cor. x. 10, he designates his own bodily presence weak, because it had no dignity. And this meaning will soon again occur. When, therefore, we were weak, that is, when we were in no way worthy or fit that God should look on us, at this very time Christ died for the ungodly: for the beginning of religion is faith, from which they were all alienated, for whom Christ died. And this also is true as to the ancient fathers, who obtained righteousness before he died; for they derived this benefit from his future death.1

7. For a just man, &c. The meaning of the passage has constrained me to render the particle γὰρ as an affirmative or declarative rather than as a causative. The import of the sentence is this, “Most rare, indeed, is such an example to be found among men, that one dies for a just man, though this may sometimes happen: but let this be granted, yet for an ungodly man none will be found willing to die: this Edition: current; Page: [196] is what Christ has done.”1 Thus it is an illustration, derived from a comparison; for such an example of kindness, as Christ has exhibited towards us, does not exist among men.

8. But God confirms, &c. The verb, συνίστησι, has various meanings; that which is most suitable to this place is that of confirming; for it was not the Apostle’s object to excite our gratitude, but to strengthen the trust and confidence of our souls. He then confirms, that is, exhibits his love to us as most certain and complete, inasmuch as for the sake of the ungodly he spared not Christ his own Son. In this, indeed, his love appears, that being not moved by love on our part, he of his own good will first loved us, as John tells us. (1 John iii. 16.)—Those are here called sinners, (as in many other places,) who are wholly vicious and given up to sin, according to what is said in John ix. 31, “God hears not sinners,” that is, men abandoned and altogether wicked. The woman called “a sinner,” was one of a shameful character. (Luke vii. 37.) And this meaning appears more evident from the contrast which immediately follows,—for being now justified through his blood: for since he sets the two in opposition, Edition: current; Page: [197] the one to the other, and calls those justified who are delivered from the guilt of sin, it necessarily follows that those are sinners who, for their evil deeds, are condemned.1

The import of the whole is,—since Christ has attained righteousness for sinners by his death, much more shall he protect them, being now justified, from destruction. And in the last clause he applies to his own doctrine the comparison between the less and the greater: for it would not have been enough for salvation to have been once procured for us, were not Christ to render it safe and secure to the end. And this is what the Apostle now maintains; so that we ought not to fear, that Christ will cut off the current of his favour while we are in the middle of our course: for inasmuch as he has reconciled us to the Father, our condition is such, that he purposes more efficaciously to put forth and daily to increase his favour towards us.

10. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son; much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.

10. Si enim quum inimici essemus, reconciliati sumus Deo per mortem Filii ejus; multo magis, reconciliati, servabimur per vitam ipsius.

This is an explanation of the former verse, amplified by introducing a comparison between life and death. We were enemies, he says, when Christ interposed for the purpose of propitiating the Father: through this reconciliation we are now friends; since this was effected by his death; much more influential and efficacious will be his life.2 We hence Edition: current; Page: [198] have ample proofs to strengthen our hearts with confidence respecting our salvation. By saying that we were reconciled to God by the death of Christ, he means, that it was the sacrifice of expiation, by which God was pacified towards the world, as I have showed in the fourth chapter.

But the Apostle seems here to be inconsistent with himself; for if the death of Christ was a pledge of the divine love towards us, it follows that we were already acceptable to him; but he says now, that we were enemies. To this I answer, that as God hates sin, we are also hated by him as far as we are sinners; but as in his secret counsel he chooses us into the body of Christ, he ceases to hate us: but restoration to favour is unknown to us, until we attain it by faith. Hence with regard to us, we are always enemies, until the death of Christ interposes in order to propitiate God. And this twofold aspect of things ought to be noticed; for we do not know the gratuitous mercy of God otherwise than as it appears from this—that he spared not his only-begotten Son; for he loved us at a time when there was discord between him and us: nor can we sufficiently understand the benefit brought to us by the death of Christ, except this be the beginning of our reconciliation with God, that we are persuaded that it is by the expiation that has been made, that he, who was before justly angry with us, is now propitious to us. Since then our reception into favour is ascribed to the death of Christ, the meaning is, that guilt is thereby taken away, to which we should be otherwise exposed.

11. And not only so, but we also joy in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.

11. Non solùm autem, sed etiam gloriamur in Deo per Dominum Iesum Christum, per quem nunc reconciliationem accepimus.

11. And not this only, &c. He now ascends into the highest strain of glorying; for when we glory that God is ours, whatever blessings can be imagined or wished, ensue and flow from this fountain; for God is not only the chief of all good things, but also possesses in himself the sum and substance of all blessings; and he becomes ours through Christ. We then attain this by faith,—that nothing is Edition: current; Page: [199] wanting to us as to happiness. Nor is it in vain that he so often mentions reconciliation: it is, first, that we may be taught to fix our eyes on the death of Christ, whenever we speak of our salvation; and, secondly, that we may know that our trust must be fixed on nothing else, but on the expiation made for our sins.

12. Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

13. (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.

14. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.

12. Quamobrem sicut per unum hominem peccatum in mundum introüt, et per peccatum mors; atque ita in omnes homines mors pervagata est, quandoquidem omnes peccaverunt:

13. (Nam usque ad legem peccatum erat in mundo; peccatum autem non imputatur, quum non est lex:

14. Sed regnavit mors ab Adam usque ad Mosen, etiam in eos qui non peccaverunt ad similitudinem prævericationis Adam, qui est figura futuri.

12. Wherefore as, &c. He now begins to enlarge on the same doctrine, by comparing with it what is of an opposite character. For since Christ came to redeem us from the calamity into which Adam had fallen, and had precipitated all his posterity with him, we cannot see with so much clearness what we have in Christ, as by having what we have lost in Adam set before us, though all things on both sides are not similar: hence Paul subjoins an exception, which we shall notice in its place; and we shall also point out any other difference that may occur. The incompleteness of the sentence sometimes renders it obscure, as when the second clause, which answers to the former, is not expressed. But we shall endeavour to make both plain when we come to those parts.1

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Sin entered into the world, &c. Observe the order which he keeps here; for he says, that sin preceded, and that from sin death followed. There are indeed some who contend, that we are so lost through Adam’s sin, as though we perished through no fault of our own, but only, because he had sinned for us. But Paul distinctly affirms, that sin extends to all who suffer its punishment: and this he afterwards more fully declares, when subsequently he assigns a reason why all the posterity of Adam are subject to the dominion of death; and it is even this—because we have all, he says, sinned. But to sin in this case, is to become corrupt and vicious; for the natural depravity which we bring from our mother’s womb, though it brings not forth immediately its own fruits, is yet sin before God, and deserves his vengeance: and this is that sin which they call original. For as Adam at his creation had received for us as well as for himself the gifts of God’s favour, so by falling away from the Lord, he in himself corrupted, vitiated, depraved, and ruined our nature; for having been divested of God’s likeness, he could Edition: current; Page: [201] not have generated seed but what was like himself. Hence we have all sinned; for we are all imbued with natural corruption, and so are become sinful and wicked. Frivolous then was the gloss, by which formerly the Pelagians endeavoured to elude the words of Paul, and held, that sin descended by imitation from Adam to the whole human race; for Christ would in this case become only the exemplar and not the cause of righteousness. Besides, we may easily conclude, that he speaks not here of actual sin; for if every one for himself contracted guilt, why did Paul form a comparison between Adam and Christ? It then follows that our innate and hereditary depravity is what is here referred to.1

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13. For until the law, &c. This parenthesis anticipates an objection: for as there seems to be no transgression without the law, it might have been doubted whether there were before the law any sin: that there was after the law admitted of no doubt. The question only refers to the time preceding the law. To this then he gives this answer—that though God had not as yet denounced judgment by a written law, yet mankind were under a curse, and that from the womb; and hence that they who led a wicked and vicious life before the promulgation of the law, were by no means exempt from the condemnation of sin; for there had always been some notion of a God, to whom honour was due, and there had ever been some rule of righteousness. This view is so plain and so clear, that of itself it disproves every opposite notion.

But sin is not imputed, &c. Without the law reproving us, we in a manner sleep in our sins; and though we are not ignorant that we do evil, we yet suppress as much as we can the knowledge of evil offered to us, at least we obliterate it by quickly forgetting it. While the law reproves and chides us, it awakens us as it were by its stimulating power, that we may return to the consideration of God’s judgment. The Apostle then intimates that men continue in their perverseness when not roused by the law, and that when the difference between good and evil is laid aside, they securely and joyfully indulge themselves, as if there was no judgment to come. But that before the law iniquities were by God imputed to men is evident from the punishment of Cain, from the deluge by which the whole world was destroyed, from the fate of Sodom, and from the plagues inflicted on Pharaoh and Abimelech on account of Abraham, and also Edition: current; Page: [203] from the plagues brought on the Egyptians. That men also imputed sin to one another, is clear from the many complaints and expostulations by which they charged one another with iniquity, and also from the defences by which they laboured to clear themselves from accusations of doing wrong. There are indeed many examples which prove that every man was of himself conscious of what was evil and of what was good: but that for the most part they connived at their own evil deeds, so that they imputed nothing as a sin to themselves unless they were constrained. When therefore he denies that sin without the law is imputed, he speaks comparatively; for when men are not pricked by the goads of the law, they become sunk in carelessness.1

But Paul wisely introduced this sentence, in order that the Jews might hence more clearly learn how grievously they offended, inasmuch as the law openly condemned them; for if they were not exempted from punishment whom God had never summoned as guilty before his tribunal, what would become of the Jews to whom the law, like a herald, had proclaimed their guilt, yea, on whom it denounced judgment? There may be also another reason adduced why he expressly says, that sin reigned before the law, but was not imputed, and that is, that we may know that the cause of death proceeds not from the law, but is only made known by it. Hence he declares, that all became miserably lost Edition: current; Page: [204] immediately after the fall of Adam, though their destruction was only made manifest by the law. If you translate the adversative δε, though, the text would run better; for the meaning is, that though men may indulge themselves, they cannot yet escape God’s judgment, even when there is no law to reprove them.

Death reigned from Adam, &c. He explains more clearly that it availed men nothing that from Adam to the time when the law was promulgated, they led a licentious and careless life, while the difference between good and evil was wilfully rejected, and thus, without the warning of the law, the remembrance of sin was buried; yea, that this availed them nothing, because sin did yet issue in their condemnation. It hence appears, that death even then reigned; for the blindness and obduracy of men could not stifle the judgment of God.

14. Even over them, &c. Though this passage is commonly understood of infants, who being guilty of no actual sin, die through original sin, I yet prefer to regard it as referring to all those who sinned without the law; for this verse is to be connected with the preceding clause, which says, that those who were without the law did not impute sin to themselves. Hence they sinned not after the similitude of Adam’s transgression; for they had not, like him, the will of God made known to them by a certain oracle: for the Lord had forbidden Adam to touch the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; but to them he had given no command besides the testimony of conscience. The Apostle then intended to imply, that it did not happen through the difference between Adam and his posterity that they were exempt from condemnation. Infants are at the same time included in their number.

Who is a type of him who was to come. This sentence is put instead of a second clause; for we see that one part only of the comparison is expressed, the other is omitted—an instance of what is called anacoluthon.1 You are then to take the meaning as though it was said, “As by one man Edition: current; Page: [205] sin entered into the whole world, and death through sin, so by one man righteousness returned, and life through righteousness.” But in saying that Adam bore a resemblance to Christ, there is nothing incongruous; for some likeness often appears in things wholly contrary. As then we are all lost through Adam’s sin, so we are restored through Christ’s righteousness: hence he calls Adam not inaptly the type of Christ. But observe, that Adam is not said to be the type of sin, nor Christ the type of righteousness, as though they led the way only by their example, but that the one is contrasted with the other. Observe this, lest you should foolishly go astray with Origen, and be involved in a pernicious error; for he reasoned philosophically and profanely on the corruption of mankind, and not only diminished the grace of Christ, but nearly obliterated it altogether. The less excusable is Erasmus, who labours much in palliating a notion so grossly delirious.

15. But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead; much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.

15. Sed non sicut delictum, ita et donum; nam si unius delicto1 multi mortui sunt, multo magis gratia Dei et donum Dei in gratia, quæ fuit unius hominis Christi, in multos abundavit.

15. But not as the offence, &c. Now follows the rectifying or the completion of the comparison already introduced. The Apostle does not, however, very minutely state the Edition: current; Page: [206] points of difference between Christ and Adam, but he obviates errors into which we might otherwise easily fall, and what is needful for an explanation we shall add. Though he mentions oftentimes a difference, yet there are none of these repetitions in which there is not a want of a corresponding clause, or in which there is not at least an ellipsis. Such instances are indeed defects in a discourse; but they are not prejudicial to the majesty of that celestial wisdom which is taught us by the Apostle; it has, on the contrary, so happened through the providence of God, that the highest mysteries have been delivered to us in the garb of an humble style,1 in order that our faith may not depend on the potency of human eloquence, but on the efficacious working of the Spirit alone.

He does not indeed even now expressly supply the deficiency of the former sentence, but simply teaches us, that there is a greater measure of grace procured by Christ, than of condemnation introduced by the first man. What some think, that the Apostle carries on here a chain of reasoning, I know not whether it will be deemed by all sufficiently evident. It may indeed be justly inferred, that since the fall of Adam had such an effect as to produce the ruin of many, much more efficacious is the grace of God to the benefit of many; inasmuch as it is admitted, that Christ is much more powerful to save, than Adam was to destroy. But as they cannot be disproved, who wish to take the passage without this inference, I am willing that they should Edition: current; Page: [207] choose either of these views; though what next follows cannot be deemed an inference, yet it is of the same meaning. It is hence probable, that Paul rectifies, or by way of exception modifies, what he had said of the likeness between Christ and Adam.

But observe, that a larger number (plures) are not here contrasted with many (multis,) for he speaks not of the number of men: but as the sin of Adam has destroyed many, he draws this conclusion,—that the righteousness of Christ will be no less efficacious to save many.1

When he says, by the offence of one, &c., understand him as meaning this,—that corruption has from him descended to us: for we perish not through his fault, as though we were blameless; but as his sin is the cause of our sin, Paul ascribes to him our ruin: our sin I call that which is implanted in us, and with which we are born.

The grace of God and the gift of God through grace, &c. Grace is properly set in opposition to offence; the gift which proceeds from grace, to death. Hence grace means the free goodness of God or gratuitous love, of which he has given us a proof in Christ, that he might relieve our misery: and gift is the fruit of this mercy, and hath come to us, even the Edition: current; Page: [208] reconciliation by which we have obtained life and salvation, righteousness, newness of life, and every other blessing. We hence see how absurdly the schoolmen have defined grace, who have taught that it is nothing else but a quality infused into the hearts of men: for grace, properly speaking, is in God; and what is in us is the effect of grace. And he says, that it is by one man; for the Father has made him the fountain out of whose fulness all must draw. And thus he teaches us, that not even the least drop of life can be found out of Christ,—that there is no other remedy for our poverty and want, than what he conveys to us from his own abundance.

16. And not as it was by one that sinned,1 so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification.

16. Et non sicut per unum qui peccaverat, ita donum; judicium enim ex uno in condemationem, donum autem ex multis delictis in justificationem.

16. This is especially an explanation of what he had said before,—that by one offence guilt issued in the condemnation of us all, but that grace, or rather the gratuitous gift, is efficacious to our justification from many offences. It is indeed an expansion of what the last verse contains; for he had not hitherto expressed, how or in what respect Christ excelled Adam. This difference being settled, it appears evident, that their opinion is impious, who have taught that we recover nothing else by Christ but a freedom from original sin, or the corruption derived from Adam. Observe also, that these many offences, from which he affirms we are freed through Christ, are not to be understood only of those which every one must have committed before baptism, but Edition: current; Page: [209] also of those by which the saints contract daily new guilt; and on account of which they would be justly exposed to condemnation, were they not continually relieved by this grace.

He sets gift in opposition to judgment: by the latter he means strict justice; by the former, gratuitous pardon. From strict justice comes condemnation; from pardon, absolution. Or, which is the same thing, were God to deal with us according to justice, we should be all undone; but he justifies us freely in Christ.

17. For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace, and of the gift of righteousness, shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.)1

17. Si enim unius delicto mors regnavit per unum; multò magis, qui exuberantiam gratiæ et doni justitiæ acceperunt, in vita regnabunt per unum Iesum Christum.)

17. For if for the offence of one, &c. He again subjoins a general explanation, on which he dwells still further; for it was by no means his purpose to explain every part of the subject, but to state the main points. He had before declared, that the power of grace had surpassed that of sin: and by this he consoles and strengthens the faithful, and, at the same time, stimulates and encourages them to meditate on the benignity of God. Indeed the design of so studious a repetition was,—that the grace of God might be worthily set forth, that men might be led from self-confidence to trust in Christ, that having obtained his grace they might enjoy full assurance; and hence at length arises gratitude. The sum of the whole is this—that Christ surpasses Adam; the sin of one is overcome by the righteousness of the other; the curse of one is effaced by the grace of the other; from one, Edition: current; Page: [210] death has proceeded, which is absorbed by the life which the other bestows.

But the parts of this comparison do not correspond; instead of adding, “the gift of life shall more fully reign and flourish through the exuberance of grace,” he says, that “the faithful shall reign;” which amounts to the same thing; for the reign of the faithful is in life, and the reign of life is in the faithful.

It may further be useful to notice here the difference between Christ and Adam, which the Apostle omitted, not because he deemed it of no importance, but unconnected with his present subject.

The first is, that by Adam’s sin we are not condemned through imputation alone, as though we were punished only for the sin of another; but we suffer his punishment, because we also ourselves are guilty; for as our nature is vitiated in him, it is regarded by God as having committed sin. But through the righteousness of Christ we are restored in a different way to salvation; for it is not said to be accepted for us, because it is in us, but because we possess Christ himself with all his blessings, as given to us through the bountiful kindness of the Father. Hence the gift of righteousness is not a quality with which God endows us, as some absurdly explain it, but a gratuitous imputation of righteousness; for the Apostle plainly declares what he understood by the word grace. The other difference is, that the benefit of Christ does not come to all men, while Adam has involved his whole race in condemnation; and the reason of this is indeed evident; for as the curse we derive from Adam is conveyed to us by nature, it is no wonder that it includes the whole mass; but that we may come to a participation of the grace of Christ, we must be ingrafted in him by faith. Hence, in order to partake of the miserable inheritance of sin, it is enough for thee to be man, for it dwells in flesh and blood; but in order to enjoy the righteousness of Christ it is necessary for thee to be a believer; for a participation of him is attained only by faith. He is communicated to infants in a peculiar way; for they have by covenant the right of adoption, by which they pass over Edition: current; Page: [211] unto a participation of Christ.1 Of the children of the godly I speak, to whom the promise of grace is addressed; for others are by no means exempted from the common lot.

18. Therefore, as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.

18. Itaque quemadmodum, per unius delictum, in omnes homines in condemnationem; sic et per unius justificationem, in omnes homines in justificationem vitæ.

18. Therefore, &c. This is a defective sentence; it will be complete if the words condemnation and justification be read in the nominative case; as doubtless you must do in order to complete the sense. We have here the general conclusion from the preceding comparison; for, omitting the mention of the intervening explanation, he now completes the comparison, “As by the offence of one we were made (constituti) sinners; so the righteousness of Christ is efficacious to justify us.” He does not say the righteousness—δικαιοσύνην, but the justification—δικαίωμα,2 of Christ, in order to remind us that he was not as an individual just for himself, but that the righteousness with which he was endued reached farther, in order that, by conferring this gift, he might enrich the faithful. He makes this favour common to all, because it is propounded to all, and not because it is in reality extended to all; for though Christ suffered for the sins of the whole world, and is offered through God’s benignity indiscriminately to all, yet all do not receive him.3

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These two words, which he had before used, judgment and grace, may be also introduced here in this form, “As it was through God’s judgment that the sin of one issued in the condemnation of many, so grace will be efficacious to the justification of many.” Justification of life is to be taken, in my judgment, for remission, which restores life to us, as though he called it life-giving.1 For whence comes the hope of salvation, except that God is propitious to us; and we must be just, in order to be accepted. Then life proceeds from justification.2

19. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners; so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.

19. Quemadmodum enim per disobedientiam unius hominis peccatores constituti sunt multi; sic et per obedientiam unius justi constituentur multi.

This is no tautology, but a necessary explanation of the former verse. For he shows that we are guilty through the offence of one man, in such a manner as not to be ourselves innocent. He had said before, that we are condemned; but that no one might claim for himself innocency, he also subjoined, that every one is condemned because he is a sinner. And then, as he declares that we are made righteous through the obedience of Christ, we hence conclude that Christ, in satisfying the Father, has provided a righteousness for us. Edition: current; Page: [213] It then follows, that righteousness is in Christ, and that it is to be received by us as what peculiarly belongs to him. He at the same time shows what sort of righteousness it is, by calling it obedience. And here let us especially observe what we must bring into God’s presence, if we seek to be justified by works, even obedience to the law, not to this or to that part, but in every respect perfect; for when a just man falls, all his former righteousness will not be remembered. We may also hence learn, how false are the schemes which they take to pacify God, who of themselves devise what they obtrude on him. For then only we truly worship him when we follow what he has commanded us, and render obedience to his word. Away then with those who confidently lay claim to the righteousness of works, which cannot otherwise exist than when there is a full and complete observance of the law; and it is certain that this is nowhere to be found. We also learn, that they are madly foolish who vaunt before God of works invented by themselves, which he regards as the filthiest things; for obedience is better than sacrifices.

20. Moreover, the law entered, that the offence might abound:1 but where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:

21. That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.

20. Lex verò intervenit, ut abundaret delictum; ubi verò abundavit delictum, superabundavit et gratia:

21. Quò, sicut regnavit peccatum per mortem, sic et gratia regnet per justitiam in vitam æternam per Iesum Christum Dominum nostrum.

20. But the law intervened, &c. This subject depends on what he had said before,—that there was sin before the law was published. This being the case, then follows immediately this question—For what purpose was the law given? It was therefore necessary to solve this difficulty; but as a longer digression was not suitable, he deferred the subject Edition: current; Page: [214] and handled it in another place: and now by the way he only says, that the law entered,1 that sin might abound; for he describes not here the whole office and use of the law, but only touches on one part, which served his present purpose. He indeed teaches us, that it was needful that men’s ruin should be more fully discovered to them, in order that a passage might be opened for the favour of God. They were indeed shipwrecked before the law was given; as however they seemed to themselves to swim, while in their destruction, they were thrust down into the deep, that their deliverance might appear more evident, when they thence emerge beyond all human expectation. Nor was it unreasonable, that the law should be partly introduced for this end—that it might again condemn men already condemned; for nothing is more reasonable than that men should, through all means be brought, nay, forced, by being proved guilty, to know their own evils.

That offence might abound, &c. It is well known how some, following Augustine, usually explain this passage,—that lust is irritated the more, while it is checked by the restraints of the law; for it is man’s nature to strive for what is forbidden. But I understand no other increase to be intended here than that of knowledge and of obstinacy; for sin is set by the law before the eyes of man, that he may be continually forced to see that condemnation is prepared for him. Thus sin disturbs the conscience, which, when cast Edition: current; Page: [215] behind them, men forget. And farther, he who before only passed over the bounds of justice, becomes now, when the law is introduced, a despiser of God’s authority, since the will of God is made known to him, which he now wantonly tramples under feet. It hence follows, that sin is increased by the law, since now the authority of the lawgiver is despised and his majesty degraded.1

Grace has superabounded. After sin has held men sunk in ruin, grace then comes to their help: for he teaches us, that the abundance of grace becomes for this reason more illustrious,—that while sin is overflowing, it pours itself forth so exuberantly, that it not only overcomes the flood of sin, but wholly absorbs it.2 And we may hence learn, that our condemnation is not set before us in the law, that we may abide in it; but that having fully known our misery, we may be led to Christ, who is sent to be a physician to the sick, a deliverer to the captives, a comforter to the afflicted, a defender to the oppressed. (Is. lxi. 1.)

21. That as sin has reigned, &c. As sin is said to be the sting of death, and as death has no power over men, except on account of sin; so sin executes its power by death: it is hence said to exercise thereby its dominion. In the last clause the order of the words is deranged, but yet not without reason. The simple contrast might have been thus formed,—“That righteousness may reign through Christ.” But Paul was not content to oppose what is contrary to what is contrary, but adds the word grace, that he might more deeply print this truth on the memory—that the whole is to be ascribed, not to our merit, but to the kindness of Edition: current; Page: [216] God.1 He had previously said, that death reigned; he now ascribes reigning to sin; but its end or effect is death. And he says, that it has reigned, in the past tense; not that it has ceased to reign in those who are born only of flesh, and he thus distinguishes between Adam and Christ, and assigns to each his own time. Hence as soon as the grace of Christ begins to prevail in any one, the reign of sin and death ceases.2

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CHAPTER VI.

1. What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?

2. God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?

1. Quid ergo dicemus? manebimus in peccato, ut gratia abundet?

2. Ne sit ita: qui mortui sumus peccato, quomodo adhuc vivemus in eo?

1. What then shall we say? Throughout this chapter the Apostle proves, that they who imagine that gratuitous righteousness is given us by him, apart from newness of life, shamefully rend Christ asunder: nay, he goes further, and refers to this objection,—that there seems in this case to be an opportunity for the display of grace, if men continued Edition: current; Page: [218] fixed in sin. We indeed know that nothing is more natural than that the flesh should indulge itself under any excuse, and also that Satan should invent all kinds of slander, in order to discredit the doctrine of grace; which to him is by no means difficult. For since everything that is announced concerning Christ seems very paradoxical to human judgment, it ought not to be deemed a new thing, that the flesh, hearing of justification by faith, should so often strike, as it were, against so many stumbling-stones. Let us, however, go on in our course; nor let Christ be suppressed, because he is to many a stone of offence, and a rock of stumbling; for as he is for ruin to the ungodly, so he is to the godly for a resurrection. We ought, at the same time, ever to obviate unreasonable questions, lest the Christian faith should appear to contain anything absurd.

The Apostle now takes notice of that most common objection against the preaching of divine grace, which is this,—“That if it be true, that the more bountifully and abundantly will the grace of God aid us, the more completely we are overwhelmed with the mass of sin; then nothing is better for us than to be sunk into the depth of sin, and often to provoke God’s wrath with new offences; for then at length we shall find more abounding grace; than which nothing better can be desired.” The refutation of this we shall hereafter meet with.

2. By no means. To some the Apostle seems to have only intended indignantly to reprove a madness so outrageous; but it appears from other places that he commonly used an answer of this kind, even while carrying on a long argument; as indeed he does here, for he proceeds carefully to disprove the propounded slander. He, however, first rejects it by an indignant negative, in order to impress it on the minds of his readers, that nothing can be more inconsistent than that the grace of Christ, the repairer of our righteousness, should nourish our vices.

Who have died to sin, &c. An argument derived from what is of an opposite character. “He who sins certainly lives to sin; we have died to sin through the grace of Christ; then it is false, that what abolishes sin gives vigour to it.” Edition: current; Page: [219] The state of the case is really this,—that the faithful are never reconciled to God without the gift of regeneration; nay, we are for this end justified,—that we may afterwards serve God in holiness of life. Christ indeed does not cleanse us by his blood, nor render God propitious to us by his expiation, in any other way than by making us partakers of his Spirit, who renews us to a holy life. It would then be a most strange inversion of the work of God were sin to gather strength on account of the grace which is offered to us in Christ; for medicine is not a feeder of the disease, which it destroys.1 We must further bear in mind, what I have already referred to—that Paul does not state here what God finds us to be, when he calls us to an union with his Son, but what it behoves us to be, after he has had mercy on us, and has freely adopted us; for by an adverb, denoting a future time, he shows what kind of change ought to follow righteousness.

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3. Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?

4. Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

3. Num ignoratis quòd quicunque baptizati sumus in Christum, in mortem ejus baptizati sumus?

4. Consepulti ergo sumus ei per baptismum in mortem; ut quemadmodum suscitatus est Christus ex mortuis per gloriam Patris, sic et nos in novitate vitæ ambulemus.

3. Know ye not, &c. What he intimated in the last verse—that Christ destroys sin in his people, he proves here by mentioning the effect of baptism, by which we are initiated into his faith; for it is beyond any question, that we put on Christ in baptism, and that we are baptized for this end—that we may be one with him. But Paul takes up another principle—that we are then really united to the body of Christ, when his death brings forth in us its fruit; yea, he teaches us, that this fellowship as to death is what is to be mainly regarded in baptism; for not washing alone is set forth in it, but also the putting to death and the dying of the old man. It is hence evident, that when we become partakers of the grace of Christ, immediately the efficacy of his death appears. But the benefit of this fellowship as to the death of Christ is described in what follows.1

4. We have then been buried with him, &c. He now begins to indicate the object of our having been baptized into Edition: current; Page: [221] the death of Christ, though he does not yet completely unfold it; and the object is—that we, being dead to ourselves, may become new creatures. He rightly makes a transition from a fellowship in death to a fellowship in life; for these two things are connected together by an indissoluble knot—that the old man is destroyed by the death of Christ, and that his resurrection brings righteousness, and renders us new creatures. And surely, since Christ has been given to us for life, to what purpose is it that we die with him except that we may rise to a better life? And hence for no other reason does he slay what is mortal in us, but that he may give us life again.

Let us know, that the Apostle does not simply exhort us to imitate Christ, as though he had said that the death of Christ is a pattern which all Christians are to follow; for no doubt he ascends higher, as he announces a doctrine, with which he connects, as it is evident, an exhortation; and his doctrine is this—that the death of Christ is efficacious to destroy and demolish the depravity of our flesh, and his resurrection, to effect the renovation of a better nature, and that by baptism we are admitted into a participation of this grace. This foundation being laid, Christians may very suitably be exhorted to strive to respond to their calling. Farther, it is not to the point to say, that this power is not apparent in all the baptized; for Paul, according to his usual manner, where he speaks of the faithful, connects the reality and the effect with the outward sign; for we know that whatever the Lord offers by the visible symbol is confirmed and ratified by their faith. In short, he teaches what is the real character of baptism when rightly received. So he testifies to the Galatians, that all who have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ. (Gal. iii. 27.) Thus indeed must we speak, as long as the institution of the Lord and the faith of the godly unite together; for we never have naked and empty symbols, except when our ingratitude and wickedness hinder the working of divine beneficence.1

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By the glory of the Father, that is, by that illustrious power by which he exhibited himself as really glorious, and as it were manifested the greatness of his glory. Thus often is the power of God, which was exercised in the resurrection of Christ, set forth in Scripture in sublime terms, and not without reason; for it is of great importance, that by so explicit a record of the ineffable power of God, not only faith in the last resurrection, which far exceeds the perception of the flesh, but also as to other benefits which we receive from the resurrection of Christ, should be highly commended to us.1

5. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:

6. Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.

5. Nam si insititii facti sumus similitudini mortis ejus, nimirum et resurrectionis participes erimus:

6. Illud scientes, quòd vetus noster homo simul cum ipso crucifixus est, ut aboleretur corpus peccati, ut non ultrà serviamus peccato.

5. For if we have been ingrafted, &c. He strengthens in plainer words the argument he has already stated; for the similitude which he mentions leaves now nothing doubtful, inasmuch as grafting designates not only a conformity of example, but a secret union, by which we are joined to him; so that he, reviving us by his Spirit, transfers his own virtue to us. Hence as the graft has the same life or death in common with the tree into which it is ingrafted, so it is Edition: current; Page: [223] reasonable that we should be partakers of the life no less than of the death of Christ; for if we are ingrafted according to the likeness of Christ’s death, which was not without a resurrection, then our death shall not be without a resurrection. But the words admit of a twofold explanation,—either that we are ingrafted in Christ into the likeness of his death, or, that we are simply ingrafted in its likeness. The first reading would require the Greek dative ὁμοιώματι, to be understood as pointing out the manner; nor do I deny but that it has a fuller meaning: but as the other harmonizes more with simplicity of expression, I have preferred it; though it signifies but little, as both come to the same meaning. Chrysostom thought that Paul used the expression, “likeness of death,” for death, as he says in another place, “being made in the likeness of men.” But it seems to me that there is something more significant in the expression; for it not only serves to intimate a resurrection, but it seems also to indicate this—that we die not like Christ a natural death, but that there is a similarity between our and his death; for as he by death died in the flesh, which he had assumed from us, so we also die in ourselves, that we may live in him. It is not then the same, but a similar death; for we are to notice the connection between the death of our present life and spiritual renovation.

Ingrafted, &c. There is great force in this word, and it clearly shows, that the Apostle does not exhort, but rather teach us what benefit we derive from Christ; for he requires nothing from us, which is to be done by our attention and diligence, but speaks of the grafting made by the hand of God. But there is no reason why you should seek to apply the metaphor or comparison in every particular; for between the grafting of trees, and this which is spiritual, a disparity will soon meet us: in the former the graft draws its aliment from the root, but retains its own nature in the fruit; but in the latter not only we derive the vigour and nourishment of life from Christ, but we also pass from our own to his nature. The Apostle, however, meant to express nothing else but the efficacy of the death of Christ, which manifests itself in putting to death our flesh, and also the efficacy Edition: current; Page: [224] of his resurrection, in renewing within us a spiritual nature.1

6. That our old man, &c. The old man, as the Old Testament is so called with reference to the New; for he begins to be old, when he is by degrees destroyed by a commencing regeneration. But what he means is the whole nature which we bring from the womb, and which is so incapable of the kingdom of God, that it must so far die as we are renewed to real life. This old man, he says, is fastened to the cross of Christ, for by its power he is slain: and he expressly referred to the cross, that he might more distinctly show, that we cannot be otherwise put to death than by partaking of his death. For I do not agree with those who think that he used the word crucified, rather than dead, because he still lives, and is in some respects vigorous. It is indeed a correct sentiment, but not suitable to this passage. The body of sin, which he afterwards mentions, Edition: current; Page: [225] does not mean flesh and bones, but the corrupted mass; for man, left to his own nature, is a mass made up of sin.1

He points out the end for which this destruction is effected, when he says, so that we may no longer serve sin. It hence follows, that as long as we are children of Adam, and nothing more than men, we are so in bondage to sin, that we can do nothing else but sin; but that being grafted in Christ, we are delivered from this miserable thraldom; not that we immediately cease entirely to sin, but that we become at last victorious in the contest.

7. For he that is dead is freed from sin.

8. Now, if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him:

9. Knowing that Christ, being raised from the dead, dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.

10. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.

11. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

7. Qui enim mortuus est, justificatus est à peccato.

8. Si verò mortui sumus cum Christo, credimus quòd et vivemus cum eo;

9. Scientes quòd Christus suscitatus ex mortuis, ampliùs non moritur, mors illi ampliùs non dominatur:

10. Quòd enim mortuus est, peccato mortuus est semel; quòd autem vivit, vivit Deo.

11. Sic et ipsi æstimate vosmet esse mortuos quidem peccato, viventes autem Deo in Christo Iesu Domino nostro.

7. For he who has died, &c. This is an argument derived from what belongs to death or from its effect. For if death destroys all the actions of life, we who have died to sin ought to cease from those actions which it exercised during its life. Take justified for freed or reclaimed from bondage; for as he is freed from the bond of a charge, who is absolved Edition: current; Page: [226] by the sentence of a judge; so death, by freeing us from this life, sets us free from all its functions.1

But though among men there is found no such example, there is yet no reason why you should think, that what is said here is a vain speculation, or despond in your minds, because you find not yourselves to be of the number of those who have wholly crucified the flesh; for this work of God is not completed in the day in which it is begun in us; but it gradually goes on, and by daily advances is brought by degrees to its end. So then take this as the sum of the whole,—“If thou art a Christian, there must appear in thee an evidence of a fellowship as to the death of Christ; the fruit of which is, that thy flesh is crucified together with all its lusts; but this fellowship is not to be considered as not existing, because thou findest that the relics of the flesh still live in thee; but its increase ought to be diligently laboured for, until thou arrivest at the goal.” It is indeed well with us, if our flesh is continually mortified; nor is it a small attainment, when the reigning power, being taken away from it, is wielded by the Holy Spirit. There is another fellowship as to the death of Christ, of which the Apostle often speaks, as he does in 2 Cor. iv., that is, the bearing of the cross, which is followed by a joint-participation also of eternal life.

8. But if we have died, &c. He repeats this for no other end but that he might subjoin the explanation which follows, that Christ, having once risen, dies no more. And Edition: current; Page: [227] hereby he teaches us that newness of life is to be pursued by Christians as long as they live; for since they ought to represent in themselves an image of Christ, both by crucifying the flesh and by a spiritual life, it is necessary that the former should be done once for all, and that the latter should be carried on continually: not that the flesh, as we have already said, dies in us in a moment, but that we ought not to retrograde in the work of crucifying it. For if we roll again in our own filth, we deny Christ; of whom we cannot be the participators except through newness of life, inasmuch as he lives an incorruptible life.

9. Death no more rules over him, &c. He seems to imply that death once ruled over Christ; and indeed when he gave himself up to death for us, he in a manner surrendered and subjected himself to its power; it was however in such a way that it was impossible that he should be kept bound by its pangs, so as to succumb to or to be swallowed up by them. He, therefore, by submitting to its dominion, as it were, for a moment, destroyed it for ever. Yet, to speak more simply, the dominion of death is to be referred to the state of death voluntarily undergone, which the resurrection terminated. The meaning is, that Christ, who now vivifies the faithful by his Spirit, or breathes his own life into them by his secret power from heaven, was freed from the dominion of death when he arose, that by virtue of the same dominion he might render free all his people.

10. He died once to sin, &c. What he had said—that we, according to the example of Christ, are for ever freed from the yoke of death, he now applies to his present purpose, and that is this—that we are no more subject to the tyranny of sin, and this he proves from the designed object of Christ’s death; for he died that he might destroy sin.

But we must observe what is suitable to Christ in this form of expression; for he is not said to die to sin, so as to cease from it, as the words must be taken when applied to us, but that he underwent death on account of sin, that having made himself ἀντίλυτρον, a ransom, he might annihilate the power and dominion of sin.1 And he says that he Edition: current; Page: [228] died once, not only because he has by having obtained eternal redemption by one offering, and by having made an expiation for sin by his blood, sanctified the faithful for ever; but also in order that a mutual likeness may exist between us. For though spiritual death makes continual advances in us, we are yet said properly to die only once, that is, when Christ, reconciling us by his blood to the Father, regenerates us at the same time by the power of his Spirit.

But that he lives, &c. Whether you add with or in God, it comes to the same meaning; for he shows that Christ lives a life subject to no mortality in the immortal and incorruptible kingdom of God; a type of which ought to appear in the regeneration of the godly. We must here remember the particle of likeness, so; for he says not that we shall now live in heaven, as Christ lives there; but he makes the new life, which after regeneration we live on earth, similar to his celestial life. When he says that we ought to die to sin, according to his example, we are not to suppose it to be the same kind of death; for we die to sin, when sin dies in us, but it was otherwise with Christ; by dying it was that he conquered sin. But he had just said before, that we believe that we shall have life in common with him, he fully shows by the word believing that he speaks of the grace of Christ: for if he only reminded us of a duty, his mode of speaking would have been this, “Since we die with Christ, we ought also to live with him.” But the word believing denotes that he treats here of doctrine which is based on the promises; as though he had said, that the faithful ought to feel assured that they are through the kindness of Christ dead as to the flesh, and that the same Christ will preserve them in newness of life to the end. Edition: current; Page: [229] But the future time of the verb live, refers not to the last resurrection, but simply denotes the continued course of a new life, as long as we peregrinate on the earth.

11. So count ye also yourselves, &c. Now is added a definition of that analogy to which I have referred. For having stated that Christ once died to sin and lives for ever to God, he now, applying both to us, reminds us how we now die while living, that is, when we renounce sin. But he omits not the other part, that is, how we are to live after having by faith received the grace of Christ: for though the mortifying of the flesh is only begun in us, yet the life of sin is destroyed, so that afterwards spiritual newness, which is divine, continues perpetually. For except Christ were to slay sin in us at once to the end, his grace would by no means be sure and durable.

The meaning, then, of the words may be thus expressed, “Take this view of your case,—that as Christ once died for the purpose of destroying sin, so you have once died, that in future you may cease from sin; yea, you must daily proceed with that work of mortifying, which is begun in you, till sin be wholly destroyed: as Christ is raised to an incorruptible life, so you are regenerated by the grace of God, that you may lead a life of holiness and righteousness, inasmuch as the power of the Holy Spirit, by which ye have been renewed, is eternal, and shall ever continue the same.” But I prefer to retain the words of Paul, in Christ Jesus, rather than to translate with Erasmus, through Christ Jesus; for thus the grafting, which makes us one with Christ, is better expressed.

12. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof:

13. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.

12. Ne ergo regnet peccatum in mortali vestro corpore, ut illi obediatis in cupiditatibus suis:

13. Neque exhibeatis membra vestra arma injustitiæ peccato; sed exhibeatis vosmetipsos Deo, tanquam ex mortuis viventes, et membra vestra arma justitiæ Deo.

12. Let not sin then, &c. He now begins with exhortation, which naturally arises from the doctrine which he had delivered Edition: current; Page: [230] respecting our fellowship with Christ. Though sin dwells in us, it is inconsistent that it should be so vigorous as to exercise its reigning power; for the power of sanctification ought to be superior to it, so that our life may testify that we are really the members of Christ.

I have already reminded you that the word body is not to be taken for flesh, and skin, and bones, but, so to speak, for the whole of what man is.1 This may undoubtedly be inferred from the passage; for the other clause, which he immediately subjoins respecting the members of the body, includes the soul also: and thus in a disparaging manner does Paul designate earthly man, for owing to the corruption of our nature we aspire to nothing worthy of our original. So also does God say in Gen. vi. 3; where he complains that man was become flesh like the brute animals, and thus allows him nothing but what is earthly. To the same purpose is the declaration of Christ, “What is born of the flesh is flesh.” (John iii. 6.) But if any makes this objection—that the case with the soul is different; to this the ready answer is—that in our present degenerate state our souls are fixed to the earth, and so enslaved to our bodies, that they have fallen from their own superiority. In a word, the nature of man is said to be corporeal, because he is destitute of celestial grace, and is only a sort of empty shadow or image. We may add, that the body, by way of contempt, is said by Paul to be mortal, and this to teach us, that the whole nature of man tends to death and ruin. Still further, he gives the name of sin to the original depravity which dwells in our hearts, and which leads us to sin, and from which indeed all evil deeds and abominations stream forth. In the middle, between sin and us, he places lusts, as the Edition: current; Page: [231] former has the office of a king, while lusts are its edicts and commands.

13. Nor present your members, &c. When once sin has obtained dominion in our soul, all our faculties are continually applied to its service. He therefore describes here the reign of sin by what follows it, that he might more clearly show what must be done by us, if we would shake off its yoke. But he borrows a similitude from the military office, when he calls our members weapons or arms (arma);1 as though he said, “As the soldier has ever his arms ready, that he may use them whenever he is ordered by his general, and as he never uses them but at his command; so Christians ought to regard all their faculties to be the weapons of the spiritual warfare: if then they employ any of their members in the indulgence of depravity, they are in the service of sin. But they have made the oath of soldiers to God and to Christ, and by this they are held bound: it hence behoves them to be far away from any intercourse with the camps of sin.”—Those may also here see by what right they proudly lay claim to the Christian name, who have all their members, as though they were the prostitutes of Satan, prepared to commit every kind of abomination.

On the other hand, he now bids us to present ourselves wholly to God, so that restraining our minds and hearts from all wanderings into which the lusts of the flesh may draw us, we may regard the will of God alone, being ready to receive his commands, and prepared to execute his orders; and that our members also may be devoted and consecrated to his will, so that all the faculties both of our souls and of our bodies may aspire after nothing but his glory. The reason for this is also added—that the Lord, having destroyed our former life, has not in vain created us for another, which ought to be accompanied with suitable actions.

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14. For sin shall not have dominion over you:1 for ye are not under the law, but under grace.

15. What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.

16. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?

17. But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin; but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.

18. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.

14. Peccatum enim vobis non dominabitur, non enim estis sub Lege, sed sub gratiâ.

15. Quid ergo? peccabimus, quia non sumus sub Lege, sed sub gratiâ? Absit:

16. Nescitis quòd cui exhibuistis vos servos in obedientiam, ejus servi estis cui obeditis, sive peccati in mortem, sive obedientiæ in justitiam?

17. Gratia autem Deo, quòd fuistis servi peccati, obedistis verò ex animo typo doctrinæ in quem traducti estis:

18. Manumissi verò peccato, servi facti estis justitiæ.

14. For sin shall not rule over you, &c. It is not necessary to continue long in repeating and confuting expositions, which have little or no appearance of truth. There is one which has more probability in its favour than the rest, and it is this—that by law we are to understand the letter of the law, which cannot renovate the soul, and by grace, the grace of the Spirit, by which we are freed from depraved lusts. But this I do not wholly approve of; for if we take this meaning, what is the object of the question which immediately follows, “Shall we sin because we are not under the law?” Certainly the Apostle would never have put this question, had he not understood, that we are freed from the strictness of the law, so that God no more deals with us according to the high demands of justice. There is then no doubt but that he meant here to indicate some freedom from the very law of God. But laying aside controversy, I will briefly explain my view.

It seems to me, that there is here especially a consolation offered, by which the faithful are to be strengthened, lest they should faint in their efforts after holiness, through a Edition: current; Page: [233] consciousness of their own weakness. He had exhorted them to devote all their faculties to the service of righteousness; but as they carry about them the relics of the flesh, they cannot do otherwise than walk somewhat lamely. Hence, lest being broken down by a consciousness of their infirmity they should despond, he seasonably comes to their aid, by interposing a consolation, derived from this circumstance—that their works are not now tested by the strict rule of the law, but that God, remitting their impurity, does kindly and mercifully accept them. The yoke of the law cannot do otherwise than tear and bruise those who carry it. It hence follows, that the faithful must flee to Christ, and implore him to be the defender of their freedom: and as such he exhibits himself; for he underwent the bondage of the law, to which he was himself no debtor, for this end—that he might, as the Apostle says, redeem those who were under the law.

Hence, not to be under the law means, not only that we are not under the letter which prescribes what involves us in guilt, as we are not able to perform it, but also that we are no longer subject to the law, as requiring perfect righteousness, and pronouncing death on all who deviate from it in any part. In like manner, by the word grace, we are to understand both parts of redemption—the remission of sins, by which God imputes righteousness to us,—and the sanctification of the Spirit, by whom he forms us anew unto good works. The adversative particle, [ἀλλὰ, but,] I take in the sense of alleging a reason, which is not unfrequently the case; as though it was said—“We who are under grace, are not therefore under the law.”

The sense now is clear; for the Apostle intended to comfort us, lest we should be wearied in our minds, while striving to do what is right, because we still find in ourselves many imperfections. For how much soever we may be harassed by the stings of sin, it cannot yet overcome us, for we are enabled to conquer it by the Spirit of God; and then, being under grace, we are freed from the rigorous requirements of the law. We must further understand, that the Apostle assumes it as granted, that all who are without Edition: current; Page: [234] the grace of God, being bound under the yoke of the law, are under condemnation. And so we may on the other hand conclude, that as long as they are under the law, they are subject to the dominion of sin.1

15. What then? As the wisdom of the flesh is ever clamorous against the mysteries of God, it was necessary for the Apostle to subjoin what might anticipate an objection: for since the law is the rule of life, and has been given to guide men, we think that when it is removed all discipline immediately falls to the ground, that restraints are taken away, in a word, that there remains no distinction or difference between good and evil. But we are much deceived if we think, that the righteousness which God approves of in his law is abolished, when the law is abrogated; for the abrogation is by no means to be applied to the precepts which teach the right way of living, as Christ confirms and sanctions these and does not abrogate them; but the right view is, that nothing is taken away but the curse, to which all men without grace are subject. But though Paul does not distinctly express this, yet he indirectly intimates it.

16. By no means: know ye not? This is not a bare denial as some think, as though he preferred to express his abhorrence of such a question rather than to disprove it: for a confutation immediately follows, derived from a contrary supposition, and to this purpose, “Between the yoke of Christ and that of sin there is so much contrariety, that no one can bear them both; if we sin, we give ourselves up to the service of sin; but the faithful, on the contrary, have been redeemed from the tyranny of sin, that they may serve Christ: it is therefore impossible for them to remain bound to sin.” But it will be better to examine more closely the course of reasoning, as pursued by Paul.

To whom we obey, &c. This relative may be taken in a causative sense, as it often is; as when one says,—there is no kind of crime which a parricide will not do, who has not Edition: current; Page: [235] hesitated to commit the greatest crime of all, and so barbarous as to be almost abhorred even by wild beasts. And Paul adduces his reason partly from the effects, and partly from the nature of correlatives. For first, if they obey, he concludes that they are servants, for obedience proves that he, who thus brings one into subjection to himself, has the power of commanding. This reason as to service is from the effect, and from this the other arises. “If you be servants, then of course sin has the dominion.”

Or of obedience, &c. The language is not strictly correct; for if he wished to have the clauses correspondent, he would have said, “or of righteousness unto life.”1 But as the change in the words does not prevent the understanding of the subject, he preferred to express what righteousness is by the word obedience; in which however there is a metonymy, for it is to be taken for the very commandments of God; and by mentioning this without addition, he intimated that it is God alone, to whose authority consciences ought to be subject. Obedience then, though the name of God is suppressed, is yet to be referred to him, for it cannot be a divided obedience.

17. But thanks be to God, &c. This is an application of the similitude of the present subject. Though they were only to be reminded that they were not now the servants of Edition: current; Page: [236] sin, he yet adds a thanksgiving; first, that he might teach them, that this was not through their own merit, but through the special mercy of God; and secondly, that by this thanksgiving, they might learn how great was the kindness of God, and that they might thereby be more stimulated to hate sin. And he gives thanks, not as to that time during which they were the servants of sin, but for the liberation which followed, when they ceased to be what they were before. But this implied comparison between their former and present state is very emphatical; for the Apostle touches the calumniators of the grace of Christ, when he shows, that without grace the whole race of man is held captive under the dominion of sin; but that the kingdom of sin comes to an end, as soon as grace puts forth its power.1

We may hence learn, that we are not freed from the bondage of the law that we may sin; for the law does not lose its dominion, until the grace of God restores us to him, in order to renew us in righteousness: and it is hence impossible that we should be subject to sin, when the grace of God reigns in us: for we have before stated, that under this term grace, is included the spirit of regeneration.

You have obeyed from the heart, &c. Paul compares here the hidden power of the Spirit with the external letter of the law, as though he had said, “Christ inwardly forms our souls in a better way, than when the law constrains them by threatening and terrifying us.” Thus is dissipated the following calumny, “If Christ frees us from subjection to the law, he brings liberty to sin.” He does not indeed allow his people unbridled freedom, that they might frisk about without any restraint, like horses let loose in the fields; but he brings them to a regular course of life.—Though Erasmus, following the old version, has chosen to Edition: current; Page: [237] translate it the “form” (formam) of doctrine, I have felt constrained to retain type, the word which Paul uses: some may perhaps prefer the word pattern.1 It seems indeed to me to denote the formed image or impress of that righteousness which Christ engraves on our hearts: and this corresponds with the prescribed rule of the law, according to which all our actions ought to be framed, so that they deviate not either to the right or to the left hand.

18. And having been made free from sin, &c. The meaning is, “It is unreasonable that any one, after having been made free, should continue in a state of bondage; for he ought to maintain the freedom which he has received: it is not then befitting, that you should be brought again under the dominion of sin, from which you have been set at liberty by Christ.” It is an argument derived from the efficient cause; another also follows, taken from the final cause, “Ye have been liberated from the bondage of sin, that ye might pass into the kingdom of righteousness; it is hence right that you should wholly turn away from sin, and turn your minds wholly to righteousness, into the service of which you have been transferred.”

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It must be observed, that no one can be a servant to righteousness except he is first liberated by the power and kindness of God from the tyranny of sin. So Christ himself testifies, “If the Son shall free you, you shall be free indeed.” (John viii. 36.) What are then our preparations by the power of free will, since the commencement of what is good proceeds from this manumission, which the grace of God alone effects?

19. I speak after the manner of men, because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness, and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.

19. Humanum dico propter infirmitatem carnis vestræ, quemadmodum exhibuistis membra vestra serva immunditiæ et iniquitati in iniquitatem, sic et nunc exhibite membra vestra serva justitiæ in sanctificationem.

19. I speak what is human, &c. He says that he speaks after the manner of men, not as to the substance but as to the manner. So Christ says, in John iii. 12, that he announced earthly things, while yet he spoke of heavenly mysteries, though not so magnificently as the dignity of the things required, because he accommodated himself to the capacities of a people ignorant and simple. And thus the Apostle says, by way of preface, that he might more fully show how gross and wicked is the calumny, when it is imagined, that the freedom obtained by Christ gives liberty to sin. He reminds the faithful at the same time, that nothing is more unreasonable, nay, base and disgraceful, than that the spiritual grace of Christ should have less influence over them than earthly freedom; as though he had said, “I might, by comparing sin and righteousness, show how much more ardently ye ought to be led to render obedience to the latter, than to serve the former; but from regard to your infirmity I omit this comparison: nevertheless, though I treat you with great indulgence, I may yet surely make this just demand—that you should not at least obey righteousness more coldly or negligently than you served sin.” It is a sort of reticence or silence, a withholding of something when we wish more to be understood than what we express. He does yet exhort them to render obedience Edition: current; Page: [239] to righteousness with so much more diligence, as that which they served is more worthy than sin, though he seems not to require this in so many words.1

As ye have presented, &c.; that is, “As ye were formerly ready with all your faculties to serve sin, it is hence sufficiently evident how wretchedly enslaved and bound did your depravity hold you to itself: now then ye ought to be equally prompt and ready to execute the commands of God; let not your activity in doing good be now less than it was formerly in doing evil.” He does not indeed observe the same order in the antithesis, by adapting different parts to each other, as he does in 1 Thess. iv. 7, where he sets uncleanness in opposition to holiness; but the meaning is still evident.

He mentions first two kinds—uncleanness and iniquity; the former of which is opposed to chastity and holiness, the other refers to injuries hurtful to our neighbour. But he repeats iniquity twice, and in a different sense: by the first he means plunders, frauds, perjuries, and every kind of wrong; by the second, the universal corruption of life, as though he had said, “Ye have prostituted your members so as to perpetrate all wicked works, and thus the kingdom of iniquity became strong in you.”2 By righteousness I understand the law or the rule of a holy life, the design of which Edition: current; Page: [240] is sanctification, as the case is when the faithful devote themselves to serve God in purity.

20. For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.

21. What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.

22. But now, being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.

23. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

20. Quando enim servi fuistis peccati, liberi fuistis justitiæ.

21. Quem ergo fructum habuistis tunc in iis, de quibus nunc erubescitis? siquidem finis eorum mors.

22. Nunc vero manumissi a peccato, Deo autem in servitutem addicti, habetis fructum vestrum in sanctificationem, finem vero vitam æternam.

23. Stipendia enim peccati, mors; donum vero Dei, vita æterna, in Christo Iesu Domino nostro.

20. For when ye were, &c. He still repeats the difference, which he had before mentioned, between the yoke of righteousness and that of sin; for these two things, sin and righteousness, are so contrary, that he who devotes himself to the one, necessarily departs from the other. And he thus represents both, that by viewing them apart we may see more clearly what is to be expected from each; for to set things thus apart enables us to understand better their distinctive character. He then sets sin on one side, and righteousness Edition: current; Page: [241] on the other; and having stated this distinction, he afterwards shows what results from each of them.

Let us then remember that the Apostle still reasons on the principle of contraries, and in this manner, “While ye were the servants of sin, ye were freed from righteousness; but now a change having taken place, it behoves you to serve righteousness; for you have been liberated from the yoke of sin. He calls those free from righteousness who are held by no bridle to obey righteousness. This is the liberty of the flesh, which so frees us from obedience to God, that it makes us slaves to the devil. Wretched then and accursed is this liberty, which with unbridled or rather mad frenzy, leads us exultingly to our destruction.

21. What fruit, then, &c. He could not more strikingly express what he intended than by appealing to their conscience, and by confessing shame as it were in their person. Indeed the godly, as soon as they begin to be illuminated by the Spirit of Christ and the preaching of the gospel, do freely acknowledge their past life, which they have lived without Christ, to have been worthy of condemnation; and so far are they from endeavouring to excuse it, that, on the contrary, they feel ashamed of themselves. Yea, further, they call to mind the remembrance of their own disgrace, that being thus ashamed, they may more truly and more readily be humbled before God.

Nor is what he says insignificant, Of which ye are now ashamed; for he intimates that we are possessed with extreme blind love for ourselves, when we are involved in the darkness of our sins, and think not that there is so much filth in us. The light of the Lord alone can open our eyes to behold the filthiness which lies hid in our flesh. He only then is imbued with the principles of Christian philosophy, who has well learnt to be really displeased with himself, and to be confounded with shame for his own wretchedness. He shows at last still more plainly from what was to follow, how much they ought to have been ashamed, that is, when they came to understand that they had been standing on the very precipice of death, and had been nigh destruction; yea, that they would have already Edition: current; Page: [242] entered the gates of death, had they not been reclaimed by God’s mercy.

22. Ye have your fruit unto holiness, &c. As he had before mentioned a twofold end of sin, so he does now as to righteousness. Sin in this life brings the torments of an accusing conscience, and in the next eternal death. We now gather the fruit of righteousness, even holiness; we hope in future to gain eternal life. These things, unless we are beyond measure stupid, ought to generate in our minds a hatred and horror of sin, and also a love and desire for righteousness. Some render τελος, “tribute” or reward, and not “end,” but not, as I think, according to the meaning of the Apostle; for though it is true that we bear the punishment of death on account of sin, yet this word is not suitable to the other clause, to which it is applied by Paul, inasmuch as life cannot be said to be the tribute or reward of righteousness.

23. For the wages of sin, &c. There are those who think that Paul, by comparing death to allowances of meat, (obsoniis,) points out in a disparaging manner the kind of wretched reward that is allotted to sinners, as this word is taken by the Greeks sometimes for portions allowed to soldiers. But he seems rather indirectly to condemn the blind appetites of those who are ruinously allured by the enticements of sin, as the fish are by the hook. It will however be more simple to render the word “wages,” for surely death is a sufficiently ample reward to the wicked. This verse is a conclusion to the former, and as it were an epilogue to it. He does not, however, in vain repeat the same thing again; but by doubling the terror, he intended to render sin an object of still greater hatred.

But the gift of God. They are mistaken who thus render the sentence, “Eternal life is the gift of God,” as though eternal life were the subject, and the gift of God the predicate; for this does not preserve the contrast. But as he has already taught us, that sin produces nothing but death; so now he subjoins, that this gift of God, even our justification and sanctification, brings to us the happiness of eternal life. Or, if you prefer, it may be thus stated,—“As the cause of Edition: current; Page: [243] death is sin, so righteousness, which we obtain through Christ, restores to us eternal life.”

It may however be hence inferred with certainty, that our salvation is altogether through the grace and mere beneficence of God. He might indeed have used other words—that the wages of righteousness is eternal life; and then the two clauses would correspond: but he knew that it is through God’s gift we obtain it, and not through our own merits; and that it is not one or a single gift; for being clothed with the righteousness of the Son, we are reconciled to God, and we are by the power of the Spirit renewed unto holiness. And he adds, in Christ Jesus, and for this reason, that he might call us away from every conceit respecting our own worthiness.

CHAPTER VII.

1. Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth?

2. For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband.

3. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.

4. Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.

1. Num ignoratis fratres (scientibus enim Legem loquor) quod Lex dominatur homini quamdiu vivit?

2. Nam viro subjecta mulier, viventi viro alligata est per Legem; quod si mortuus fuerit vir, soluta est a Lege viri.

3. Proinde vivente marito, si alteri viro conjuncta fuerit, adultera vocabitur: quod si mortuus fuerit vir, liberata est a Lege ne amplius sit adultera si alteri nupserit.

4. Itaque fratres mei, vos quoque mortui estis Legi per corpus Christi, ut posthac alterius sitis, ejus qui ex mortuis suscitatus est, ut fructificemus Deo.1

Though he had, in a brief manner, sufficiently explained the question respecting the abrogation of the law; yet as it Edition: current; Page: [244] was a difficult one, and might have given rise to many other questions, he now shows more at large how the law, with regard to us, is become abrogated; and then he sets forth what good is thereby done to us: for while it holds us separated from Christ and bound to itself, it can do nothing but condemn us. And lest any one should on this account blame the law itself, he takes up and confutes the objections of the flesh, and handles, in a striking manner, the great question respecting the use of the law.1

1. Know ye not, &c. Let the general proposition be, that the law was given to men for no other end but to regulate the present life, and that it belongs not to those who are dead: to this he afterwards subjoins this truth—that we are dead to it through the body of Christ. Some understand, that the dominion of the law continues so long to bind us as it remains in force. But as this view is rather obscure, and does not harmonize so well with the proposition which immediately follows, I prefer to follow those who regard what is said as referring to the life of man, and not to the law. The question has indeed a peculiar force, as it affirms the certainty of what is spoken; for it shows that it was not a thing new or unknown to any of them, but acknowledged equally by them all.

(For to those who know the law I speak.) This parenthesis is to be taken in the same sense with the question, as though he had said—that he knew that they were not so unskilful in the law as to entertain any doubt on the subject. And though both sentences might be understood of all laws, it is yet better to take them as referring to the law of God, which is the subject that is discussed. There are some who think that he ascribes knowledge of the law to the Romans, because Edition: current; Page: [245] the largest part of the world was under their power and government; but this is puerile: for he addressed in part the Jews or other strangers, and in part common and obscure individuals; nay, he mainly regarded the Jews, with whom he had to do respecting the abrogation of the law: and lest they should think that he was dealing captiously with them, he declares that he took up a common principle, known to them all, of which they could by no means be ignorant, who had from their childhood been brought up in the teaching of the law.

2. For a woman subject to a man, &c. He brings a similitude, by which he proves, that we are so loosed from the law, that it does not any longer, properly and by its own right, retain over us any authority: and though he could have proved this by other reasons, yet as the example of marriage was very suitable to illustrate the subject, he introduced this comparison instead of evidence to prove his point. But that no one may be puzzled, because the different parts of the comparison do not altogether correspond, we are to be reminded, that the Apostle designedly intended, by a little change, to avoid the invidiousness of a stronger expression. He might have said, in order to make the comparison complete, “A woman after the death of her husband is loosed from the bond of marriage: the law, which is in the place of a husband to us, is to us dead; then we are freed from its power.” But that he might not offend the Jews by the asperity of his expressions, had he said that the law was dead, he adopted a digression, and said, that we are dead to the law.1 To some indeed he appears to reason from Edition: current; Page: [246] the less to the greater: however, as I fear that this is too strained, I approve more of the first meaning, which is simpler. The whole argument then is formed in this manner, “The woman is bound to her living husband by the law, so that she cannot be the wife of another; but after the death of her husband she is loosed from the bond of his law, so that she is free to marry whom she pleases.”

Then follows the application,—

The law was, as it were our husband, under whose yoke we were kept until it became dead to us:

After the death of the law Christ received us, that is, he joined us, when loosed from the law, to himself:

Then being united to Christ risen from the dead, we ought to cleave to him alone:

And as the life of Christ after the resurrection is eternal, so hereafter there shall be no divorce.

But further, the word law is not mentioned here in every part in the same sense: for in one place it means the bond of marriage; in another, the authority of a husband over his wife; and in another, the law of Moses: but we must remember, that Paul refers here only to that office of the law which was peculiar to the dispensation of Moses; for as far as God has in the ten commandments taught what is just and right, and given directions for guiding our life, no abrogation of the law is to be dreamt of; for the will of God must stand the same forever. We ought carefully to remember that this is not a release from the righteousness which is taught in the law, but from its rigid requirements, and from the curse which thence follows. The law, then, as a rule of life, is not abrogated; but what belongs to it as opposed to the liberty obtained through Christ, that is, as it requires absolute perfection: for as we render not this perfection, it Edition: current; Page: [247] binds us under the sentence of eternal death. But as it was not his purpose to decide here the character of the bond of marriage, he was not anxious to mention the causes which release a woman from her husband. It is therefore unreasonable that anything decisive on this point should be sought here.

4. Through the body of Christ. Christ, by the glorious victory of the cross, first triumphed over sin; and that he might do this, it was necessary that the handwriting, by which we were held bound, should be cancelled. This handwriting was the law, which, while it continued in force, rendered us bound to serve1 sin; and hence it is called the power of sin. It was then by cancelling this handwriting that we were delivered through the body of Christ—through his body as fixed to the cross.2 But the Apostle goes farther, and says, that the bond of the law was destroyed; not that we may live according to our own will, like a widow, who lives as she pleases while single; but that we may be now bound to another husband; nay, that we may pass from hand to hand, as they say, that is, from the law to Christ. He at the same time softens the asperity of the expression, by saying that Christ, in order to join us to his own body, made us free from the yoke of the law. For though Christ subjected himself for a time of his own accord to the law, it is not yet right to say that the law ruled over him. Moreover, he conveys to his own members the liberty which he himself possesses. It is then no wonder that he exempts those from the yoke of the law, whom he unites by a sacred bond to himself, that they may be one body in him.

Even his who has been raised, &c. We have already said, that Christ is substituted for the law, lest any freedom should be pretended without him, or lest any, being not yet dead to the law, should dare to divorce himself from it. But he adopts here a periphrastic sentence to denote the eternity of that life which Christ attained by his resurrection, that Edition: current; Page: [248] Christians might know that this connection is to be perpetual. But of the spiritual marriage between Christ and his Church he speaks more fully in Eph. vi.

That we may bring forth fruit to God. He ever annexes the final cause, lest any should indulge the liberty of their flesh and their own lusts, under the pretence that Christ has delivered them from the bondage of the law; for he has offered us, together with himself, as a sacrifice to the Father, and he regenerates us for this end—that by newness of life we may bring forth fruit unto God: and we know that the fruits which our heavenly Father requires from us are those of holiness and righteousness. It is indeed no abatement to our liberty that we serve God; nay, if we desire to enjoy so great a benefit as there is in Christ, it will not henceforth be right in us to entertain any other thought but that of promoting the glory of God; for which purpose Christ has connected us with himself. We shall otherwise remain the bond-slaves, not only of the law, but also of sin and of death.

5. For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.

6. But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.

5. Quum enim essemus in carne, affectus peccatorum qui sunt per Legem, in membris nostris operabantur ad fructificandum morti:

6. Nunc verò soluti sumus a Lege, mortui ei in qua detinebamur; ut serviamus in novitate spiritus, et non in vetustate literæ.

5. For when we were, &c. He shows still more clearly by stating the contrary effect, how unreasonably the zealots of the law acted, who would still detain the faithful under its dominion; for as long as the literal teaching of the law, unconnected with the Spirit of Christ, rules and bears sway, the wantonness of the flesh is not restrained, but, on the contrary, breaks out and prevails. It hence follows, that the kingdom of righteousness is not established, except when Christ emancipates us from the law. Paul at the same time reminds us of the works which it becomes us to do, when set free from the law. As long, then, as man is kept under the yoke of the law, he can, as he is sinning continually, procure nothing for himself but death. Since bondage to the law Edition: current; Page: [249] produces sin only, then freedom, its opposite, must tend to righteousness; if the former leads to death, then the latter leads to life. But let us consider the very words of Paul.

In describing our condition during the time we were subject to the dominion of the law, he says, that we were in the flesh. We hence understand, that all those who are under the law attain nothing else but this—that their ears are struck by its external sound without any fruit or effect, while they are inwardly destitute of the Spirit of God. They must therefore necessarily remain altogether sinful and perverse, until a better remedy succeeds to heal their diseases. Observe also this usual phrase of Scripture, to be in the flesh; it means to be endued only with the gifts of nature, without that peculiar grace with which God favours his chosen people. But if this state of life is altogether sinful, it is evident that no part of our soul is naturally sound, and that the power of free will is no other than the power of casting evil emotions as darts into all the faculties of the soul.1

The emotions of sins,2 which are through the law, &c.; that is, the law excited in us evil emotions, which exerted their Edition: current; Page: [250] influence through all our faculties; for there is no part which is not subject to these depraved passions. What the law does, in the absence of the inward teacher, the Spirit, is increasingly to inflame our hearts, so that they boil up with lusts. But observe here, that the law is connected with the vicious nature of man, the perversity of which, and its lusts, break forth with greater fury, the more they are checked by the restraints of righteousness. He further adds, that as long as the emotions of the flesh were under the dominion of the law they brought forth fruit to death; and he adds this to show that the law by itself is destructive. It hence follows, that they are infatuated, who so much desire this bondage which issues in death.

6. But now we have been loosed from the law, &c. He pursues the argument derived from the opposite effect of things,—“If the restraint of the law availed so little to bridle the flesh, that it became rather the exciter of sin; then, that we may cease from sin, we must necessarily be freed from the law.” Again, “If we are freed from the bondage of the law for this end, that we may serve God; then, perversely do they act who hence take the liberty to indulge in sin; and falsely do they speak who teach, that by this means loose reins are given to lusts.” Observe, then, that we are then freed from the law, when God emancipates us from its rigid exactions and curse, and endues us with his Spirit, through whom we walk in his ways.1

Having died to that, &c. This part contains a reason, or rather, indicates the manner in which we are made free; for the law is so far abrogated with regard to us, that we are not pressed down by its intolerable burden, and that its inexorable rigour does not overwhelm us with a curse.2In Edition: current; Page: [251] newness of spirit; He sets the spirit in opposition to the letter; for before our will is formed according to the will of God by the Holy Spirit, we have in the law nothing but the outward letter, which indeed bridles our external actions, but does not in the least restrain the fury of our lusts. And he ascribes newness to the Spirit, because it succeeds the old man; as the letter is called old, because it perishes through the regeneration of the Spirit.

7. What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.1

8. But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence.

7. Quid ergo dicemus? Lex peccatum est? Absit: sed peccatum non cognovi nisi per Legem: concupiscentiam enim non noveram, nisi Lex diceret, Non concupisces.

8. Occasione autem sumpta, peccatum per mandatum effecit in me omnem concupiscentiam.

7. What then shall we say? Since it has been said that we must be freed from the law, in order that we may serve God in newness of spirit, it seemed as though this evil belonged to the law,—that it leads us to sin. But as this would be above measure inconsistent, the Apostle rightly undertook to disprove it. Now when he adds, Is the law sin? what he means is, “Does it so produce sin that its guilt ought to be imputed to the law?”—But sin I knew not, except Edition: current; Page: [252] through the law; sin then dwells in us, and not in the law; for the cause of it is the depraved lust of our flesh, and we come to know it by the knowledge of God’s righteousness, which is revealed to us in the law.1 You are not indeed to understand, that no difference whatever can be known between right and wrong without the law; but that without the law we are either too dull of apprehension to discern our depravity, or that we are made wholly insensible through self-flattery, according to what follows,—

For coveting I had not known, &c. This is then an explanation of the former sentence, by which he proves that ignorance of sin, of which he had spoken, consisted in this—that he perceived not his own coveting. And he designedly referred to this one kind of sin, in which hypocrisy especially prevails, which has ever connected with itself supine self-indulgence and false assurance. For men are never so destitute of judgment, but that they retain a distinction in external works; nay, they are constrained even to condemn wicked counsels and sinister purposes: and this they cannot do, without ascribing to a right object its own praise. But coveting is more hidden and lies deeper; hence no account is made of it, as long as men judge according to their perceptions of what is outward. He does not indeed boast that he was free from it; but he so flattered himself, that he did not think that this sin was lurking in his heart. For though for a time he was deceived, and believed not that righteousness would be violated by coveting, he yet, at length, understood that he was a sinner, when he saw that coveting, from which no one is free, was prohibited by the law.

Augustine says, that Paul included in this expression the whole law; which, when rightly understood, is true: for when Moses had stated the things from which we must abstain, that we may not wrong our neighbour, he subjoined this prohibition as to coveting, which must be referred to all the things previously forbidden. There is no doubt but that Edition: current; Page: [253] he had in the former precepts condemned all the evil desires which our hearts conceive; but there is much difference between a deliberate purpose, and the desires by which we are tempted. God then, in this last command, requires so much integrity from us, that no vicious lust is to move us to evil, even when no consent succeeds. Hence it was, that I have said, that Paul here ascends higher than where the understanding of men can carry them. But civil laws do indeed declare, that intentions and not issues are to be punished. Philosophers also, with greater refinement, place vices as well as virtues in the soul. But God, by this precept, goes deeper and notices coveting, which is more hidden than the will; and this is not deemed a vice. It was pardoned not only by philosophers, but at this day the Papists fiercely contend, that it is no sin in the regenerate.1 But Paul says, that he had found out his guilt from this hidden disease: it hence follows, that all those who labour under it, are by no means free from guilt, except God pardons their sin. We ought, at the same time, to remember the difference between evil lustings or covetings which gain consent, and the lusting which tempts and moves our hearts, but stops in the midst of its course.

8. But an occasion being taken, &c. From sin, then, and the corruption of the flesh, proceeds every evil; the law is only the occasion. And though he may seem to speak only of that excitement, by which our lusting is instigated through the law, so that it boils out with greater fury; yet I refer this chiefly to the knowledge the law conveys; as though he had said, “It has discovered to me every lust or coveting which, being hid, seemed somehow to have no existence.” Edition: current; Page: [254] I do not yet deny, but that the flesh is more sharply stimulated to lusting by the law, and also by this means more clearly shows itself; which may have been also the case with Paul: but what I have said of the knowledge it brings, seems to harmonize better with the context;1 for he immediately subjoins—

For without the law sin was dead.2

9. For I was alive without the law once; but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.

10. And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death.

11. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.

12. Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.

Sine Lege enim peccatum est mortuum:

9. Ego autem vivebam sine Lege aliquando;3 adveniente autem mandato, peccatum revixit,

10. Ego autem mortuus sum; et deprehensum est a me mandatum quod erat in vitam, cedere in mortem.

11. Peccatum enim, occasione sumpta per mandatum, abduxit me a via et per illud occîdit:

12. Itaque Lex quidem sancta, et mandatum sanctum, et justum et bonum.

8. For without the law, &c. He expresses most clearly the meaning of his former words; for it is the same as though he had said, that the knowledge of sin without the law is buried. It is a general truth, which he presently applies to his own case. I hence wonder what could have come into the minds of interpreters to render the passage in the preterimperfect tense, as though Paul was speaking of himself; for it is easy to see that his purpose was to begin with a Edition: current; Page: [255] general proposition, and then to explain the subject by his own example.

9. For I was alive, &c. He means to intimate that there had been a time when sin was dead to him or in him. But he is not to be understood as though he had been without law at any time, but this word I was alive has a peculiar import; for it was the absence of the law that was the reason why he was alive; that is, why he being inflated with a conceit as to his own righteousness, claimed life to himself while he was yet dead. That the sentence may be more clear, state it thus, “When I was formerly without the law, I was alive.” But I have said that this expression is emphatic; for by imagining himself great, he also laid claim to life. The meaning then is this, “When I sinned, having not the knowledge of the law, the sin, which I did not observe, was so laid to sleep, that it seemed to be dead; on the other hand, as I seemed not to myself to be a sinner, I was satisfied with myself, thinking that I had a life of mine own.” But the death of sin is the life of man, and again the life of sin is the death of man.

It may be here asked, what time was that when through his ignorance of the law, or as he himself says, through the absence of it, he confidently laid claim to life. It is indeed certain, that he had been taught the doctrine of the law from his childhood; but it was the theology of the letter, which does not humble its disciples, for as he says elsewhere, the veil interposed so that the Jews could not see the light of life in the law; so also he himself, while he had his eyes veiled, being destitute of the Spirit of Christ, was satisfied with the outward mask of righteousness. Hence he represents the law as absent, though before his eyes, while it did not really impress him with the consciousness of God’s judgment. Thus the eyes of hypocrites are covered with a veil, that they see not how much that command requires, in which we are forbidden to lust or covet.

But when the commandment came, &c. So now, on the other hand, he sets forth the law as coming when it began to be really understood. It then raised sin as it were from the dead; for it discovered to Paul how great depravity Edition: current; Page: [256] abounded in the recesses of his heart, and at the same time it slew him. We must ever remember that he speaks of that inebriating confidence in which hypocrites settle, while they flatter themselves, because they overlook their sins.

10. Was found by me, &c. Two things are stated here—that the commandment shows to us a way of life in the righteousness of God, and that it was given in order that we by keeping the law of the Lord might obtain eternal life, except our corruption stood in the way. But as none of us obey the law, but, on the contrary, are carried headlong on our feet and hands into that kind of life from which it recalls us, it can bring us nothing but death. We must thus distinguish between the character of the law and our own wickedness. It hence follows, that it is incidental that the law inflicts on us a deadly wound, as when an incurable disease is more exasperated by a healing remedy. I indeed allow that it is an inseparable incident, and hence the law, as compared with the gospel, is called in another place the ministration of death; but still this remains unaltered, that it is not in its own nature hurtful to us, but it is so because our corruption provokes and draws upon us its curse.

11. Led me out of the way, &c. It is indeed true, that while the will of God is hid from us, and no truth shines on us, the life of men goes wholly astray and is full of errors; nay, we do nothing but wander from the right course, until the law shows to us the way of living rightly: but as we begin then only to perceive our erroneous course, when the Lord loudly reproves us, Paul says rightly, that we are led out of the way, when sin is made evident by the law. Hence the verb, ἐξαπατaivrypogrν, must be understood, not of the thing itself, but of our knowledge; that is, that it is made manifest by the law how much we have departed from the right course. It must then be necessarily rendered, led me out of the way; for hence sinners, who before went on heedlessly, loathe and abominate themselves, when they perceive, through the light which the law throws on the turpitude of sin, that they had been hastening to death. But he again introduces the word occasion, and for this purpose—that we may know that the law of itself does not bring death, but Edition: current; Page: [257] that this happens through something else, and that this is as it were adventitious.1

12. So then the law is indeed holy, &c. Some think that the words law and commandment is a repetition of the same thing; with whom I agree;2 and I consider that there is a peculiar force in the words, when he says, that the law itself and whatever is commanded in the law, is holy, and therefore to be regarded with the highest reverence,—that it is just, and cannot therefore be charged with anything wrong,—that it is good, and hence pure and free from everything that can do harm. He thus defends the law against every charge of blame, that no one should ascribe to it what is contrary to goodness, justice, and holiness.

13. Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.

13. Quod ergo bonum est, mihi in mortem cessit? Absit: imò peccatum, ut appareat peccatum, per bonum operatur mihi mortem: ut fiat super modum peccans peccatum per mandatum.

13. Has then what is good, &c. He had hitherto defended the law from calumnies, but in such a manner, that it Edition: current; Page: [258] still remained doubtful whether it was the cause of death; nay, the minds of men were on this point perplexed,—how could it be that nothing but death was gained from so singular a gift of God. To this objection then he now gives an answer; and he denies, that death proceeds from the law, though death through its means is brought on us by sin. And though this answer seems to militate in appearance against what he had said before—that he had found the commandment, which was given for life, to be unto death, there is yet no contrariety. He had indeed said before, that it is through our wickedness that the law is turned to our destruction, and that contrary to its own character; but here he denies, that it is in such a sense the cause of death, that death is to be imputed to it. In 2 Cor. iii. he treats more fully of the law. He there calls it the ministration of death; but he so calls it according to what is commonly done in a dispute, and represents, not the real character of the law, but the false opinion of his opponents.1

But sin, &c. With no intention to offend others, I must state it as my opinion, that this passage ought to be read as I have rendered it, and the meaning is this,—“Sin is in a manner regarded as just before it is discovered by the law; but when it is by the law made known, then it really obtains its own name of sin; and hence it appears the more wicked, and, so to speak, the more sinful, because it turns the goodness of the law, by perverting it, to our destruction; for that must be very pestiferous, which makes what is in its own nature salutary to be hurtful to us.” The import of the whole is—that it was necessary for the atrocity of sin to be discovered by the law; for except sin had burst forth into outrageous, or, as they say, into enormous excess, it would not have been acknowledged as sin; and the more outrageous does its enormity appear, when it converts life into death; and thus every excuse is taken away from it.2

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14. For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am carnal, sold under sin.

15. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.

16. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.

17. Now then, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.

14. Scimus enim quòd Lex spiritualis est: ego autem carnalis sum, venditus sub peccato.

15. Quod enim operor, non intelligo; siquidem non quod volo, hoc ago: sed quod odi, hoc facio.

16. Si verò quod nolo, hoc facio, consentio Legi Dei quòd sit bona.

17. Nunc verò non jam illud operor ego, sed quod habitat in me peccatum.

14. For we know that the law, &c. He now begins more closely to compare the law with what man is, that it may be more clearly understood whence the evil of death proceeds. He then sets before us an example in a regenerate man, in whom the remnants of the flesh are wholly contrary to the law of the Lord, while the spirit would gladly obey it. But first, as we have said, he makes only a comparison between nature and the law. Since in human things there is no greater discord than between spirit and flesh, the law being spiritual and man carnal, what agreement can there be between the natural man and the law? Even the same as between darkness and light. But by calling the law spiritual, he not only means, as some expound the passage, that it requires the inward affections of the heart; but that, by way of contrast, it has a contrary import to the word carnal.1 These interpreters give this explanation, “The law is spiritual, that is, it binds not only the feet and hands as to external works, but regards the feelings of the heart, and requires the real fear of God.”

But here a contrast is evidently set forth between the flesh and the spirit. And further, it is sufficiently clear from Edition: current; Page: [260] the context, and it has been in fact already shown, that under the term flesh is included whatever men bring from the womb; and flesh is what men are called, as they are born, and as long as they retain their natural character; for as they are corrupt, so they neither taste nor desire anything but what is gross and earthly. Spirit, on the contrary, is renewed nature, which God forms anew after his own image. And this mode of speaking is adopted on this account—because the newness which is wrought in us is the gift of the Spirit.

The perfection then of the doctrine of the law is opposed here to the corrupt nature of man: hence the meaning is as follows, “The law requires a celestial and an angelic righteousness, in which no spot is to appear, to whose clearness nothing is to be wanting: but I am a carnal man, who can do nothing but oppose it.”1 But the exposition of Origen, which indeed has been approved by many before our time, is not worthy of being refuted; he says, that the law is called spiritual by Paul, because the Scripture is not to be understood literally. What has this to do with the present subject?

Sold under sin. By this clause he shows what flesh is in Edition: current; Page: [261] itself; for man by nature is no less the slave of sin, than those bondmen, bought with money, whom their masters ill treat at their pleasure, as they do their oxen and their asses. We are so entirely controlled by the power of sin, that the whole mind, the whole heart, and all our actions are under its influence. Compulsion I always except, for we sin spontaneously, as it would be no sin, were it not voluntary. But we are so given up to sin, that we can do willingly nothing but sin; for the corruption which bears rule within us thus drives us onward. Hence this comparison does not import, as they say, a forced service, but a voluntary obedience, which an inbred bondage inclines us to render.

15. For what I do I know not, &c. He now comes to a more particular case, that of a man already regenerated;1 Edition: current; Page: [262] in whom both the things which he had in view appear more clearly; and these were,—the great discord there is between the law of God and the natural man,—and how the law does not of itself produce death. For since the carnal man rushes into sin with the whole propensity of his mind, he seems to sin with such a free choice, as though it were in his power to govern himself; so that a most pernicious opinion has prevailed almost among all men—that man, by his own natural strength, without the aid of Divine grace, can choose what he pleases. But though the will of a faithful man is led to good by the Spirit of God, yet in him the corruption of nature appears conspicuously; for it obstinately resists and leads to what is contrary. Hence the case of a regenerated man is the most suitable; for by this you may know how much is the contrariety between our nature and the righteousness of the law. From this case, also, a proof as to the other clause may more fitly be sought, than from the mere consideration of human nature; for the law, as it produces only death in a man wholly carnal, is in him more easily impeached, for it is doubtful whence the evil proceeds. In a regenerate man it brings forth salutary fruits; and hence it appears, that it is the flesh only that prevents it from giving life: so far it is from producing death of itself.

That the whole, then, of this reasoning may be more fully and more distinctly understood, we must observe, that this conflict, of which the Apostle speaks, does not exist in man before he is renewed by the Spirit of God: for man, left to his own nature, is wholly borne along by his lusts without any resistance; for though the ungodly are tormented by the stings of conscience, and cannot take such delight in their vices, but that they have some taste of bitterness; yet you cannot hence conclude, either that evil is hated, or that good is loved by them; only the Lord permits them to be thus tormented, in order to show to them in a measure his judgment; Edition: current; Page: [263] but not to imbue them either with the love of righteousness or with the hatred of sin.

There is then this difference between them and the faithful—that they are never so blinded and hardened, but that when they are reminded of their crimes, they condemn them in their own conscience; for knowledge is not so utterly extinguished in them, but that they still retain the difference between right and wrong; and sometimes they are shaken with such dread under a sense of their sin, that they bear a kind of condemnation even in this life: nevertheless they approve of sin with all their heart, and hence give themselves up to it without any feeling of genuine repugnance; for those stings of conscience, by which they are harassed, proceed from opposition in the judgment, rather than from any contrary inclination in the will. The godly, on the other hand, in whom the regeneration of God is begun, are so divided, that with the chief desire of the heart they aspire to God, seek celestial righteousness, hate sin, and yet they are drawn down to the earth by the relics of their flesh: and thus, while pulled in two ways, they fight against their own nature, and nature fights against them; and they condemn their sins, not only as being constrained by the judgment of reason, but because they really in their hearts abominate them, and on their account loathe themselves. This is the Christian conflict between the flesh and the spirit, of which Paul speaks in Gal. v. 17.

It has therefore been justly said, that the carnal man runs headlong into sin with the approbation and consent of the whole soul; but that a division then immediately begins for the first time, when he is called by the Lord and renewed by the Spirit. For regeneration only begins in this life; the relics of the flesh which remain, always follow their own corrupt propensities, and thus carry on a contest against the Spirit.

The inexperienced, who consider not the subject which the Apostle handles, nor the plan which he pursues, imagine, that the character of man by nature is here described; and indeed there is a similar description of human nature given to us by the Philosophers: but Scripture philosophizes much Edition: current; Page: [264] deeper; for it finds that nothing has remained in the heart of man but corruption, since the time in which Adam lost the image of God. So when the Sophisters wish to define free-will, or to form an estimate of what the power of nature can do, they fix on this passage. But Paul, as I have said already, does not here set before us simply the natural man, but in his own person describes what is the weakness of the faithful, and how great it is. Augustine was for a time involved in the common error; but after having more clearly examined the passage, he not only retracted what he had falsely taught, but in his first book to Boniface, he proves, by many strong reasons, that what is said cannot be applied to any but to the regenerate. And we shall now endeavour to make our readers clearly to see that such is the case.

I know not. He means that he acknowledges not as his own the works which he did through the weakness of the flesh, for he hated them. And so Erasmus has not unsuitably given this rendering, “I approve not,” (non probo.)1 We hence conclude, that the doctrine of the law is so consentaneous to right judgment, that the faithful repudiate the transgression of it as a thing wholly unreasonable. But as Paul seems to allow that he teaches otherwise than what the law prescribes, many interpreters have been led astray, and have thought that he had assumed the person of another; hence has arisen the common error, that the character of an unregenerate man is described throughout this portion of the chapter. But Paul, under the idea of transgressing the law, includes all the defects of the godly, which are not inconsistent with the fear of God or with the endeavour of acting uprightly. And he denies that he did what the law demanded, for this reason, because he did not perfectly fulfil it, but somewhat failed in his effort.

For not what I desire, &c. You must not understand that it was always the case with him, that he could not do good; Edition: current; Page: [265] but what he complains of is only this—that he could not perform what he wished, so that he pursued not what was good with that alacrity which was meet, because he was held in a manner bound, and that he also failed in what he wished to do, because he halted through the weakness of the flesh. Hence the pious mind performs not the good it desires to do, because it proceeds not with due activity, and doeth the evil which it would not; for while it desires to stand, it falls, or at least it staggers. But the expressions to will and not to will must be applied to the Spirit, which ought to hold the first place in all the faithful. The flesh indeed has also its own will, but Paul calls that the will which is the chief desire of the heart; and that which militates with it he represents as being contrary to his will.

We may hence learn the truth of what we have stated—that Paul speaks here of the faithful,1 in whom the grace of the Spirit exists, which brings an agreement between the mind and the righteousness of the law; for no hatred of sin is to be found in the flesh.

16. But if what I desire not, I do, I consent to the law, &c.; that is, “When my heart acquiesces in the law, and is delighted with its righteousness, (which certainly is the case when it hates the transgression of it,) it then perceives and acknowledges the goodness of the law, so that we are fully convinced, experience itself being our teacher, that no evil ought to be imputed to the law; nay, that it would be salutary to men, were it to meet with upright and pure hearts.” But this consent is not to be understood to be the same Edition: current; Page: [266] with what we have heard exists in the ungodly, who have expressed words of this kind, “I see better things and approve of them; I follow the worse.” Again, “What is hurtful I follow; I shun what I believe would be profitable.” For these act under a constraint when they subscribe to the righteousness of God, as their will is wholly alienated from it, but the godly man consents to the law with the real and most cheerful desire of his heart; for he wishes nothing more than to mount up to heaven.1

17. Now it is no more I who do it, &c. This is not the pleading of one excusing himself, as though he was blameless, as the case is with many triflers who think that they have a sufficient defence to cover all their wickedness, when they cast the blame on the flesh; but it is a declaration, by which he shows how very far he dissented from his own flesh in his spiritual feeling; for the faithful are carried along in their obedience to God with such fervour of spirit that they deny the flesh.

This passage also clearly shows, that Paul speaks here of none but of the godly, who have been already born again; for as long as man remains like himself, whatsoever he may be, he is justly deemed corrupt; but Paul here denies that he is wholly possessed by sin; nay, he declares himself to be exempt from its bondage, as though he had said, that sin only dwelt in some part of his soul, while with an earnest feeling of heart he strove for and aspired after the righteousness of God, and clearly proved that he had the law of God engraven within him.2

18. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.

19. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.

20. Now, if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.

18. Novi enim quòd non habitat3 in me (hoc est, in carne mea) bonum: siquidem velle adest mihi, sed ut perficiam bonum non reperio.

19. Non enim quod volo facio Edition: current; Page: [267] bonum; sed quod nolo malum, id ago.

20. Si verò quod nolo ego id facio, non jam ego operor illud, sed quod habitat in me peccatum.

18. For I know, &c. He says that no good by nature dwelt in him. Then in me, means the same as though he had said, “So far as it regards myself.” In the first part he indeed arraigns himself as being wholly depraved, for he confesses that no good dwelt in him; and then he subjoins a modification, lest he should slight the grace of God which also dwelt in him, but was no part of his flesh. And here again he confirms the fact, that he did not speak of men in general, but of the faithful, who are divided into two parts—the relics of the flesh, and grace. For why was the modification made, except some part was exempt from depravity, and therefore not flesh? Under the term flesh, he ever includes all that human nature is, everything in man, except the sanctification of the Spirit. In the same manner, by the term spirit, which is commonly opposed to the flesh, he means that part of the soul which the Spirit of God has so re-formed, and purified from corruption, that God’s image shines forth in it. Then both terms, flesh as well as spirit, belong to the soul; but the latter to that part which is renewed, and the former to that which still retains its natural character.1

To will is present, &c. He does not mean that he had nothing but an ineffectual desire, but his meaning is, that the work really done did not correspond to his will; for the Edition: current; Page: [268] flesh hindered him from doing perfectly what he did. So also understand what follows, The evil I desire not, that I do: for the flesh not only impedes the faithful, so that they cannot run swiftly, but it sets also before them many obstacles at which they stumble. Hence they do not, because they accomplish not, what they would, with the alacrity that is meet. This, to will, then, which he mentions, is the readiness of faith, when the Holy Spirit so prepares the godly that they are ready and strive to render obedience to God; but as their ability is not equal to what they wish, Paul says, that he found not what he desired, even the accomplishment of the good he aimed at.

19. The same view is to be taken of the expression which next follows,—that he did not the good which he desired; but, on the contrary, the evil which he desired not: for the faithful, however rightly they may be influenced, are yet so conscious of their own infirmity, that they can deem no work proceeding from them as blameless. For as Paul does not here treat of some of the faults of the godly, but delineates in general the whole course of their life, we conclude that their best works are always stained with some blots of sin, so that no reward can be hoped, unless God pardons them.

He at last repeats the sentiment,—that, as far as he was endued with celestial light, he was a true witness and subscriber to the righteousness of the law. It hence follows, that had the pure integrity of our nature remained, the law would not have brought death on us, and that it is not adverse to the man who is endued with a sound and right mind and abhors sin. But to restore health is the work of our heavenly Physician.

21. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.

22. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:

23. But I see another law in my members warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.

21. Reperio igitur Legem volenti mihi facere bonum quòd mihi malum insideat.1

22. Consentio enim Legi Dei secundum interiorem hominem.

23. Video autem alterum Legem in membris meis, repugnantem2 legi Edition: current; Page: [269] mentis meæ, et captivum me reddentem legi peccati, quæ est in membris meis.

21. I find then, &c. Here Paul supposes a fourfold law. The first is the law of God, which alone is properly so called, which is the rule of righteousness, by which our life is rightly formed. To this he joins the law of the mind, and by this he means the prompt readiness of the faithful mind to render obedience to the divine law, it being a certain conformity on our part with the law of God. On the other hand, he sets in opposition to this the law of unrighteousness; and according to a certain kind of similarity, he gives this name to that dominion which iniquity exercises over a man not yet regenerated, as well as over the flesh of a regenerated man; for the laws even of tyrants, however iniquitous they may be, are called laws, though not properly. To correspond with this law of sin he makes the law of the members, that is, the lust which is in the members, on account of the concord it has with iniquity.

As to the first clause, many interpreters take the word law in its proper sense, and consider κατὰ or διὰ to be understood; and so Erasmus renders it, “by the law;” as though Paul had said, that he, by the law of God as his teacher and guide, had found out that his sin was innate. But without supplying anything, the sentence would run better thus, “While the faithful strive after what is good, they find in themselves a certain law which exercises a tyrannical power; for a vicious propensity, adverse to and resisting the law of God, is implanted in their very marrow and bones.”

22. For I consent1 to the law of God, &c. Here then you Edition: current; Page: [270] see what sort of division there is in pious souls, from which arises that contest between the spirit and the flesh, which Augustine in some place calls the Christian struggle (luctam Christianam.) The law calls man to the rule of righteousness; iniquity, which is, as it were, the tyrannical law of Satan, instigates him to wickedness: the Spirit leads him to render obedience to the divine law; the flesh draws him back to what is of an opposite character. Man, thus impelled by contrary desires, is now in a manner a twofold being; but as the Spirit ought to possess the sovereignty, he deems and judges himself to be especially on that side. Paul says, that he was bound a captive by his flesh for this reason, because as he was still tempted and incited by evil lusts; he deemed this a coercion with respect to the spiritual desire, which was wholly opposed to them.1

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But we ought to notice carefully the meaning of the inner man and of the members; which many have not rightly understood, and have therefore stumbled at this stone. The inner man then is not simply the soul, but that spiritual part which has been regenerated by God; and the members signify the other remaining part; for as the soul is the superior, and the body the inferior part of man, so the spirit is superior to the flesh. Then as the spirit takes the place of the soul in man, and the flesh, which is the corrupt and polluted soul, that of the body, the former has the name of the inner man, and the latter has the name of members. The inner man has indeed a different meaning in 2 Cor. iv. 16; but the circumstances of this passage require the interpretation which I have given: and it is called the inner by way of excellency; for it possesses the heart and the secret feelings, while the desires of the flesh are vagrant, and are, as it were, on the outside of man. Doubtless it is the same thing as though one compared heaven to earth; for Paul by way of contempt designates whatever appears to be in man by the term members, that he might clearly show that the hidden renovation is concealed from and escapes our observation, except it be apprehended by faith.

Now since the law of the mind undoubtedly means a principle rightly formed, it is evident that this passage is very Edition: current; Page: [272] absurdly applied to men not yet regenerated; for such, as Paul teaches us, are destitute of mind, inasmuch as their soul has become degenerated from reason.

24. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?

25. I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.

24. Miser ego homo! quis me eripiet à corpore mortis hoc?

25. Gratias ago Deo per Iesum Christum Dominum nostrum: itaque idem ego mente servio Legi Dei, carne autem legi peccati.

24. Miserable, &c. He closes his argument with a vehement exclamation, by which he teaches us that we are not only to struggle with our flesh, but also with continual groaning to bewail within ourselves and before God our unhappy condition. But he asks not by whom he was to be delivered, as one in doubt, like unbelievers, who understand not that there is but one real deliverer: but it is the voice of one panting and almost fainting, because he does not find immediate help,1 as he longs for. And he mentions the word rescue,2 in order that he might show, that for his liberation no ordinary exercise of divine power was necessary.

By the body of death he means the whole mass of sin, or those ingredients of which the whole man is composed; except that in him there remained only relics, by the captive bonds of which he was held. The pronoun τούτου, this, which I apply, as Erasmus does, to the body, may also be fitly referred to death, and almost in the same sense; for Paul meant to teach us, that the eyes of God’s children are opened, so that through the law of God they wisely discern the corruption of their nature and the death which from it proceeds. But the word body means the same as the external man and members; for Paul points out this as the origin of evil, that man has departed from the law of his creation, Edition: current; Page: [273] and has become thus carnal and earthly. For though he still excels brute beasts, yet his true excellency has departed from him, and what remains in him is full of numberless corruptions, so that his soul, being degenerated, may be justly said to have passed into a body. So God says by Moses, “No more shall my Spirit contend with man, for he is even flesh,” (Gen. vi. 3:) thus stripping man of his spiritual excellency, he compares him, by way of reproach, to the brute creation.1

This passage is indeed remarkably fitted for the purpose of beating down all the glory of the flesh; for Paul teaches us, that the most perfect, as long as they dwell in the flesh, are exposed to misery, for they are subject to death; nay, when they thoroughly examine themselves, they find in their own nature nothing but misery. And further, lest they should indulge their torpor, Paul, by his own example, stimulates them to anxious groanings, and bids them, as long as they sojourn on earth, to desire death, as the only true remedy to their evils; and this is the right object in desiring death. Despair does indeed drive the profane often to such a wish; but they strangely desire death, because they are weary of the present life, and not because they loathe their iniquity. But it must be added, that though the faithful level at the true mark, they are not yet carried away by an unbridled desire in wishing for death, but submit themselves to the will of God, to whom it behoves us both to live and to die: hence they clamour not with displeasure against God, but humbly deposit their anxieties in his bosom; for they do not so dwell on the thoughts of their misery, but that being mindful of grace received, they blend their grief with joy, as we find in what follows.

25. I thank God, &c. He then immediately subjoined this thanksgiving, lest any should think that in his complaint he perversely murmured against God; for we know how easy Edition: current; Page: [274] even in legitimate grief is the transition to discontent and impatience. Though Paul then bewailed his lot, and sighed for his departure, he yet confesses that he acquiesced in the good pleasure of God; for it does not become the saints, while examining their own defects, to forget what they have already received from God.1

But what is sufficient to bridle impatience and to cherish resignation, is the thought, that they have been received under the protection of God, that they may never perish, and that they have already been favoured with the first-fruits of the Spirit, which make certain their hope of the eternal inheritance. Though they enjoy not as yet the promised glory of heaven, at the same time, being content with the measure which they have obtained, they are never without reasons for joy.

So I myself, &c. A short epilogue, in which he teaches us, that the faithful never reach the goal of righteousness as long as they dwell in the flesh, but that they are running their course, until they put off the body. He again gives the name of mind, not to the rational part of the soul which philosophers extol, but to that which is illuminated by the Spirit of God, so that it understands and wills aright: for there is a mention made not of the understanding alone, but connected with it is the earnest desire of the heart. However, by the exception he makes, he confesses, that he was devoted to God in such a manner, that while creeping on the earth he was defiled with many corruptions. This is a suitable passage to disprove the most pernicious dogma of Edition: current; Page: [275] the Purists, (Catharorum,) which some turbulent spirits attempt to revive at the present day.1

CHAPTER VIII.

1. There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.2

2. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.

3. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin condemned sin in the flesh;

4. That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

1. Nulla igitur condemnatio est iis qui sunt in Christo Iesu, qui non secundum carnem ambulant, sed secundum Spiritum.

2. Lex enim Spiritus vitæ in Christo Iesu, liberum me reddidit à lege peccati et mortis.

3. Quod enim impossibile erat Legi, eò quòd infirmabatur per carnem, misso Deus Filio suo in similitudine carnis peccati, etiam de peccato damnavit peccatum in carne;

4. Ut justificatio Legis impleretur in nobis qui non secundum carnem ambulamus, sed secundum Spiritum.

1. There is then, &c. After having described the contest which the godly have perpetually with their own flesh, he returns to the consolation, which was very needful for them, and which he had before mentioned; and it was this,—That though they were still beset by sin, they were yet exempt from the power of death, and from every curse, provided they lived not in the flesh but in the Spirit: for he joins together these three things,—the imperfection under which the faithful always labour,—the mercy of God in pardoning and forgiving Edition: current; Page: [276] giving it,—and the regeneration of the Spirit; and this indeed in the last place, that no one should flatter himself with a vain notion, as though he were freed from the curse, while securely indulging in the meantime his own flesh. As then the carnal man flatters himself in vain, when in no way solicitous to reform his life, he promises to himself impunity under the pretence of having this grace; so the trembling consciences of the godly have an invincible fortress, for they know that while they abide in Christ they are beyond every danger of condemnation. We shall now examine the words.

After the Spirit. Those who walk after the Spirit are not such as have wholly put off all the emotions of the flesh, so that their whole life is redolent with nothing but celestial perfection; but they are those who sedulously labour to subdue and mortify the flesh, so that the love of true religion seems to reign in them. He declares that such walk not after the flesh; for wherever the real fear of God is vigorous, it takes away from the flesh its sovereignty, though it does not abolish all its corruptions.

2. For the law of the Spirit of life, &c. This is a confirmation of the former sentence; and that it may be understood, the meaning of the words must be noticed. Using a language not strictly correct, by the law of the Spirit he designates the Spirit of God, who sprinkles our souls with the blood of Christ, not only to cleanse us from the stain of sin with respect to its guilt, but also to sanctify us that we may be really purified. He adds that it is life-giving, (for the genitive case, after the manner of the Hebrew, is to be taken as an adjective,) it hence follows, that they who detain man in the letter of the law, expose him to death. On the other hand, he gives the name of the law of sin and death to the dominion of the flesh and to the tyranny of death, which thence follows: the law of God is set as it were in the middle, which by teaching righteousness cannot confer it, but on the contrary binds us with the strongest chains in bondage to sin and to death.

The meaning then is,—that the law of God condemns men, and that this happens, because as long as they remain under the bond of the law, they are oppressed with the Edition: current; Page: [277] bondage of sin, and are thus exposed to death; but that the Spirit of Christ, while it abolishes the law of sin in us by destroying the prevailing desires of the flesh, does at the same time deliver us from the peril of death. If any one objects and says, that then pardon, by which our transgressions are buried, depends on regeneration; to this it may be easily answered, that the reason is not here assigned by Paul, but that the manner only is specified, in which we are delivered from guilt; and Paul denies that we obtain deliverance by the external teaching of the law, but intimates that when we are renewed by the Spirit of God, we are at the same time justified by a gratuitous pardon, that the curse of sin may no longer abide on us. The sentence then has the same meaning, as though Paul had said, that the grace of regeneration is never disjoined from the imputation of righteousness.

I dare not, with some, take the law of sin and death for the law of God, because it seems a harsh expression. For though by increasing sin it generates death, yet Paul before turned aside designedly from this invidious language. At the same time I no more agree in opinion with those who explain the law of sin as being the lust of the flesh, as though Paul had said, that he had become the conqueror of it. But it will appear very evident shortly, as I think, that he speaks of a gratuitous absolution, which brings to us tranquillizing peace with God. I prefer retaining the word law, rather than with Erasmus to render it right or power: for Paul did not without reason allude to the law of God.1

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3. For what was impossible for the law, &c. Now follows the polishing or the adorning of his proof, that the Lord has by his gratuitous mercy justified us in Christ; the very thing which it was impossible for the law to do. But as this is a very remarkable sentence, let us examine every part of it.

That he treats here of free justification or of the pardon by which God reconciles us to himself, we may infer from the last clause, when he adds, who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For if Paul intended to teach us, that we are prepared by the spirit of regeneration to overcome sin, why was this addition made? But it was very proper for him, after having promised gratuitous remission to the faithful, to confine this doctrine to those who join penitence to faith, and turn not the mercy of God so as to promote the licentiousness of the flesh. And then the state of the case must be noticed; for the Apostle teaches us here how the grace of Christ absolves us from guilt.

Now as to the expression, τὸ ἀδύνατον, the impossibility of the law, it is no doubt to be taken for defect or impotency; as though it had been said, that a remedy had been found by God, by which that which was an impossibility to the law is removed. The particle, ἐν ohdaivrypogr, Erasmus has rendered “ea parte qua—in that part in which;” but as I think it to be causal, I prefer rendering it, “eo quod—because:” and though perhaps such a phrase does not occur among good authors in the Greek language, yet as the Apostles everywhere adopt Hebrew modes of expression, this interpretation ought not to be deemed improper.1 No doubt intelligent readers will allow, that the cause of defect is what is Edition: current; Page: [279] here expressed, as we shall shortly prove again. Now though Erasmus supplies the principal verb, yet the text seems to me to flow better without it. The copulative καὶ, and, has led Erasmus astray, so as to insert the verb præstitit—hath performed; but I think that it is used for the sake of emphasis; except it may be, that some will approve of the conjecture of a Grecian scholiast, who connects the clause thus with the preceding words, “God sent his own Son in the likeness of the flesh of sin and on account of sin,” &c. I have however followed what I have thought to be the real meaning of Paul. I come now to the subject itself.1

Paul clearly declares that our sins were expiated by the death of Christ, because it was impossible for the law to confer righteousness upon us. It hence follows, that more is required by the law than what we can perform; for if we were capable of fulfilling the law there would have been no Edition: current; Page: [280] need to seek a remedy elsewhere. It is therefore absurd to measure human strength by the precepts of the law; as though God in requiring what is justly due, had regarded what and how much we are able to do.

Because it was weak, &c. That no one might think that the law was irreverently charged with weakness, or confine it to ceremonies, Paul has distinctly expressed that this defect was not owing to any fault in the law, but to the corruption of our flesh; for it must be allowed that if any one really satisfies the divine law, he will be deemed just before God. He does not then deny that the law is sufficient to justify us as to doctrine, inasmuch as it contains a perfect rule of righteousness: but as our flesh does not attain that righteousness, the whole power of the law fails and vanishes away. Thus condemned is the error or rather the delirious notion of those who imagine that the power of justifying is only taken away from ceremonies; for Paul, by laying the blame expressly on us, clearly shows that he found no fault with the doctrine of the law.

But further, understand the weakness of the law according to the sense in which the Apostle usually takes the word ασθενεια, weakness, not only as meaning a small imbecility but impotency; for he means that the law has no power whatever to justify.1 You then see that we are wholly excluded from the righteousness of works, and must therefore flee to Christ for righteousness, for in us there can be none, and to know this is especially necessary; for we shall never be clothed with the righteousness of Christ except we first know assuredly that we have no righteousness of our own. The word flesh is to be taken still in the same sense, as meaning ourselves. The corruption then of our nature renders the law of God in this respect useless to us; for while it shows the way of life, it does not bring us back who are running headlong into death.

God having sent his own Son, &c. He now points out the way in which our heavenly Father has restored righteousness Edition: current; Page: [281] ness to us by his Son, even by condemning sin in the very flesh of Christ; who by cancelling as it were the handwriting, abolished sin, which held us bound before God; for the condemnation of sin made us free and brought us righteousness, for sin being blotted out we are absolved, so that God counts us as just. But he declares first that Christ was sent, in order to remind us that righteousness by no means dwells in us, for it is to be sought from him, and that men in vain confide in their own merits, who become not just but at the pleasure of another, or who borrow righteousness from that expiation which Christ accomplished in his own flesh. But he says, that he came in the likeness of the flesh of sin; for though the flesh of Christ was polluted by no stains, yet it seemed apparently to be sinful, inasmuch as it sustained the punishment due to our sins, and doubtless death exercised all its power over it as though it was subject to itself. And as it behoved our High-priest to learn by his own experience how to aid the weak, Christ underwent our infirmities, that he might be more inclined to sympathy, and in this respect also there appeared some resemblance of a sinful nature.

Even for sin, &c. I have already said that this is explained by some as the cause or the end for which God sent his own Son, that is, to give satisfaction for sin. Chrysostom and many after him understood it in a still harsher sense, even that sin was condemned for sin, and for this reason, because it assailed Christ unjustly and beyond what was right. I indeed allow that though he was just and innocent, he yet underwent punishment for sinners, and that the price of redemption was thus paid; but I cannot be brought to think that the word sin is put here in any other sense than that of an expiatory sacrifice, which is called אשם, ashem, in Hebrew,1 and so the Greeks call a sacrifice to which a curse Edition: current; Page: [282] is annexed κάθαρμα, catharma. The same thing is declared by Paul in 2 Cor. v. 21, when he says, that “Christ, who knew no sin, was made sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in him.” But the preposition περὶ, peri, is to be taken here in a causative sense, as though he had said, “On account of that sacrifice, or through the burden of sin being laid on Christ, sin was cast down from its power, so that it does not hold us now subject to itself.” For using a metaphor, he says that it was condemned, like those who fail in their cause; for God no longer deals with those as guilty who have obtained absolution through the sacrifice of Christ. If we say that the kingdom of sin, in which it held us, was demolished, the meaning would be the same. And thus what was ours Christ took as his own, that he might transfer his own to us; for he took our curse, and has freely granted us his blessing.

Paul adds here, In the flesh, and for this end,—that by seeing sin conquered and abolished in our very nature, our Edition: current; Page: [283] confidence might be more certain: for it thus follows, that our nature is really become a partaker of his victory; and this is what he presently declares.

4. That the justification of the law might be fulfilled, &c. They who understand that the renewed, by the Spirit of Christ, fulfil the law, introduce a gloss wholly alien to the meaning of Paul; for the faithful, while they sojourn in this world, never make such a proficiency, as that the justification of the law becomes in them full or complete. This then must be applied to forgiveness; for when the obedience of Christ is accepted for us, the law is satisfied, so that we are counted just. For the perfection which the law demands was exhibited in our flesh, and for this reason—that its rigour should no longer have the power to condemn us. But as Christ communicates his righteousness to none but to those whom he joins to himself by the bond of his Spirit, the work of renewal is again mentioned, lest Christ should be thought to be the minister of sin: for it is the inclination of many so to apply whatever is taught respecting the paternal kindness of God, as to encourage the lasciviousness of the flesh; and some malignantly slander this doctrine, as though it extinguished the desire to live uprightly.1

5. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.

6. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace:

7. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.

8. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.

5. Qui enim secundum carnem sunt, ea quæ carnis sunt cogitant; qui verò secundum Spiritum, ea quæ sunt Spiritus.

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6. Cogitatio certè carnis, mors est; cogitatio autem Spiritus, vita et pax:

7. Quandoquidem cogitatio carnis, inimicitia est adversus Deum; nam Legi Dei non subjicitur, nec enim potest.

8. Qui ergo in carne sunt, Deo placere non possunt.

5. For they who are after the flesh, &c. He introduces this difference between the flesh and the Spirit, not only to confirm, by an argument derived from what is of an opposite character, what he has before mentioned,—that the grace of Christ belongs to none but to those who, having been regenerated by the Spirit, strive after purity; but also to relieve the faithful with a seasonable consolation, lest being conscious of many infirmities, they should despair: for as he had exempted none from the curse, but those who lead a spiritual life, he might seem to cut off from all mortals the hope of salvation; for who in this world can be found adorned with so much angelic purity so as to be wholly freed from the flesh? It was therefore necessary to define what it is to be in the flesh, and to walk after the flesh. At first, indeed, Paul does not define the distinction so very precisely; but yet we shall see as we proceed, that his object is to afford good hope to the faithful, though they are bound to their flesh; only let them not give loose reins to its lusts, but give themselves up to be guided by the Holy Spirit.

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By saying that carnal men care for, or think upon, the things of the flesh, he shows that he did not count those as carnal who aspire after celestial righteousness, but those who wholly devote themselves to the world. I have rendered ϕρονοuivrgrσιν by a word of large meaning, cogitant—think, that readers may understand that those only are excluded from being the children of God who, being given to the allurements of the flesh, apply their minds and study to depraved lusts.1 Now, in the second clause he encourages the faithful to entertain good hope, provided they find that they are raised up by the Spirit to the meditation of righteousness: for wherever the Spirit reigns, it is an evidence of the saving grace of God; as the grace of God does not exist where the Spirit being extinguished the reign of the flesh prevails. But I will briefly repeat here what I have reminded you of before,—That to be in the flesh, or, after the flesh, is the same thing as to be without the gift of regeneration:2 and such are all they who continue, as they commonly say, in pure naturals, (puris naturalibus.)

6. The minding of the flesh, &c. Erasmus has rendered it “affection,” (affectum;) the old translator, “prudence,” (prudentiam.) But as it is certain that the τὸ ϕρόνημα of Paul is the same with what Moses calls the imagination (figmentum—devising) of the heart, (Gen. vi. 5;) and that under this word are included all the faculties of the soul—reason, understanding, and affections, it seems to me that minding (cogitatio—thinking, imagining, caring) is a more Edition: current; Page: [286] suitable word.1 And though Paul uses the particle γὰρ—for, yet I doubt not but that is only a simple confirmative: for there is here a kind of concession; for after having briefly defined what it is to be in the flesh, he now subjoins the end that awaits all who are slaves to the flesh. Thus by stating the contrary effect, he proves, that they cannot be partakers of the favour of Christ, who abide in the flesh, for through the whole course of their life they proceed and hasten unto death.

This passage deserves special notice; for we hence learn, that we, while following the course of nature, rush headlong into death; for we, of ourselves, contrive nothing but what ends in ruin. But he immediately adds another clause, to teach us, that if anything in us tends to life, it is what the Spirit produces; for no spark of life proceeds from our flesh.

The minding of the Spirit he calls life, for it is life-giving, or leads to life; and by peace he designates, after the manner of the Hebrews, every kind of happiness; for whatever the Spirit of God works in us tends to our felicity. There is, however, no reason why any one should on this account attribute salvation to works; for though God begins our salvation, and at length completes it by renewing us after his own image; yet the only cause is his good pleasure, whereby he makes us partakers of Christ.

7. Because the minding of the flesh,2 &c. He subjoins a Edition: current; Page: [287] proof of what he had stated,—that nothing proceeds from the efforts of our flesh but death, because it contends as an enemy against the will of God. Now the will of God is the rule of righteousness; it hence follows, that whatever is unjust is contrary to it; and what is unjust at the same time brings death. But while God is adverse, and is offended, in vain does any one expect life; for his wrath must be necessarily followed by death, which is the avenging of his wrath.

But let us observe here, that the will of man is in all things opposed to the divine will; for, as much as what is crooked differs from what is straight, so much must be the difference between us and God.

For to the law of God, &c. This is an explanation of the former sentence; and it shows how all the thinkings (meditationes) of the flesh carry on war against the will of God; for his will cannot be assailed but where he has revealed it. In the law God shows what pleases him: hence they who wish really to find out how far they agree with God must test all their purposes and practices by this rule. For though nothing is done in this world, except by the secret governing providence of God; yet to say, under this pretext, that nothing is done but what he approves, (nihil nisi eo approbante fieri,) is intolerable blasphemy; and on this subject some fanatics are wrangling at this day. The law has set the difference between right and wrong plainly and distinctly before our eyes, and to seek it in a deep labyrinth, what sottishness is it! The Lord has indeed, as I have said, his hidden counsel, by which he regulates all things as he pleases; but as it is incomprehensible to us, let us know that we are to refrain from too curious an investigation of it. Let this in the mean time remain as a fixed principle,—that nothing pleases him but righteousness, and also, that no right estimate can be made of our works but by the law, in which he has faithfully testified what he approves and disapproves.

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Nor can be. Behold the power of free-will! which the Sophists cannot carry high enough. Doubtless, Paul affirms here, in express words, what they openly detest,—that it is impossible for us to render our powers subject to the law. They boast that the heart can turn to either side, provided it be aided by the influence of the Spirit, and that a free choice of good or evil is in our power, when the Spirit only brings help; but it is ours to choose or refuse. They also imagine some good emotions, by which we become of ourselves prepared. Paul, on the contrary, declares, that the heart is full of hardness and indomitable contumacy, so that it is never moved naturally to undertake the yoke of God; nor does he speak of this or of that faculty, but speaking indefinitely, he throws into one bundle all the emotions which arise within us.1 Far, then, from a Christian heart be this heathen philosophy respecting the liberty of the will. Let every one acknowledge himself to be the servant of sin, as he is in reality, that he may be made free, being set at liberty by the grace of Christ: to glory in any other liberty is the highest folly.

8. They then who are in the flesh, &c. It is not without reason that I have rendered the adversative δὲ as an illative: for the Apostle infers from what had been said, that those who give themselves up to be guided by the lusts of the Edition: current; Page: [289] flesh, are all of them abominable before God; and he has thus far confirmed this truth,—that all who walk not after the Spirit are alienated from Christ, for they are without any spiritual life.

9. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now, if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.

10. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

11. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.

9. Vos autem non estis in carne, sed in Spiritu, siquidem Spiritus Dei habitat in vobis: si quis verò Spiritum Christi non habet, hic non est ejus.

10. Si verò Christus in vobis est, corpus quidem mortuum est propter peccatum, Spiritus autem vita est propter justitiam.

11. Si inquam Spiritus ejus qui suscitavit Iesum ex mortuis, habitat in vobis, qui suscitavit Christum ex mortuis, vivificabit et mortalia corpora propter Spiritum suum in vobis habitantem.

9. But ye, &c. He applies hypothetically a general truth to those to whom he was writing; not only that by directing his discourse to them particularly he might more powerfully affect them, but also that they might with certainty gather from the description already given, that they were of the number of those, from whom Christ had taken away the curse of the law. Yet, at the same time, by explaining what the Spirit of God works in the elect, and what fruit he brings forth, he encourages them to strive after newness of life.

If indeed the Spirit of God, &c. This qualifying sentence is fitly subjoined, by which they were stirred up to examine themselves more closely, lest they should profess the name of Christ in vain. And it is the surest mark by which the children of God are distinguished from the children of the world, when by the Spirit of God they are renewed unto purity and holiness. It seems at the same time to have been his purpose, not so much to detect hypocrisy, as to suggest reasons for glorying against the absurd zealots of the law, who esteem the dead letter of more importance than the inward power of the Spirit, who gives life to the law.

But this passage shows, that what Paul has hitherto meant by the Spirit, is not the mind or understanding (which is Edition: current; Page: [290] called the superior part of the soul by the advocates of free-will) but a celestial gift; for he shows that those are spiritual, not such as obey reason through their own will, but such as God rules by his Spirit. Nor are they yet said to be according to the Spirit, because they are filled with God’s Spirit, (which is now the case with none,) but because they have the Spirit dwelling in them, though they find some remains of the flesh still remaining in them: at the same time it cannot dwell in them without having the superiority; for it must be observed that man’s state is known by the power that bears rule in him.

But if any have not the Spirit of Christ, &c. He subjoins this to show how necessary in Christians is the denial of the flesh. The reign of the Spirit is the abolition of the flesh. Those in whom the Spirit reigns not, belong not to Christ; then they are not Christians who serve the flesh; for they who separate Christ from his own Spirit make him like a dead image or a carcase. And we must always bear in mind what the Apostle has intimated, that gratuitous remission of sins can never be separated from the Spirit of regeneration; for this would be as it were to rend Christ asunder.

If this be true, it is strange that we are accused of arrogance by the adversaries of the gospel, because we dare to avow that the Spirit of Christ dwells in us: for we must either deny Christ, or confess that we become Christians through his Spirit. It is indeed dreadful to hear that men have so departed from the word of the Lord, that they not only vaunt that they are Christians without God’s Spirit, but also ridicule the faith of others: but such is the philosophy of the Papists.

But let readers observe here, that the Spirit is, without any distinction, called sometimes the Spirit of God the Father, and sometimes the Spirit of Christ; and thus called, not only because his whole fulness was poured on Christ as our Mediator and head, so that from him a portion might descend on each of us, but also because he is equally the Spirit of the Father and of the Son, who have one essence, and the same eternal divinity. As, however, we have no intercourse with God except through Christ, the Apostle Edition: current; Page: [291] wisely descends to Christ from the Father, who seems to be far off.

10. But if Christ be in us, &c. What he had before said of the Spirit he says now of Christ, in order that the mode of Christ’s dwelling in us might be intimated; for as by the Spirit he consecrates us as temples to himself, so by the same he dwells in us. But what we have before referred to, he now explains more fully—that the children of God are counted spiritual, not on the ground of a full and complete perfection, but only on account of the newness of life that is begun in them. And he anticipates here an occasion of doubt, which might have otherwise disturbed us; for though the Spirit possesses a part of us, we yet see another part still under the power of death. He then gives this answer—that the power of quickening is in the Spirit of Christ, which will be effectual in swallowing up our mortality. He hence concludes that we must patiently wait until the relics of sin be entirely abolished.

Readers have been already reminded, that by the word Spirit they are not to understand the soul, but the Spirit of regeneration; and Paul calls the Spirit life, not only because he lives and reigns in us, but also because he quickens us by his power, until at length, having destroyed the mortal flesh, he perfectly renews us. So, on the other hand, the word body signifies that gross mass which is not yet purified by the Spirit of God from earthly dregs, which delight in nothing but what is gross; for it would be otherwise absurd to ascribe to the body the fault of sin: besides the soul is so far from being life that it does not of itself live. The meaning of Paul then is—that although sin adjudges us to death as far as the corruption of our first nature remains in us, yet that the Spirit of God is its conqueror: nor is it any hinderance, that we are only favoured with the first-fruits, for even one spark of the Spirit is the seed of life.1

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11. If the Spirit, &c. This is a confirmation of the last verse, derived from the efficient cause, and according to this sense,—“Since by the power of God’s Spirit Christ was raised, and since the Spirit possesses eternal power, he will also exert the same with regard to us.” And he takes it as granted, that in the person of Christ was exhibited a specimen of the power which belongs to the whole body of the Church: and as he makes God the author of the resurrection, he assigns to him a life-giving Spirit.

Who raised, &c. By this periphrasis he describes God; which harmonizes better with his present object, than if he had called him simply by his own name. For the same reason he assigns to the Father the glory of raising Christ; for it more clearly proved what he had in view, than if he had ascribed the act to Christ himself. For it might have been objected, “That Christ was able by his own power to raise up himself, and this is what no man can do.” But when he says, that God raised up Christ by his Spirit, and that he also communicated his Spirit to us, there is nothing that can be alleged to the contrary; so that he thus makes Edition: current; Page: [293] sure to us the hope of resurrection. Nor is there anything here that derogates from that declaration in John, “I have power to lay down my life, and to take it up again.” (John x. 18.) No doubt Christ arose through his own power; but as he is wont to attribute to the Father whatever Divine power he possesses, so the Apostle has not improperly transferred to the Father what was especially done by Christ, as the peculiar work of divinity.

By mortal bodies he understands all those things which still remain in us, that are subject to death; for his usual practice is to give this name to the grosser part of us. We hence conclude, that he speaks not of the last resurrection, which shall be in a moment, but of the continued working of the Spirit, by which he gradually mortifies the relics of the flesh and renews in us a celestial life.

12. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.

13. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.

14. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.

12. Itaque fratres, debitores sumus, non carni, ut secundum carnem vivamus.

13. Si enim secundum carnem vixeritis, moriemini: si verò Spiritu facta carnis1 mortificaveritis, vivetis.

14. Quicunque enim Spiritu Dei aguntur, ii filii Dei sunt.

12. So then, brethren, &c. This is the conclusion of what has been previously said; for if we are to renounce the flesh, we ought not to consent to it; and if the Spirit ought to reign in us, it is inconsistent not to attend to his bidding. Paul’s sentence is here defective, for he omits the other part of the contrast,—that we are debtors to the Spirit; but the meaning is in no way obscure.2 This conclusion has the force of an exhortation; for he is ever wont to draw exhortations Edition: current; Page: [294] from his doctrine. So in another place, Eph. iv. 30, he exhorts us “not to grieve the Spirit of God, by whom we have been sealed to the day of redemption:” he does the same in Gal. v. 25, “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” And this is the case, when we renounce carnal lusts, so as to devote ourselves, as those who are bound, to the righteousness of God. Thus indeed we ought to reason, not as some blasphemers are wont to do, who talk idly, and say,—that we must do nothing, because we have no power. But it is as it were to fight against God, when we extinguish the grace offered to us, by contempt and negligence.

13. For if ye will live after the flesh, &c. He adds a threatening, in order more effectually to shake off their torpor; by which also they are fully confuted who boast of justification by faith without the Spirit of Christ, though they are more than sufficiently convicted by their own conscience; for there is no confidence in God, where there is no love of righteousness. It is indeed true, that we are justified in Christ through the mercy of God alone; but it is equally true and certain, that all who are justified are called by the Lord, that they may live worthy of their vocation. Let then the faithful learn to embrace him, not only for justification, but also for sanctification, as he has been given to us for both these purposes, lest they rend him asunder by their mutilated faith.

But if ye by the Spirit, &c. He thus moderates his address, that he might not deject the minds of the godly, who are still conscious of much infirmity; for however we may as yet be exposed to sins, he nevertheless promises life to us, provided we strive to mortify the flesh: for he does not strictly require the destruction of the flesh, but only bids us to make every exertion to subdue its lusts.

14. For whosoever are led by the Spirit of God, &c. This is a confirmation of what has immediately preceded; for he teaches us, that those only are deemed the sons of God who are ruled by his Spirit; for by this mark God acknowledges them as his own people. Thus the empty boasting of hypocrites is taken away, who without any reason assume the Edition: current; Page: [295] title; and the faithful are thus encouraged with unhesitating confidence to expect salvation. The import of the whole is this—“all those are the sons of God who are led1 by God’s Spirit; all the sons of God are heirs of eternal life: then all who are led by God’s Spirit ought to feel assured of eternal life.” But the middle term or assumption is omitted, for it was indubitable.

But it is right to observe, that the working of the Spirit is various: for there is that which is universal, by which all creatures are sustained and preserved; there is that also which is peculiar to men, and varying in its character: but what he means here is sanctification, with which the Lord favours none but his own elect, and by which he separates them for sons to himself.

15. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.

16. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:

17. And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ: if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

18. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

15. Et enim non accepistis spiritum servitutis iterum in terrorem: sed accepistis Spiritum adoptionis, per quem clamamus, Abba, Pater.

16. Ipse enim Spiritus simul testificatur spiritui nostro quòd sumus filii Dei:

17. Si verò filii, etiam hæredes; hæredes quidem Dei, cohæredes autem Christi: siquidem compatimur, ut et unà glorificemur.

18. Existimo certè non esse pares afflictiones hujus temporis ad futuram gloriam quæ revelabitur erga nos.

He now confirms the certainty of that confidence, in which he has already bidden the faithful to rest secure; and he does this by mentioning the special effect produced by the Spirit; for he has not been given for the purpose of harassing us with trembling or of tormenting us with anxiety; Edition: current; Page: [296] but on the contrary, for this end—that having calmed every perturbation, and restoring our minds to a tranquil state, he may stir us up to call on God with confidence and freedom. He does not then pursue only the argument which he had before stated, but dwells more on another clause, which he had connected with it, even the paternal mercy of God, by which he forgives his people the infirmities of the flesh and the sins which still remain in them. He teaches us that our confidence in this respect is made certain by the Spirit of adoption, who could not inspire us with confidence in prayer without sealing to us a gratuitous pardon: and that he might make this more evident, he mentions a twofold spirit; he calls one the spirit of bondage, which we receive from the law; and the other, the spirit of adoption, which proceeds from the gospel. The first, he says, was given formerly to produce fear; the other is given now to afford assurance. By such a comparison of contrary things the certainty of our salvation, which he intended to confirm, is, as you see, made more evident.1 The same comparison is used by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, where he says, that we have not come to Mount Sinai, where all things were so terrible, that the people, being alarmed as it were by an immediate apprehension of death, implored that the word should be no more spoken to them, and Moses himself confessed that he was terrified; “but to Sion, the mount of the Lord, and to his city, the heavenly Jerusalem, where Jesus is, the Mediator of the New Testament,” &c. (Heb. xii. 18.)

By the adverb again, we learn, that the law is here compared Edition: current; Page: [297] with the gospel: for the Son of God by his coming has brought to us this invaluable benefit,—that we are no longer bound by the servile condition of the law. You are not however to infer from this, either that no one before the coming of Christ was endued with the spirit of adoption, or that all who received the law were servants and not sons: for he compares the ministration of the law with the dispensation of the gospel rather than persons with persons. I indeed allow that the faithful are here reminded how much more bountifully God now deals with them than he did formerly with the fathers under the Old Testament; he yet regards the outward dispensation, in respect of which only we excel them: for though the faith of Abraham, of Moses, and of David, was superior to ours, yet as God kept them apparently under a schoolmaster, they had not advanced into that liberty which has been revealed to us.

But it must at the same time be noticed, that it was designedly, on account of false apostles, that a contrast was made between the literal disciples of the law, and the faithful whom Christ, the heavenly Teacher, not only addresses by words, but also teaches inwardly and effectually by his Spirit.

And though the covenant of grace is included under the law, it is yet far different from it; for in setting up the gospel in opposition to it, he regards nothing but what was peculiar to the law itself, as it commands and forbids, and restrains transgressors by the denunciation of death: and thus he gives the law its own character, in which it differs from the gospel; or this statement may be preferred by some,—“He sets forth the law only, as that by which God covenants with us on the ground of works.” So then persons only must be regarded as to the Jewish people; for when the law was published, and also after it was published, the godly were illuminated by the same Spirit of faith; and thus the hope of eternal life, of which the Spirit is the earnest and seal, was sealed on their hearts. The only difference is, that the Spirit is more largely and abundantly poured forth in the kingdom of Christ. But if you regard only the dispensation of the law, it will then appear, that salvation was Edition: current; Page: [298] first clearly revealed at that time, when Christ was manifested in the flesh. All things under the Old Testament were involved in great obscurity, when compared with the clear light of the gospel.

And then, if the law be viewed in itself, it can do nothing but restrain those, devoted to its miserable bondage, by the horror of death; for it promises no good except under condition, and denounces death on all transgressors. Hence, as there is the spirit of bondage under the law, which oppresses the conscience with fear; so under the gospel there is the spirit of adoption, which exhilarates our souls by bearing a testimony as to our salvation. But observe, that fear is connected with bondage, as it cannot be otherwise, but that the law will harass and torment souls with miserable disquietness, as long as it exercises its dominion. There is then no other remedy for quieting them, except God forgives us our sin and deals kindly with us as a father with his children.

Through whom we cry, &c. He has changed the person, that he might describe the common privilege of all the saints; as though he had said,—“Ye have the spirit, through whom you and all we, the rest of the faithful, cry,” &c. The imitation of their language is very significant; when he introduces the word Father, in the person of the faithful. The repetition of the name is for the sake of amplification; for Paul intimates, that God’s mercy was so published through the whole world, that he was invoked, as Augustine observes, indiscriminately in all languages.1 His object then was to express the consent which existed among all Edition: current; Page: [299] nations. It hence follows, that there is now no difference between the Jew and the Greek, as they are united together. Isaiah speaks differently when he declares, that the language of Canaan would be common to all, (Is. xix. 18;) yet the meaning is the same; for he had no respect to the external idiom, but to the harmony of heart in serving God, and to the same undisguised zeal in professing his true and pure worship. The word cry is set down for the purpose of expressing confidence; as though he said, “We pray not doubtingly, but we confidently raise up a loud voice to heaven.”

The faithful also under the law did indeed call God their Father, but not with such full confidence, as the vail kept them at a distance from the sanctuary: but now, since an entrance has been opened to us by the blood of Christ, we may rejoice fully and openly that we are the children of God; hence arises this crying. In short, thus is fulfilled the prophecy of Hosea, “I will say to them, My people are ye: they in their turn will answer, Thou art our God.” (Hosea ii. 23.) For the more evident the promise is, the greater the freedom in prayer.

16. The Spirit himself, &c. He does not simply say, that God’s Spirit is a witness to our spirit, but he adopts a compound verb, which might be rendered “contest,” (contestatur,) were it not that contestation (contestatio) has a different meaning in Latin. But Paul means, that the Spirit of God gives us such a testimony, that when he is our guide and teacher, our spirit is made assured of the adoption of God: for our mind of its own self, without the preceding testimony of the Spirit, could not convey to us this assurance. There is also here an explanation of the former verse; for when the Spirit testifies to us, that we are the children of God, he at the same time pours into our hearts such confidence, that we venture to call God our Father. And doubtless, since the confidence of the heart alone opens our mouth, except the Spirit testifies to our heart respecting the paternal love of God, our tongues would be dumb, so that they could utter no prayers. For we must ever hold fast this principle,—that we do not rightly pray to God, unless we are surely persuaded in our hearts, that he is our Father, when we so Edition: current; Page: [300] call him with our lips. To this there is a corresponding part,—that our faith has no true evidence, except we call upon God. It is not then without reason that Paul, bringing us to this test, shows that it then only appears how truly any one believes, when they who have embraced the promise of grace, exercise themselves in prayers.1

But there is here a striking refutation of the vain notions of the Sophists respecting moral conjecture, which is nothing else but uncertainty and anxiety of mind; nay, rather vacillation and delusion.2 There is also an answer given here to Edition: current; Page: [301] their objection, for they ask, “How can a man fully know the will of God?” This certainly is not within the reach of man, but it is the testimony of God’s Spirit; and this subject he treats more at large in the First Epistle to the Corinthians, from which we may derive a fuller explanation of this passage. Let this truth then stand sure,—that no one can be called a son of God, who does not know himself to be such; and this is called knowledge by John, in order to set forth its certainty. (1 John v. 19, 20.)

17. And if children, &c. By an argument, taken from what is annexed or what follows, he proves that our salvation consists in having God as our Father. It is for children that inheritance is appointed: since God then has adopted us as his children, he has at the same time ordained an inheritance for us. He then intimates what sort of inheritance it is—that it is heavenly, and therefore incorruptible and eternal, such as Christ possesses; and his possession of it takes away all uncertainty: and it is a commendation of the excellency of this inheritance, that we shall partake of it in common with the only-begotten Son of God. It is however the design of Paul, as it will presently appear more fully, highly to extol this inheritance promised to us, that we may be contented with it, and manfully despise the allurements of the world, and patiently bear whatever troubles may press on us in this life.

If so be that we suffer together, &c. Various are the interpretations of this passage, but I approve of the following in preference to any other, “We are co-heirs with Christ, provided, in entering on our inheritance, we follow him in the same way in which he has gone before.” And he thus made mention of Christ, because he designed to pass over by these steps to an encouraging strain,—“God’s inheritance is ours, because we have by his grace been adopted as his children; and that it may not be doubtful, its possession has been already conferred on Christ, whose partners we are Edition: current; Page: [302] become: but Christ came to it by the cross; then we must come to it in the same manner.”1 Nor is that to be dreaded which some fear, that Paul thus ascribes the cause of our eternal glory to our labours; for this mode of speaking is not unusual in Scripture. He denotes the order, which the Lord follows in dispensing salvation to us, rather than the cause; for he has already sufficiently defended the gratuitous mercy of God against the merits of works. When now exhorting us to patience, he does not show whence salvation proceeds, but how God governs his people.

18. I indeed judge,2 &c. Though they take not altogether an unsuitable view who understand this as a kind of modification; yet I prefer to regard it in the light of an encouragement, for the purpose of anticipating an objection, according to this import,—“It ought not indeed to be grievous to us, if we must pass through various afflictions into celestial glory, since these, when compared with the greatness of that glory, are of the least moment.” He has mentioned future for eternal glory, intimating that the afflictions of the world are such as pass away quickly.

It is hence evident how ill understood has this passage been by the Schoolmen; for they have drawn from it their frivolous distinction between congruity and condignity. The Edition: current; Page: [303] Apostle indeed compares not the worthiness of the one with that of the other, but only lightens the heaviness of the cross by a comparison with the greatness of glory, in order to confirm the minds of the faithful in patience.

19. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.

20. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope;

21. Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.

22. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.

19. Siquidem intenta expectatio creaturæ, revelationem filiorum Dei expectat:

20. Vanitati enim creatura subjecta est non volens, sed propter eum qui subjecit ipsam in spe;

21. Quoniam ipsa quoque creatura asseretur à servitute corruptionis in libertatem gloriæ filiorum Dei.

22. Novimus enim quòd creatura universa congemiscit, et ad hunc diem parturit.

19. For the intent expectation of the creation, &c. He teaches us that there is an example of the patience, to which he had exhorted us, even in mute creatures. For, to omit various interpretations, I understand the passage to have this meaning—that there is no element and no part of the world which, being touched, as it were, with a sense of its present misery, does not intensely hope for a resurrection. He indeed lays down two things,—that all are creatures in distress,—and yet that they are sustained by hope. And it hence also appears how immense is the value of eternal glory, that it can excite and draw all things to desire it.

Further, the expression, expectation expects, or waits for, though somewhat unusual, yet has a most suitable meaning; for he meant to intimate, that all creatures, seized with great anxiety and held in suspense with great desire, look for that day which shall openly exhibit the glory of the children of God. The revelation of God’s children shall be, when we shall be like God, according to what John says, “For though we know that we are now his sons, yet it appears not yet what we shall be.” (1 John iii. 2.) But I have retained the words of Paul; for bolder than what is meet is the version of Erasmus, “Until the sons of God shall be manifest;” nor does it sufficiently express the meaning of the Apostle; for Edition: current; Page: [304] he means not, that the sons of God shall be manifested in the last day, but that it shall be then made known how desirable and blessed their condition will be, when they shall put off corruption and put on celestial glory. But he ascribes hope to creatures void of reason for this end,—that the faithful may open their eyes to behold the invisible life, though as yet it lies hid under a mean garb.

20. For to vanity has the creation, &c. He shows the object of expectation from what is of an opposite character; for as creatures, being now subject to corruption, cannot be restored until the sons of God shall be wholly restored; hence they, longing for their renewal, look forward to the manifestation of the celestial kingdom. He says, that they have been subjected to vanity, and for this reason, because they abide not in a constant and durable state, but being as it were evanescent and unstable, they pass away swiftly; for no doubt he sets vanity in opposition to a perfect state.

Not willingly, &c. Since there is no reason in such creatures, their will is to be taken no doubt for their natural inclination, according to which the whole nature of things tends to its own preservation and perfection: whatever then is detained under corruption suffers violence, nature being unwilling and repugnant. But he introduces all parts of the world, by a sort of personification, as being endued with reason; and he does this in order to shame our stupidity, when the uncertain fluctuation of this world, which we see, does not raise our minds to higher things.

But on account of him, &c. He sets before us an example of obedience in all created things, and adds, that it springs from hope; for hence comes the alacrity of the sun and moon, and of all the stars in their constant courses, hence is the sedulity of the earth’s obedience in bringing forth fruits, hence is the unwearied motion of the air, hence is the prompt tendency to flow in water. God has given to everything its charge; and he has not only by a distinct order commanded what he would to be done, but also implanted inwardly the hope of renovation. For in the sad disorder which followed the fall of Adam, the whole machinery of the world would have instantly become deranged, and all its parts would have Edition: current; Page: [305] failed had not some hidden strength supported them. It would have been then wholly inconsistent that the earnest of the Spirit should be less efficacious in the children of God than hidden instinct in the lifeless parts of creation. How much soever then created things do naturally incline another way; yet as it has pleased God to bring them under vanity, they obey his order; and as he has given them a hope of a better condition, with this they sustain themselves, deferring their desire, until the incorruption promised to them shall be revealed. He now, by a kind of personification, ascribes hope to them, as he did will before.

21. Because the creation itself, &c. He shows how the creation has in hope been made subject to vanity; that is, inasmuch as it shall some time be made free, according to what Isaiah testifies, and what Peter confirms still more clearly.

It is then indeed meet for us to consider what a dreadful curse we have deserved, since all created things in themselves blameless, both on earth and in the visible heaven, undergo punishment for our sins; for it has not happened through their own fault, that they are liable to corruption. Thus the condemnation of mankind is imprinted on the heavens, and on the earth, and on all creatures. It hence also appears to what excelling glory the sons of God shall be exalted; for all creatures shall be renewed in order to amplify it, and to render it illustrious.

But he means not that all creatures shall be partakers of the same glory with the sons of God; but that they, according to their nature, shall be participators of a better condition; for God will restore to a perfect state the world, now fallen, together with mankind. But what that perfection will be, as to beasts as well as plants and metals, it is not meet nor right in us to inquire more curiously; for the chief effect of corruption is decay. Some subtle men, but hardly sober-minded, inquire whether all kinds of animals will be immortal; but if reins be given to speculations where will they at length lead us? Let us then be content with this simple doctrine,—that such will be the constitution and the complete order of things, that nothing will be deformed or fading.

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22. For we know, &c. He repeats the same sentiment, that he might pass over to us, though what is now said has the effect and the form of a conclusion; for as creatures are subject to corruption, not through their natural desire, but through the appointment of God, and then, as they have a hope of being hereafter freed from corruption, it hence follows, that they groan like a woman in travail until they shall be delivered. But it is a most suitable similitude; it shows that the groaning of which he speaks will not be in vain and without effect; for it will at length bring forth a joyful and blessed fruit. The meaning is, that creatures are not content in their present state, and yet that they are not so distressed that they pine away without a prospect of a remedy, but that they are as it were in travail; for a restoration to a better state awaits them. By saying that they groan together, he does not mean that they are united together by mutual anxiety, but he joins them as companions to us. The particle hitherto, or, to this day, serves to alleviate the weariness of daily languor; for if creatures have continued for so many ages in their groaning, how inexcusable will our softness or sloth be if we faint during the short course of a shadowy life.1

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23. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.

24. For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?

25. But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.

23. Non solum autem, sed ipsi quoque qui primordia Spiritus habemus; nos inquam ipsi in nobis ipsis gemimus, adoptionem expectantes, redemptionem corporis nostri.

24. Spe enim salvi facti sumus; spes vero quæ conspicitur, non est spes; quod enim conspicit quis, quomodo etiam speret?

25. Si ergo non quod non conspicimus, speramus, per patientiam expectamus.

23. And not only so, &c. There are those who think that Edition: current; Page: [308] the Apostle intended here to exalt the dignity of our future blessedness, and by this proof, because all things look for it with ardent desire; not only the irrational parts of creation, but we also who have been regenerated by the Spirit of God. This view is indeed capable of being defended, but there seems to me to be a comparison here between the greater and the less; as though he said, “The excellency of our glory is of such importance even to the very elements, which are destitute of mind and reason, that they burn with a certain kind of desire for it; how much more it behoves us, who have been illuminated by the Spirit of God, to aspire and strive with firmness of hope and with ardour of desire, after the attainment of so great a benefit.” And he requires that there should be a feeling of two kinds in the faithful: that being burdened with the sense of their present misery, they are to groan; and that notwithstanding they are to wait patiently for their deliverance; for he would have them to be raised up with the expectation of their future blessedness, and by an elevation of mind to overcome all their present miseries, while they consider not what they are now, but what they are to be.

Who have the beginnings, &c. Some render the word first-fruits, (primitias,) and as meaning a rare and uncommon excellency; but of this view I by no means approve. To avoid, therefore, any ambiguity, I have rendered the word beginnings, (primordia, the elements,) for I do not apply the expression, as they do, to the Apostles only, but to all the faithful who in this world are besprinkled only with a few drops by the Spirit; and indeed when they make the greatest proficiency, being endued with a considerable measure of it, they are still far off from perfection. These, then, in the view of the Apostle, are beginnings or first-fruits, to which is opposed the complete ingathering; for as we are not yet endued with fulness, it is no wonder that we feel disquietude. By repeating ourselves and adding in ourselves, he renders the sentence more emphatical, and expresses a more ardent desire, nor does he call it only a desire, but groaning: for in groaning there is a deep feeling of misery.

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Waiting for the adoption, &c. Improperly indeed, but not without the best reason, is adoption employed here to designate the fruition of the inheritance to which we are adopted; for Paul means this, that the eternal decree of God, by which he has chosen us to himself as sons before the foundation of the world, of which he testifies to us in the gospel, the assurance of which he seals on our hearts by his Spirit, would be void, except the promised resurrection were certain, which is its consummation.1 For to what end is God our Father, except he receives us after we have finished our earthly pilgrimage into his celestial inheritance? To the same purpose is what he immediately subjoins, the redemption of the body. For the price of our redemption was in such a way paid by Christ, that death should notwithstanding hold us tied by its chains, yea, that we should carry it within us; it hence follows, that the sacrifice of the death of Christ would be in vain and fruitless, except its fruit appeared in our heavenly renovation.

24. For by hope, &c. Paul strengthens his exhortation by another argument; for our salvation cannot be separated from some kind of death, and this he proves by the nature of hope. Since hope extends to things not yet obtained, and represents to our minds the form of things hidden and far remote, whatever is either openly seen or really possessed, is not an object of hope. But Paul takes it as granted, and what cannot be denied, that as long as we are in the world, salvation is what is hoped for; it hence follows, that it is laid up with God far beyond what we can see. By saying, that hope is not what is seen, he uses a concise expression, but the meaning is not obscure; for he means simply to teach us, that since hope regards some future and not present good, it can never be connected with what we have in possession. If then it be grievous to any to groan, they necessarily subvert the order laid down by God, who does not Edition: current; Page: [310] call his people to victory before he exercises them in the warfare of patience. But since it has pleased God to lay up our salvation, as it were, in his closed bosom, it is expedient for us to toil on earth, to be oppressed, to mourn, to be afflicted, yea, to lie down as half-dead and to be like the dead; for they who seek a visible salvation reject it, as they renounce hope which has been appointed by God as its guardian.1

25. If then what we see not, &c. This is an argument derived from what the antecedent implies; for patience necessarily follows hope. For when it is grievous to be without the good you may desire, unless you sustain and comfort yourselves with patience, you must necessarily faint through despair. Hope then ever draws patience with it. Thus it is a most apt conclusion—that whatever the gospel promises respecting the glory of the resurrection, vanishes away, except we spend our present life in patiently bearing the cross and tribulations. For if life be invisible, we must have death before our eyes: if glory be invisible, then our present state is that of degradation. And hence if you wish to include in a few words the meaning of the whole passage, arrange Paul’s arguments in this way, “To all the godly there is salvation laid up in hope; it is the character of hope to look forward to future and absent benefits: then the salvation of the faithful is not visible. Now hope is not otherwise sustained than by patience; then the salvation of the faithful is not to be consummated except by patience.”

It may be added, that we have here a remarkable passage, which shows, that patience is an inseparable companion of faith; and the reason of this is evident, for when we console ourselves with the hope of a better condition, the feeling of our present miseries is softened and mitigated, so that they are borne with less difficulty.2

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26. Likewise1 the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

27. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

26. Similiter1 verò Spiritus etiam coopitulatur infirmitatibus nostris; non enim quid oraturi sumus quemadmodum oportet, novimus; verùm Spiritus ipse intercedit pro nobis gemitibus innarrabilibus.

27. Qui verò scrutatur corda, novit cogitationem Spiritus, quòd secundum Deum intercedit pro sanctis.

26. And likewise the Spirit, &c. That the faithful may not make this objection—that they are so weak as not to be able to bear so many and so heavy burdens, he brings before them the aid of the Spirit, which is abundantly sufficient to overcome all difficulties. There is then no reason for any one to complain, that the bearing of the cross is beyond their own strength, since we are sustained by a celestial power. And there is great force in the Greek word συναντιλαμϐάνεται, which means that the Spirit takes on himself a part of the burden, by which our weakness is oppressed; so that he not only helps and succours us, but lifts us up; as though he went under the burden with us.2 The word infirmities, being in the plural number, is expressive of extremity. For as experience shows, that except we are supported by God’s hands, we are soon overwhelmed by innumerable evils, Paul reminds us, that though we are in every respect weak, and various infirmities threaten our fall, there is yet sufficient protection in God’s Spirit to preserve us Edition: current; Page: [312] from falling, and to keep us from being overwhelmed by any mass of evils. At the same time these supplies of the Spirit more clearly prove to us, that it is by God’s appointment that we strive, by groanings and sighings, for our redemption.

For what we should pray for, &c. He had before spoken of the testimony of the Spirit, by which we know that God is our Father, and on which relying, we dare to call on him as our Father. He now again refers to the second part, invocation, and says, that we are taught by the same Spirit how to pray, and what to ask in our prayers. And appropriately has he annexed prayers to the anxious desires of the faithful; for God does not afflict them with miseries, that they may inwardly feed on hidden grief, but that they may disburden themselves by prayer, and thus exercise their faith.

At the same time I know, that there are various expositions of this passage;1 but Paul seems to me to have simply meant this,—That we are blind in our addresses to God; for though we feel our evils, yet our minds are more disturbed and confused than that they can rightly choose what is meet and expedient. If any one makes this objection—that a rule is prescribed to us in God’s word; to this I answer, that our thoughts nevertheless continue oppressed with darkness, until the Spirit guides them by his light.

But the Spirit himself intercedes,2 &c. Though really or by the event it does not appear that our prayers have Edition: current; Page: [313] been heard by God, yet Paul concludes, that the presence of the celestial favour does already shine forth in the desire for prayer; for no one can of himself give birth to devout and godly aspirations. The unbelieving do indeed blab out their prayers, but they only trifle with God; for there is in them nothing sincere, or serious, or rightly formed. Hence the manner of praying aright must be suggested by the Spirit: and he calls those groanings unutterable, into which we break forth by the impulse of the Spirit, for this reason—because they far exceed the capability of our own minds.1 And the Spirit is said to intercede, not because he really humbles himself to pray or to groan, but because he stirs up in our hearts those desires which we ought to entertain; and he also affects our hearts in such a way that these desires by their fervency penetrate into heaven itself. And Paul has thus spoken, that he might more significantly ascribe the whole to the grace of the Spirit. We are indeed bidden to knock; but no one can of himself premeditate even one syllable, except God by the secret impulse of his Spirit knocks at our door, and thus opens for himself our hearts.

27. But he who searches hearts, &c. This is a remarkable reason for strengthening our confidence, that we are heard by God when we pray through his Spirit, for he thoroughly knows our desires, even as the thoughts of his own Spirit. And here must be noticed the suitableness of the word to know; for it intimates that God regards not these emotions of the Spirit as new and strange, or that he rejects them as unreasonable, but that he allows them, and at the same time kindly accepts them, as allowed and approved by him. As Edition: current; Page: [314] then Paul had before testified, that God then aids us when he draws us as it were into his own bosom, so now he adds another consolation, that our prayers, of which he is the director, shall by no means be disappointed. The reason also is immediately added, because he thus conforms us to his own will. It hence follows, that in vain can never be what is agreeable to his will, by which all things are ruled. Let us also hence learn, that what holds the first place in prayer is consent with the will of the Lord, whom our wishes do by no means hold under obligation. If then we would have our prayers to be acceptable to God, we must pray that he may regulate them according to his will.

28. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

29. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.

30. Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called; and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified.

28. Novimus autem quòd iis qui diligunt Deum omnia cooperantur in bonum, iis scilicet qui secundum propositum vocati sunt sancti.

29. Quoniam quos præcognovit etiam præfinivit conformes imaginis Filii sui, ut sit ipse primogenitus inter multos fratres:

30. Quos vero præfinivit, eos et vocavit; et quos vocavit, eos etiam justificavit; et quos justificavit, eos etiam glorificavit.

28. And we know, &c. He now draws this conclusion from what had been said, that so far are the troubles of this life from hindering our salvation, that, on the contrary, they are helps to it. It is no objection that he sets down an illative particle, for it is no new thing with him to make somewhat an indiscriminate use of adverbs, and yet this conclusion includes what anticipates an objection. For the judgment of the flesh in this case exclaims, that it by no means appears that God hears our prayers, since our afflictions continue the same. Hence the Apostle anticipates this and says, that though God does not immediately succour his people, he yet does not forsake them, for by a wonderful contrivance he turns those things which seem to be evils in such a way as to promote their salvation. If any one prefers to read this verse by itself, as though Paul proceeded to a new argument in order to show that adversities which Edition: current; Page: [315] assist our salvation, ought not to be borne as hard and grievous things, I do not object. At the same time, the design of Paul is not doubtful: “Though the elect and the reprobate are indiscriminately exposed to similar evils, there is yet a great difference; for God trains up the faithful by afflictions, and thereby promotes their salvation.”

But we must remember that Paul speaks here only of adversities, as though he had said, “All things which happen to the saints are so overruled by God, that what the world regards as evil, the issue shows to be good.” For though what Augustine says is true, that even the sins of the saints are, through the guiding providence of God, so far from doing harm to them, that, on the contrary, they serve to advance their salvation; yet this belongs not to this passage, the subject of which is the cross.

It must also be observed, that he includes the whole of true religion in the love of God, as on it depends the whole practice of righteousness.

Even to them who according to his purpose, &c. This clause seems to have been added as a modification, lest any one should think that the faithful, because they love God, obtain by their own merit the advantage of deriving such fruit from their adversities. We indeed know that when salvation is the subject, men are disposed to begin with themselves, and to imagine certain preparations by which they would anticipate the favour of God. Hence Paul teaches us, that those whom he had spoken of as loving God, had been previously chosen by him. For it is certain that the order is thus pointed out, that we may know that it proceeds from the gratuitous adoption of God, as from the first cause, that all things happen to the saints for their salvation. Nay, Paul shows that the faithful do not love God before they are called by him, as in another place he reminds us that the Galatians were known of God before they knew him. (Gal. iv. 9.) It is indeed true what Paul intimates, that afflictions avail not to advance the salvation of any but of those who love God; but that saying of John is equally true, that then only he is begun to be loved by us, when he anticipates us by his gratuitous love.

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But the calling of which Paul speaks here, has a wide meaning, for it is not to be confined to the manifestation of election, of which mention is presently made, but is to be set simply in opposition to the course pursued by men; as though Paul had said,—“The faithful attain not religion by their own efforts, but are, on the contrary, led by the hand of God, inasmuch as he has chosen them to be a peculiar people to himself.” The word purpose distinctly excludes whatever is imagined to be adduced mutually by men; as though Paul had denied, that the causes of our election are to be sought anywhere else, except in the secret good pleasure of God; which subject is more fully handled in the first chapter to the Ephesians, and in the first of the Second Epistle to Timothy; where also the contrast between this purpose and human righteousness is more distinctly set forth.1 Paul, however, no doubt made here this express declaration,—that our salvation is based on the election of God, in order that he might make a transition to that which he immediately subjoined, namely, that by the same celestial decree, the afflictions, which conform us to Christ, have been appointed; and he did this for the purpose of connecting, as by a kind of necessary chain, our salvation with the bearing of the cross.

29. For whom he has foreknown, &c. He then shows, by the very order of election, that the afflictions of the faithful Edition: current; Page: [317] are nothing else than the manner by which they are conformed to the image of Christ; and that this was necessary, he had before declared. There is therefore no reason for us to be grieved, or to think it hard and grievous, that we are afflicted, unless we disapprove of the Lord’s election, by which we have been foreordained to life, and unless we are unwilling to bear the image of the Son of God, by which we are to be prepared for celestial glory.

But the foreknowledge of God, which Paul mentions, is not a bare prescience, as some unwise persons absurdly imagine, but the adoption by which he had always distinguished his children from the reprobate.1 In the same sense Peter says, that the faithful had been elected to the sanctification of the Spirit according to the foreknowledge of God. Hence those, to whom I have alluded, foolishly draw this Edition: current; Page: [318] inference,—That God has elected none but those whom he foresaw would be worthy of his grace. Peter does not indeed flatter the faithful, as though every one had been elected on account of his merit; but by reminding them of the eternal counsel of God, he wholly deprives them of all worthiness. So Paul does in this passage, who repeats by another word what he had said before of God’s purpose. It hence follows, that this knowledge is connected with God’s good pleasure; for he foreknew nothing out of himself, in adopting those whom he was pleased to adopt; but only marked out those whom he had purposed to elect.

The verb προορίζειν, which some translate, to predestinate, is to be understood according to what this passage requires; for Paul only meant, that God had so determined that all whom he has adopted should bear the image of Christ; nor has he simply said, that they were to be conformed to Christ, but to the image of Christ, that he might teach us that there is in Christ a living and conspicuous exemplar, which is exhibited to God’s children for imitation. The meaning then is, that gratuitous adoption, in which our salvation consists, is inseparable from the other decree, which determines that we are to bear the cross; for no one can be an heir of heaven without being conformed to the image of the only-begotten Son of God.

That he may be, or, that he might be, the first-born, &c.; for the Greek infinitive, εipsivrgrναι, may be rendered in these two ways; but I prefer the first rendering. But in mentioning Christ’s primogeniture, Paul meant only to express this,—that since Christ possesses a pre-eminence among the children of God, he is rightly given to us as a pattern, so that we ought to refuse nothing which he has been pleased to undergo. Hence, that the celestial Father may in every way bear testimony to the authority and honour which he has conferred on his own Son, he will have all those whom he adopts to be the heirs of his kingdom, to be conformed to his example. Though indeed the condition of the godly is apparently various, as there is a difference between the members of the same body, there is yet a connection between every one and his own head. As then the first-born sustains the Edition: current; Page: [319] name of the family, so Christ is placed in a state of preeminence, not only that he might excel in honour among the faithful, but also that he might include all under himself under the common name of brotherhood.

30. And whom he has foredetermined, (præfinivit,) them has he also called, &c. That he might now by a clearer proof show how true it is that a conformity with the humiliating state of Christ is for our good, he adopts a graduating process, by which he teaches us, that a participation of the cross is so connected with our vocation, justification, and, in short, with our future glory, that they can by no means be separated.

But that readers may better understand the Apostle’s meaning, it may be well to repeat what I have already said,—that the word foredetermine does not refer to election, but to that purpose or decree of God by which he has ordained that the cross is to be borne by his people; and by declaring that they are now called, he intimates, that God had not kept concealed what he had determined respecting them, but had made it known, that they might resignedly and humbly submit to the condition allotted to them; for calling here is to be distinguished from secret election, as being posterior to it. That none then may make this objection—that it appears to no one what lot God has appointed for him, the Apostle says, that God by his calling bears an evident testimony respecting his hidden purpose. But this testimony is not only found in the outward preaching of the gospel, but it has also the power of the Spirit connected with it; for the elect are there spoken of, whom God not only addresses by the outward word, but whom he also inwardly draws.

Justification may fitly be extended to the unremitted continuance of God’s favour, from the time of our calling to the hour of death; but as Paul uses this word throughout the Epistle, for gratuitous imputation of righteousness, there is no necessity for us to deviate from this meaning. What Paul indeed had in view was to show that a more precious compensation is offered to us, than what ought to allow us to shun afflictions; for what is more desirable than to be Edition: current; Page: [320] reconciled to God, so that our miseries may no longer be tokens of a curse, nor lead us to ruin?

He then immediately adds, that those who are now pressed down by the cross shall be glorified; so that their sorrows and reproaches shall bring them no loss. Though glorification is not yet exhibited except in our Head, yet as we in a manner behold in him our inheritance of eternal life, his glory brings to us such assurance respecting our own glory, that our hope may be justly compared to a present possession.

We may add, that Paul, imitating the style of the Hebrew language, adopts in these verbs the past instead of the present tense.1 A continued act is no doubt what is meant, according to this import, “Those whom God now, consistently with his purpose, exercises under the cross, are called and justified, that they may have a hope of salvation, so that nothing of their glory decays during their humiliation; for though their present miseries deform it before the world, yet before God and angels it always shines forth as perfect.” What Paul then means by this gradation is, That the afflictions of the faithful, by which they are now humbled, are intended for this end—that the faithful, having obtained the glory of the celestial kingdom, may reach the glory of Christ’s resurrection, with whom they are now crucified.

31. What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?

32. He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?

33. Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.

34. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.

31. Quid ergo dicemus ad hæc?2 Si Deus pro nobis, quis contra nos?

32. Qui proprio Filio non pepercit, sed pro nobis omnibus tradidit, quomodo non etiam cum eo donaret nobis omnia?

33. Quis intentabit crimina3 adversùs electos Dei? Deus est qui justificat.

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34. Quis ille qui condemnet? Christus est qui mortuus est, quin potius etiam suscitatus, qui et in dexterâ Patris est, qui et intercedit pro nobis.

31. What then, &c. The subject discussed having been sufficiently proved, he now breaks out into exclamations, by which he sets forth the magnanimity with which the faithful ought to be furnished when adversities urge them to despond. And he teaches us in these words that with the paternal favour of God is connected that invincible courage which overcomes all temptations. We indeed know, that judgment is usually formed of the love or of the hatred of God, in no other way than by a view of our present state; hence when things fall out untowardly, sorrow takes possession of our minds, and drives away all confidence and consolation. But Paul loudly exclaims, that a deeper principle ought to be inquired after, and that they reason absurdly who confine themselves to the sad spectacle of our present warfare. I indeed allow, that the scourges of God are in themselves justly deemed to be tokens of God’s wrath; but as they are consecrated in Christ, Paul bids the saints to lay hold, above all things, on the paternal love of God, that relying on this shield they may boldly triumph over all evils; for this is a brazen wall to us, so that while God is propitious to us we shall be safe against all dangers. He does not, however, mean, that nothing shall oppose us; but he promises a victory over all kinds of enemies.

If God be for us, &c. This is the chief and the only support which can sustain us in every temptation. For except we have God propitious to us, though all things should smile on us, yet no sure confidence can be attained: but, Edition: current; Page: [322] on the other hand, his favour alone is a sufficient solace in every sorrow, a protection sufficiently strong against all the storms of adversities. And on this subject there are many testimonies of Scripture, which show that when the saints rely on the power of God alone, they dare to despise whatever is opposed to them in the world. “When I walk in the midst of the shadow of death, I shall not fear evils, for thou art with me.” (Ps. xxiii. 4.) “In the Lord I trust: what shall flesh do to me.” (Ps. lvi. 11.) “I shall not fear the thousands of the people who beset me.” (Ps. iii. 6.) For there is no power either under or above the heavens, which can resist the arm of God. Having him then as our defender, we need fear no harm whatever. Hence he alone shows real confidence in God, who being content with his protection, dreads nothing in such a way as to despond; the faithful are doubtless often shaken but are never utterly cast down. In short, the Apostle’s object was to show, that the godly soul ought to rely on the inward testimony of the Holy Spirit, and not to depend on outward things.

32. He who has not spared his own Son, &c. As it greatly concerns us to be so thoroughly persuaded of the paternal love of God, as to be able to retain our rejoicing on its account, Paul brings forward the price of our redemption in order to prove that God favours us: and doubtless it is a remarkable and clear evidence of inappreciable love, that the Father refused not to bestow his Son for our salvation. And so Paul draws an argument from the greater to the less, that as he had nothing dearer, or more precious, or more excellent than his Son, he will neglect nothing of what he foresees will be profitable to us.1

This passage ought to remind us of what Christ brings to us, and to awaken us to contemplate his riches; for as he is a pledge of God’s infinite love towards us, so he has not been Edition: current; Page: [323] sent to us void of blessings or empty, but filled with all celestial treasures, so that they who possess him may not want anything necessary for their perfect felicity. To deliver up means here to expose to death.

33. Who shall bring an accusation, &c. The first and the chief consolation of the godly in adversities, is to be fully persuaded of the paternal kindness of God; for hence arises the certainty of their salvation, and that calm quietness of the soul through which it comes that adversities are sweetened, or at least the bitterness of sorrow mitigated. Hardly then a more suitable encouragement to patience could be adduced than this, a conviction that God is propitious to us; and hence Paul makes this confidence the main ground of that consolation, by which it behoves the faithful to be strengthened against all evils. And as the salvation of man is first assailed by accusation, and then subverted by condemnation, he in the first place averts the danger of accusation. There is indeed but one God, at whose tribunal we must stand; then there is no room for accusation when he justifies us. The antithetic clauses seem not indeed to be exactly arranged; for the two parts which ought rather to have been set in opposition to each other are these: “Who shall accuse? Christ is he who intercedes:” and then these two might have been connected, “Who shall condemn? God is he who justifies;” for God’s absolution answers to condemnation, and Christ’s intercession to accusation. But Paul has not without reason made another arrangement, as he was anxious to arm the children of God, as they say, from head to foot, with that confidence which banishes all anxieties and fears. He then more emphatically concludes, that the children of God are not subject to an accusation, because God justifies, than if he had said that Christ is our advocate; for he more fully expresses that the way to a trial is more completely closed up when the judge himself pronounces him wholly exempt from guilt, whom the accuser would bring in as deserving of punishment. There is also a similar reason for the second clause; for he shows that the faithful are very far from being involved in the danger of condemnation, since Christ by expiating their sins has anticipated Edition: current; Page: [324] the judgment of God, and by his intercession not only abolishes death, but also covers our sins in oblivion, so that they come not to an account.

The drift of the whole is, that we are not only freed from terror by present remedies, but that God comes to our aid beforehand, that he may better provide for our confidence.

But it must be here observed, as we have before reminded you, that to be justified, according to Paul, is to be absolved by the sentence of God, and to be counted just; and it is not difficult to prove this from the present passage, in which he reasons by affirming one thing which nullifies its opposite; for to absolve and to regard persons as guilty, are contrary things. Hence God will allow no accusation against us, because he has absolved us from all sins. The devil no doubt is an accuser of all the godly: the very law of God and their own conscience convict them; but all these prevail nothing with the judge, who justifies them. Therefore no adversary can shake or endanger our salvation.

Further, he so mentions the elect, as one who doubted not but that he was of their number; and he knew this, not by special revelation, (as some sophists falsely imagine,) but by a perception (sensu—feeling) common to all the godly. What then is here said of the elect, every one of the godly, according to the example of Paul, may apply to himself; for this doctrine would have been not only frigid, but wholly lifeless, had he buried election in the secret purpose of God. But when we know, that there is here designedly set before us what every one of the godly ought to appropriate to himself, there is no doubt but that we are all encouraged to examine our calling, so that we may become assured that we are the children of God.

34. Who is he that condemns? &c. As no one by accusing can prevail, when the judge absolves; so there remains no condemnation, when satisfaction is given to the laws, and the penalty is already paid. Now Christ is he, who, having once for all suffered the punishment due to us, thereby declared that he undertook our cause, in order to deliver us: he then who seeks hereafter to condemn us, must bring back Christ himself to death again. But he has not only died, Edition: current; Page: [325] but also came forth, by a resurrection, as the conqueror of death, and triumphed over all its power.

He adds still more,—that he now sits at the right hand of the Father; by which is meant, that he possesses dominion over heaven and earth, and full power and rule over all things, according to what is said in Eph. i. 20. He teaches us also, that he thus sits, that he may be a perpetual advocate and intercessor in securing our salvation. It hence follows, that when any one seeks to condemn us, he not only seeks to render void the death of Christ, but also contends with that unequalled power with which the Father has honoured him, and who with that power conferred on him supreme authority. This so great an assurance, which dares to triumph over the devil, death, sin, and the gates of hell, ought to lodge deep in the hearts of all the godly; for our faith is nothing, except we feel assured that Christ is ours, and that the Father is in him propitious to us. Nothing then can be devised more pestilent and ruinous, than the scholastic dogma respecting the uncertainty of salvation.

Who intercedes, &c. It was necessary expressly to add this, lest the Divine majesty of Christ should terrify us. Though, then, from his elevated throne he holds all things in subjection under his feet, yet Paul represents him as a Mediator; whose presence it would be strange for us to dread, since he not only kindly invites us to himself, but also appears an intercessor for us before the Father. But we must not measure this intercession by our carnal judgment; for we must not suppose that he humbly supplicates the Father with bended knees and expanded hands; but as he appears continually, as one who died and rose again, and as his death and resurrection stand in the place of eternal intercession, and have the efficacy of a powerful prayer for reconciling and rendering the Father propitious to us, he is justly said to intercede for us.

35. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

36. As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.

37. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through him that loved us.

35. Quis nos dirimet1 à dilectione Christi? tribulatio, an angustia, an Edition: current; Page: [326] persequutio, an fames, an nuditas, an periculum, an gladius?

36. Quemadmodum scriptum est, Quòd propter te morimur quotidie, reputati sumus tanquam oves mactationi destinatæ:

37. Sed in iis omnibus supervincimus per eum qui dilexit nos.

35. Who shall separate us, &c. The conviction of safety is now more widely extended, even to lower things; for he who is persuaded of God’s kindness towards him, is able to stand firm in the heaviest afflictions. These usually harass men in no small degree, and for various reasons,—because they interpret them as tokens of God’s wrath, or think themselves to be forsaken by God, or see no end to them, or neglect to meditate on a better life, or for other similar reasons; but when the mind is purged from such mistakes, it becomes calm, and quietly rests. But the import of the words is,—That whatever happens, we ought to stand firm in this faith,—that God, who once in his love embraced us, never ceases to care for us. For he does not simply say that there is nothing which can tear God away from his love to us; but he means, that the knowledge and lively sense of the love which he testifies to us is so vigorous in our hearts, that it always shines in the darkness of afflictions: for as clouds, though they obscure the clear brightness of the sun, do not yet wholly deprive us of its light; so God, in adversities, sends forth through the darkness the rays of his favour, lest temptations should overwhelm us with despair; nay, our faith, supported by God’s promises as by wings, makes its way upward to heaven through all the intervening obstacles. It is indeed true, that adversities are tokens of God’s wrath, when viewed in themselves; but when pardon and reconciliation precede, we ought to be assured that God, though he chastises us, yet never forgets his mercy: he Edition: current; Page: [327] indeed thus reminds us of what we have deserved; but he no less testifies, that our salvation is an object of his care, while he leads us to repentance.

But he calls it the love of Christ, and for this reason,—because the Father has in a manner opened his compassions to us in him. As then the love of God is not to be sought out of Christ, Paul rightly directs to him our attention, so that our faith may behold, in the rays of Christ’s favour, the serene countenance of the Father. The meaning is,—that in no adversities ought our confidence to be shaken as to this truth—that when God is propitious, nothing can be adverse to us. Some take this love in a passive sense, for that by which he is loved by us, as though Paul would have us armed with invincible courage;1 but this comment may be easily disproved by the whole tenor of Paul’s reasoning; and Paul himself will presently remove all doubt by defining more clearly what this love is.

Tribulation, or distress, or persecution? &c. The pronoun masculine which he used at the beginning of the verse, contains a hidden power: for when he might have adopted the neuter gender and said—“What shall separate us?” &c., he preferred ascribing personality to things without life, and for this end,—that he might send forth with us into the contest as many champions as there are of temptations to try our faith.

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But these three things have this difference: tribulation includes every kind of trouble or evil; distress is an inward feeling, when difficulties reduce us to such an extremity, so that we know not what course to pursue. Such was the anxiety of Abraham and of Lot, when one was constrained to expose his wife to the danger of prostitution, and the other, his daughters; for being brought to straits and being perplexed, they found no way of escape. Persecution properly denotes the tyrannical violence by which the children of God were undeservedly harassed by the ungodly. Now though Paul denies in 2 Cor. iv. 8, that the children of God are reduced to straits, στενοχωρεiivrgrσθαι, he does not yet disagree with himself; for he does not simply make them to be exempt from anxious solicitude, but he means that they are delivered from it, as also the examples of Abraham and Lot testify.

36. As it is written, &c. This testimony adds no small weight to the subject; for he intimates, that the dread of death is so far from being a reason to us for falling away, that it has been almost ever the lot of God’s servants to have death as it were present before their eyes. It is indeed probable, that in that Psalm the miserable oppression of the people under the tyranny of Antiochus is described; for it is expressly said, that the worshippers of God were cruelly treated, for no other reason but through hatred to true religion. There is also added a remarkable protestation, that they had not departed from the covenant of God; which Paul, I think, had especially in view. It is no objection that the saints there complain of a calamity which then unusually pressed on them; for since they show, that they were oppressed with so many evils, having before testified their innocence, an argument is hence fitly drawn, that it is no new thing for the Lord to permit his saints to be undeservedly exposed to the cruelty of the ungodly. But this is not done except for their good; for the Scripture teaches us, that it is alien to the righteousness of God to destroy the just with the wicked, (Gen. xviii. 23); but that, on the contrary, it is meet for him to requite affliction to those who afflict, and rest to those who are afflicted. (2 Thess. i. 6, 9.) Edition: current; Page: [329] And then they affirm that they suffer for the Lord; and Christ pronounces them blessed who suffer for the sake of righteousness. (Matt. v. 10.) By saying that they died daily, they intimated that death was so suspended over them, that their life differed but little from death.

37. We do more than conquer, &c.; that is, we always struggle and emerge. I have retained the word used by Paul,1 though not commonly used by the Latins. It indeed sometimes happens that the faithful seem to succumb and to lie forlorn; and thus the Lord not only tries, but also humbles them. This issue is however given to them,—that they obtain the victory.

That they might at the same time remember whence this invincible power proceeds, he again repeats what he had said before: for he not only teaches us that God, because he loves us, supports us by his hand; but he also confirms the same truth by mentioning the love of Christ.2 And this one sentence sufficiently proves, that the Apostle speaks not here of the fervency of that love which we have towards God, but of the paternal kindness of God and of Christ towards us, the assurance of which, being thoroughly fixed in our hearts, will always draw us from the gates of hell into the light of life, and will sufficiently avail for our support.

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38. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,

39. Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

38. Persuasus enim sum, quòd neque mors, neque vita,1 neque angeli, neque principatus, neque virtutes, neque præsentia, neque futura,

39. Neque altitudo, neque profunditas, neque ulla alia creatura, poterit nos dirimere à charitate Dei, quæ est in Christo Iesu.

38. He is now carried away into hyperbolic expressions, that he might confirm us more fully in those things which are to be experienced. Whatever, he says, there is in life or in death, which seems capable of tearing us away from God, shall effect nothing; nay, the very angels, were they to attempt to overturn this foundation, shall do us no harm. It is no objection, that angels are ministering spirits, appointed for the salvation of the elect, (Heb. i. 14:) for Paul reasons here on what is impossible, as he does in Gal. i. 8; and we may hence observe, that all things ought to be deemed of no worth, compared with the glory of God, since it is lawful to dishonour even angels in vindicating his truth.2 Angels are also meant by principalities and powers,3 and they are so called, because they are the primary instruments of the Divine power: and these two words were added, that if the word angels sounded too insignificant, something more might be expressed. But you would, perhaps, prefer this meaning, “Nor angels, and whatever powers there may be;” which is a mode of speaking that is used, when we refer to things unknown to us, and exceeding our capacities.

Nor present things, nor future things, &c. Though he Edition: current; Page: [331] speaks hyperbolically, yet he declares, that by no length of time can it be effected, that we should be separated from the Lord’s favour: and it was needful to add this; for we have not only to struggle with the sorrow which we feel from present evils, but also with the fear and the anxiety with which impending dangers may harass us.1 The meaning then is,—that we ought not to fear, lest the continuance of evils, however long, should obliterate the faith of adoption.

This declaration is clearly against the schoolmen, who idly talk and say, that no one is certain of final perseverance, except through the gift of special revelation, which they make to be very rare. By such a dogma the whole faith is destroyed, which is certainly nothing, except it extends to death and beyond death. But we, on the contrary, ought to feel confident, that he who has begun in us a good work, will carry it on until the day of the Lord Jesus.2

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39. Which is in Christ, &c. That is, of which Christ is the bond; for he is the beloved Son, in whom the Father is well pleased. If, then, we are through him united to God, we may be assured of the immutable and unfailing kindness of God towards us. He now speaks here more distinctly than before, as he declares that the fountain of love is in the Father, and affirms that it flows to us from Christ.

CHAPTER IX.

1. I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost,

2. That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart.

3. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:

4. Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises;

5. Whose are the fathers, and of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.

1. Veritatem dico in Christo, non mentior, testimonium simul mihi reddente mea conscientia cum Spiritu sancto,

2. Quòd dolor sit mihi magnus, et assiduus cruciatus cordi meo:

3. Optarim enim ego ipse anathema esse à Christo pro fratribus meis, cognatis inquam meis secundum carnem;

4. Qui sunt Israelitæ, quorum est adoptio, et gloria, et testamenta, et legislatio, et cultus, et promissiones;

5. Quorum sunt Patres, et ex quibus est Christus secundum carnem, qui est super omnia Deus benedictus in secula. Amen.

In this chapter he begins to remove the offences which might have diverted the minds of men from Christ: for the Jews, for whom he was appointed according to the covenant of the law, not only rejected him, but regarded him with contempt, and for the most part hated him. Hence one of two things seemed to follow,—either that there was no truth in the Divine promise,—or that Jesus, whom Paul preached, was not the Lord’s anointed, who had been especially promised to the Jews. This twofold knot Paul fully unties in what follows. He, however, so handles this subject, as to abstain from all bitterness against the Jews, that he might not exasperate their minds; and yet he concedes to them nothing to the injury of the gospel; for he allows to them their privileges in such a way, as not to detract anything Edition: current; Page: [333] from Christ. But he passes, as it were abruptly, to the mention of this subject, so that there appears to be no connection in the discourse.1 He, however, so enters on this new subject, as though he had before referred to it. It so happened in this way,—Having finished the doctrine he discussed, he turned his attention to the Jews, and being astonished at their unbelief as at something monstrous, he burst forth into this sudden protestation, in the same way as though it was a subject which he had previously handled; for there was no one to whom this thought would not of itself immediately occur,—“If this be the doctrine of the law and the Prophets, how comes it that the Jews so pertinaciously reject it?” And further, it was everywhere known, that all that he had hitherto spoken of the law of Moses, and of the grace of Christ, was more disliked by the Jews, than that the faith of the Gentiles should be assisted by their consent. It was therefore necessary to remove this obstacle, lest it should impede the course of the gospel.

1. The truth I say in Christ, &c. As it was an opinion entertained by most that Paul was, as it were, a sworn enemy to his own nation, and as it was suspected somewhat even by the household of faith, as though he had taught them to forsake Moses, he adopts a preface to prepare the minds of his readers, before he proceeds to his subject, and in this preface he frees himself from the false suspicion of evil will towards the Jews. And as the matter was not unworthy of an oath, and as he perceived that his affirmation would hardly be otherwise believed against a prejudice already entertained, he declares by an oath that he speaks the Edition: current; Page: [334] truth. By this example and the like, (as I reminded you in the first chapter,) we ought to learn that oaths are lawful, that is, when they render that truth credible which is necessary to be known, and which would not be otherwise believed.

The expression, In Christ, means “according to Christ.”1 By adding I lie not, he signifies that he speaks without fiction or disguise. My conscience testifying to me, &c. By these words he calls his own conscience before the tribunal of God, for he brings in the Spirit as a witness to his feeling. He adduced the Spirit for this end, that he might more fully testify that he was free and pure from an evil disposition, and that he pleaded the cause of Christ under the guidance and direction of the Spirit of God. It often happens that a person, blinded by the passions of the flesh, (though not purposing to deceive,) knowingly and wilfully obscures the light of truth. But to swear by the name of God, in a proper sense of the word, is to call him as a witness for the purpose of confirming what is doubtful, and at the same time to bind ourselves over to his judgment, in case we say what is false.

2. That I have great sorrow, &c. He dexterously manages so to cut short his sentence as not yet to express what he was going to say; for it was not as yet seasonable openly to mention the destruction of the Jewish nation. It may be added, that he thus intimates a greater measure of sorrow, as imperfect sentences are for the most part full of pathos. Edition: current; Page: [335] But he will presently express the cause of his sorrow, after having more fully testified his sincerity.

But the perdition of the Jews caused very great anguish to Paul, though he knew that it happened through the will and providence of God. We hence learn that the obedience we render to God’s providence does not prevent us from grieving at the destruction of lost men, though we know that they are thus doomed by the just judgment of God; for the same mind is capable of being influenced by these two feelings: that when it looks to God it can willingly bear the ruin of those whom he has decreed to destroy; and that when it turns its thoughts to men, it condoles with their evils. They are then much deceived, who say that godly men ought to have apathy and insensibility, (ἀπάθειαν καὶ ἀναλγησίαν,) lest they should resist the decree of God.

3. For I could wish, &c. He could not have expressed a greater ardour of love than by what he testifies here; for that is surely perfect love which refuses not to die for the salvation of a friend. But there is another word added, anathema, which proves that he speaks not only of temporal but of eternal death; and he explains its meaning when he says, from Christ, for it signifies a separation. And what is to be separated from Christ, but to be excluded from the hope of salvation? It was then a proof of the most ardent love, that Paul hesitated not to wish for himself that condemnation which he saw impending over the Jews, in order that he might deliver them. It is no objection that he knew that his salvation was based on the election of God, which could by no means fail; for as those ardent feelings hurry us on impetuously, so they see and regard nothing but the object in view. So Paul did not connect God’s election with his wish, but the remembrance of that being passed by, he was wholly intent on the salvation of the Jews.

Many indeed doubt whether this was a lawful desire; but this doubt may be thus removed: the settled boundary of love is, that it proceeds as far as conscience permits;1 if Edition: current; Page: [336] then we love in God and not without God’s authority, our love can never be too much. And such was the love of Paul; for seeing his own nation endued with so many of God’s benefits, he loved God’s gifts in them, and them on account of God’s gifts; and he deemed it a great evil that those gifts should perish, hence it was that his mind being overwhelmed, he burst forth into this extreme wish.1

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Thus I consent not to the opinion of those who think that Paul spoke these words from regard to God only, and not to men; nor do I agree with others, who say, that without any thought of God, he was influenced only by love to men: but I connect the love of men with a zeal for God’s glory.

I have not, however, as yet explained that which is the chief thing,—that the Jews are here regarded as they were adorned with those singular tokens, by which they were distinguished from the rest of mankind. For God had by his covenant so highly exalted them, that by their fall, the faithfulness and truth of God himself seemed also to fail in the world: for that covenant would have thus become void, the stability of which was promised to be perpetual, as long as the sun and moon should shine in heaven. (Ps. lxxii. 7.) So that the abolition of this would have been more strange, than the sad and ruinous confusion of the whole world. It was not therefore a simple and exclusive regard for men: for though it is better that one member should perish than the whole body; it was yet for this reason that Paul had such a high regard for the Jews, because he viewed them as bearing the character, and, as they commonly say, the quality of an elect people; and this will appear more evident, as we shall soon see, from what follows.

The words, my kinsmen according to the flesh, though they contain nothing new, do yet serve much for amplification. For first, lest any one should think that he willingly, or of his own accord, sought cause of quarrel with the Jews, he intimates, that he had not put off the feeling of kindred, so as not to be affected with the destruction of his own flesh. And secondly, since it was necessary that the gospel, of Edition: current; Page: [338] which he was the preacher, should go forth from Sion, he does not in vain pronounce an eulogy in so many words on his own kindred. For the qualifying expression, according to the flesh, is not in my view added for the sake of extenuation, as in other places, but, on the contrary, for the sake of expressing his faith: for though the Jews had disowned Paul, he yet concealed not the fact, that he had sprung from that nation, the election of whom was still strong in the root, though the branches had withered. What Budœus says of the word anathema, is inconsistent with the opinion of Chrysostom, who makes ἀνάθεμα and ἀνάθημα, to be the same.

4. Who are Israelites, &c. Here the reason is now more plainly given, why the destruction of that people caused him so much anguish, that he was prepared to redeem them by his own death, namely, because they were Israelites; for the relative pronoun is put here instead of a causative adverb. In like manner this anxiety took hold on Moses, when he desired that he should be blotted out of the book of life, rather than that the holy and chosen race of Abraham should be reduced to nothing. (Ex. xxxii. 32.) Then in addition to his kind feeling, he mentions also other reasons, and those of a higher kind, which made him to favour the Jews, even because the Lord had, as it were, by a kind of privilege, so raised them, that they were separated from the common order of men: and these titles of dignity were testimonies of love; for we are not wont to speak thus favourably, but of those whom we love. And though by their ingratitude they rendered themselves unworthy to be esteemed on account of these gifts of God, yet Paul continued justly to respect them, that he might teach us that the ungodly cannot so contaminate the good endowments of God, but that they always deserve to be praised and admired: at the same time, those who abuse them acquire thereby nothing but a greater obloquy. But as we are not to act in such a manner as to contemn, through a detestation of the ungodly, the gifts of God in them; so, on the other hand, we must use prudence, lest by our kind esteem and regard for them we make them proud, and especially lest our praises bear the appearance of flattery. But let us imitate Paul, who conceded Edition: current; Page: [339] to the Jews their privileges in such a manner, that he afterwards declared that they were all of no worth without Christ. But it was not in vain that he mentioned this as one of their praises,—that they were Israelites; for Jacob prayed for this as a great favour, that they should be called by his name. (Gen. xlviii. 16.)

Whose are the adoption, &c. The whole drift of Paul’s discourse is to this purpose,—that though the Jews by their defection had produced an ungodly divorce between God and themselves, yet the light of God’s favour was not wholly extinguished, according to what he had also said in ch. iii. 3. They had indeed become unbelievers and had broken his covenant; but still their perfidy had not rendered void the faithfulness of God; for he had not only reserved for himself some remnant seed from the whole multitude, but had as yet continued, according to their hereditary right, the name of a Church among them.

But though they had already stripped themselves of these ornaments, so that it availed them nothing to be called the children of Abraham, yet as there was a danger, lest through their fault the majesty of the gospel should be depreciated among the Gentiles, Paul does not regard what they deserved, but covers their baseness and disgraceful conduct by throwing vails over them, until the Gentiles were fully persuaded, that the gospel had flowed to them from the celestial fountain, from the sanctuary of God, from an elect nation. For the Lord, passing by other nations, had selected them as a people peculiar to himself, and had adopted them as his children, as he often testifies by Moses and the prophets; and not content simply to give them the name of children, he calls them sometimes his first-begotten, and sometimes his beloved. So the Lord says in Ex. iv. 22,—“My first-begotten son is Israel; let my son go, that he may serve me.” In Jer. xxxi. 9, it is said, “I am become a Father to Israel, and Ephraim is my first-begotten:” and again, “Is not my son Ephraim precious to me? Is he not a delightful child? Hence troubled for him are my bowels, and I will yet pity him.” By these words he means, not only to set forth his kindness towards the people of Israel, but Edition: current; Page: [340] rather to exhibit the efficacy of adoption, through which the promise of the celestial inheritance is conveyed.

Glory means the excellency into which the Lord had raised up that people above all other nations, and that in many and various ways, and especially by dwelling in the midst of them; for besides many other tokens of his presence, he exhibited a singular proof of it in the ark, where he gave responses, and also heard his people, that he might show forth his power in helping them: and for this reason it was called “the glory of God.” (1 Sam. iv. 22.)1

As he has distinguished here between covenants2 and promises, we may observe this difference,—that a covenant is that which is expressed in distinct and accustomed words, and contains a mutual stipulation, as that which was made with Abraham; but promises are what we meet with everywhere in Scripture; for when God had once made a covenant with his ancient people, he continued to offer, often by new promises, his favour to them. It hence follows, that promises are to be traced up to the covenant as to their true source; in the same manner as the special helps of God, by which he testifies his love towards the faithful, may be said to flow from the true fountain of election. And as the law was nothing more than a renewal of the covenant, and more fully sanctioned the remembrance of it, legislation, or the giving of the law, seems to be here peculiarly applied to the things which the law decreed: for it was no common honour conferred on the Jewish people, that they had God as their lawgiver. For if some gloried in their Solons and Lycurguses, Edition: current; Page: [341] how much more reason was there to glory in the Lord? of this you have an account in Deut. iv. 32. By worship he understands that part of the law in which the legitimate manner of worshipping God is prescribed, such as rites and ceremonies. These ought to have been deemed lawful on account of God’s appointment; without which, whatever men devise is nothing but a profanation of religion.

5. Whose are the fathers, &c. It is indeed of some importance to be descended from saints and men beloved of God, since God promised to the godly fathers mercy with regard to their children, even to thousand generations, and especially in the words addressed to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as we find in Gen. xvii. 4, and in other passages. It matters not, that this by itself, when separated from the fear of God and holiness of life, is vain and useless: for we find the same to have been the case as to worship and glory, as it is evident everywhere in the prophets, especially in Is. i. 11; lx. 1; and also in Jer. vii. 4. But as God dignified these things, when joined with attention to godliness, with some degree of honour, he justly enumerated them among the privileges of the Jews. They are indeed said to be the heirs of the promises for this very reason,—because they descended from the fathers. (Acts iii. 25.)

From whom is Christ, &c. They who apply this to the fathers, as though Paul meant only to say that Christ had descended from the fathers, have no reason to allege: for his object was to close his account of the pre-eminence of the Jews by this encomium,—that Christ proceeded from them; for it was not a thing to be lightly esteemed, to have been united by a natural relationship with the Redeemer of the world; for if he had honoured the whole human race, in joining himself to us by a community of nature, much more did he honour them, with whom he had a closer bond of union. It must at the same time be always maintained, that when this favour of being allied by kindred is unconnected with godliness, it is so far from being an advantage, that on the contrary it leads to a greater condemnation.

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But we have here a remarkable passage,—that in Christ two natures are in such a manner distinguished, that they are at the same time united in the very person of Christ: for by saying that Christ had descended from the Jews, he declared his real humanity. The words according to the flesh, which are added, imply that he had something superior to flesh; and here seems to be an evident distinction made between humanity and divinity. But he at last connects both together, where he says, that the Christ, who had descended from the Jews according to the flesh, is God blessed for ever.

We must further observe, that this ascription of praise belongs to none but only to the true and eternal God; for he declares in another place, (1 Tim. i. 17,) that it is the true God alone to whom honour and glory are due. They who break off this clause from the previous context, that they may take away from Christ so clear a testimony to his divinity, most presumptuously attempt to introduce darkness in the midst of the clearest light; for the words most evidently mean this,—Christ, who is from the Jews according to the flesh, is God blessed for ever.1 And I doubt not, but that Paul, who had Edition: current; Page: [343] to contend hard with a reproach urged against him, did designedly raise up his own mind to the contemplation of the eternal glory of Christ; nor did he do this so much for his own sake individually, as for the purpose of encouraging others by his example to raise up their thoughts.

6. Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel which are of Israel:

7. Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called;

8. That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.

9. For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son.

6. Neque tamen, quasi exciderit verbum Dei: non enim omnes qui sunt ex Israele sunt Israelitæ:

7. Nec qui sunt semen Abrahæ, ideo omnes filii; sed in Isaac vocabitur tibi semen:

8. Hoc est, non qui sunt filii carnis, ii filii sunt Dei; sed qui sunt filii promissionis, censebuntur in semen:

9. Promissionis enim verbum hoc est, Secundum hoc tempus veniam, et erit Saræ filius.

6. Not however, &c. Paul had been carried away by the ardour of his wish, as it were, into an excess of feeling, (in ecstasin,) but now, returning to discharge his office as a teacher, he adds what may be viewed as somewhat qualifying what he had said, as though he would restrain immoderate grief. And inasmuch as by deploring the ruin of his own nation, this inconsistency seems to follow, that the covenant made by God with the seed of Abraham had failed, (for the favour of God could not have been wanting to the Israelites without the covenant being abolished,) he reasonably anticipates this inconsistency, and shows, that notwithstanding the great blindness of the Jews, the favour of God continued still to that people, so that the truth of the covenant remained firm.

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Some read, “But it is not possible,” &c., as though it were in Greek οidaivrgrον τε;1 but as I find this reading in no copy, I adopt the common reading, Not however that it had failed, &c., and according to this sense, “That I deplore the destruction of my nation is not because I think the promise, given formerly by God to Abraham, is now void or abolished.”

For not all, &c. The statement is,—that the promise was so given to Abraham and to his seed, that the inheritance did not belong to every seed without distinction; it hence follows that the defection of some does not prove that the covenant does not remain firm and valid.

But that it may be more evident on what condition the Lord adopted the posterity of Abraham as a peculiar people to himself, two things are to be here considered. The first is, That the promise of salvation given to Abraham belongs to all who can trace their natural descent to him; for it is offered to all without exception, and for this reason they are rightly called the heirs of the covenant made with Abraham; and in this respect they are his successors, or, as Scripture calls them, the children of the promise. For since it was the Lord’s will that his covenant should be sealed, no less in Ishmael and Esau, than in Isaac and Jacob, it appears that they were not wholly alienated from him; except, it may be, you make no account of the circumcision, which was conferred on them by God’s command; but it cannot be so regarded without dishonour to God. But this belonged to them, according to what the Apostle had said before, “whose are the covenants,” though they were unbelieving; and in Acts iii. 25, they are called by Peter, the children of the covenants, because they were the descendants of the Prophets. The second point to be considered is, That the children of the promise are strictly those in whom its power and effect are found. On this account Paul denies here that all the children of Abraham were the children of God, though a covenant had been made with them by the Lord, Edition: current; Page: [345] for few continued in the faith of the covenant; and yet God himself testifies, in the sixth chapter of Ezekiel, that they were all regarded by him as children. In short, when a whole people are called the heritage and the peculiar people of God, what is meant is, that they have been chosen by the Lord, the promise of salvation having been offered them and confirmed by the symbol of circumcision; but as many by their ingratitude reject this adoption, and thus enjoy in no degree its benefits, there arises among them another difference with regard to the fulfilment of the promise. That it might not then appear strange to any one, that this fulfilment of the promise was not evident in many of the Jews, Paul denies that they were included in the true election of God.

Some may prefer such a statement as this,—“The general election of the people of Israel is no hinderance, that God should not from them choose by his hidden counsel those whom he pleases.” It is indeed an illustrious example of gratuitous mercy, when God deigns to make a covenant of life with a nation: but his hidden favour appears more evident in that second election, which is confined to a part only.

But when he says, that all who are of Israel are not Israelites, and that all who are of the seed of Abraham are not children, it is a kind of change in the meaning of words, (παρονομασία); for in the first clause he includes the whole race, in the second he refers only to true sons, who were not become degenerated.

7. But,In Isaac shall thy seed be called.” Paul mentions this, to show that the hidden election of God overrules the outward calling, and that it is yet by no means inconsistent with it, but, on the contrary, that it tends to its confirmation and completion. That he might then in due order prove both, he in the first place assumes, that the election of God is not tied to the natural descendants of Abraham, and that it is not a thing that is included in the conditions of the covenant: and this is what he now confirms by a most suitable example. For if there ought to have been any natural progeny, which fell not away from the covenant; Edition: current; Page: [346] this ought to have been especially the case with those who obtained the privilege at first: but when we find, that of the first sons of Abraham, while he was yet alive, and the promise new, one of them was separated as the seed, how much more might the same thing have taken place in his distant posterity? Now this testimony is taken from Gen. xvii. 20, where the Lord gives an answer to Abraham, that he had heard his prayer for Ishmael, but that there would be another on whom the promised blessing would rest. It hence follows, that some men are by special privilege elected out of the chosen people, in whom the common adoption becomes efficacious and valid.

8. That is, They are not, &c. He now gathers from God’s answer a proposition, which includes the whole of what he had in view. For if Isaac, and not Ishmael, was the seed, though the one as well as the other was Abraham’s son, it must be that all natural sons are not to be regarded as the seed, but that the promise is specially fulfilled only in some, and that it does not belong commonly and equally to all. He calls those the children of the flesh, who have nothing superior to a natural descent; as they are the children of the promise, who are peculiarly selected by the Lord.

9. For the word of promise is this, &c. He adds another divine testimony; and we see, by the application made of it, with what care and skill he explains Scripture. When he says, the Lord said that he would come, and that a son would be born to Abraham of Sarah, he intimated that his blessing was not yet conferred, but that it was as yet suspended.1 But Ishmael was already born when this was Edition: current; Page: [347] said: then God’s blessing had no regard to Ishmael. We may also observe, by the way, the great caution with which he proceeds here, lest he should exasperate the Jews. The cause being passed over, he first simply states the fact; he will hereafter open the fountain.

10. And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac,

11. (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth,)

12. It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger.

13. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.

10. Non solum autem hic, sed et Rebecca, quæ ex uno conceperat, patre nostro Isaac:

11. Quum enim nondum nati essent pueri, nec quidpiam boni aut mali egissent, ut secundum electionem propositum Dei maneret,

12. Non ex operibus, sed ex vocante, dictum est ei, Major serviet minori;

13. Quemadmodum scriptum est, Jacob dilexi, Esau autem odio habui.

10. And not only, &c. There are in this chapter some broken sentences, such as this is,—But Rebecca also, who had conceived by one, our father Isaac; for he leaves off in the middle, before he comes to the principal verb. The meaning, however, is, that the difference as to the possession of the promise may not only be seen in the children of Abraham, but that there is a much more evident example in Jacob and Esau: for in the former instance some might allege that their condition was unequal, the one being the son of an handmaid; but these were of the same mother, and were even twins: yet one was rejected, and the other was chosen by the Lord. It is hence clear, that the fulfilment of the promise does not take place in all the children of the flesh indiscriminately.

And as Paul refers to the persons to whom God made known his purpose, I prefer to regard a masculine pronoun to be understood, rather than a neuter, as Erasmus has done: for the meaning is, that God’s special election had Edition: current; Page: [348] not been revealed only to Abraham, but also to Rebecca, when she brought forth her twins.1

11. For when the children, &c. He now begins to ascend higher, even to show the cause of this difference, which he teaches us is nowhere else to be found except in the election of God. He had indeed before briefly noticed, that there was a difference between the natural children of Abraham, that though all were adopted by circumcision into a participation of the covenant, yet the grace of God was not effectual in them all; and hence that they, who enjoy the favour of God, are the children of the promise. But how it thus happened, he has been either silent or has obscurely hinted. Now indeed he openly ascribes the whole cause to the election of God, and that gratuitous, and in no way depending on men; so that in the salvation of the godly nothing higher (nihil superius) must be sought than the goodness of God, Edition: current; Page: [349] and nothing higher in the perdition of the reprobate than his just severity.

Then the first proposition is,—“As the blessing of the covenant separates the Israelitic nation from all other people, so the election of God makes a distinction between men in that nation, while he predestinates some to salvation, and others to eternal condemnation.” The second proposition is,—“There is no other basis for this election than the goodness of God alone, and also since the fall of Adam, his mercy; which embraces whom he pleases, without any regard whatever to their works.” The third is,—“The Lord in his gratuitous election is free and exempt from the necessity of imparting equally the same grace to all; but, on the contrary, he passes by whom he wills, and whom he wills he chooses.” All these things Paul briefly includes in one sentence: he then goes on to other things.

Moreover, by these words, When the children had not yet been born, nor had done any good or evil, he shows, that God in making a difference could not have had any regard to works, for they were not yet done. Now they who argue on the other side, and say, that this is no reason why the election of God should not make a difference between men according to the merits of works, for God foresees who those are who by future works would be worthy or unworthy of his grace, are not more clear-sighted than Paul, but stumble at a principle in theology, which ought to be well known to all Christians, namely, that God can see nothing in the corrupt nature of man, such as was in Esau and Jacob, to induce him to manifest his favour. When therefore he says, that neither of them had then done any good or evil, what he took as granted must also be added,—that they were both the children of Adam, by nature sinful, and endued with no particle of righteousness.

I do not dwell thus long on explaining these things, because the meaning of the Apostle is obscure; but as the Sophists, being not content with his plain sense, endeavour to evade it by frivolous distinctions, I wished to show, that Paul was by no means ignorant of those things which they allege.

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It may further be said, that though that corruption alone, which is diffused through the whole race of man, is sufficient, before it breaks out, as they say, into action, for condemnation, and hence it follows, that Esau was justly rejected, for he was naturally a child of wrath, it was yet necessary, lest any doubt should remain, as though his condition became worse through any vice or fault, that sins no less than virtues should be excluded. It is indeed true, that the proximate cause of reprobation is the curse we all inherit from Adam; yet, that we may learn to acquiesce in the bare and simple good pleasure of God, Paul withdraws us from this view, until he has established this doctrine,—That God has a sufficiently just reason for electing and for reprobating, in his own will.1

That the purpose of God according to election, &c. He speaks of the gratuitous election of God almost in every instance. If works had any place, he ought to have said,—“That his reward might stand through works;” but he mentions the purpose of God, which is included, so to speak, in his own good pleasure alone. And that no ground of dispute might remain on the subject, he has removed all doubt by adding another clause, according to election, and then a third, not through works, but through him who calls. Let us now then apply our minds more closely to this passage: Since the purpose of God according to election is established Edition: current; Page: [351] in this way,—that before the brothers were born, and had done either good or evil, one was rejected and the other chosen; it hence follows, that when any one ascribes the cause of the difference to their works, he thereby subverts the purpose of God. Now, by adding, not through works, but through him who calls, he means, not on account of works, but of the calling only; for he wishes to exclude works altogether. We have then the whole stability of our election inclosed in the purpose of God alone: here merits avail nothing, as they issue in nothing but death; no worthiness is regarded, for there is none; but the goodness of God reigns alone. False then is the dogma, and contrary to God’s word,—that God elects or rejects, as he foresees each to be worthy or unworthy of his favour.1

12. The elder shall serve the younger. See how the Lord makes a difference between the sons of Isaac, while they were as yet in their mother’s womb; for this was the heavenly Edition: current; Page: [352] answer, by which it appeared that God designed to show to the younger peculiar favour, which he denied to the elder. Though this indeed had reference to the right of primogeniture, yet in this, as the symbol of something greater, was manifested the will of God: and that this was the case we may easily perceive, when we consider what little benefit, according to the flesh, Jacob derived from his primogeniture. For he was, on its account, exposed to great danger; and to avoid this danger, he was obliged to quit his home and his country, and was unkindly treated in his exile: when he returned, he tremblingly, and in doubt of his life, prostrated himself at the feet of his brother, humbly asked forgiveness for his offence, and lived through the indulgence shown to him. Where was his dominion over his brother, from whom he was constrained to seek by entreaty his life? There was then something greater than the primogeniture promised in the answer given by the Lord.

13. As it is written, Jacob I loved, &c. He confirms, by a still stronger testimony, how much the heavenly answer, given to Rebecca, availed to his present purpose, that is, that the spiritual condition of both was intimated by the dominion of Jacob and servitude of Esau, and also that Jacob obtained this favour through the kindness of God, and not through his own merit. Then this testimony of the prophet shows the reason why the Lord conferred on Jacob the primogeniture: and it is taken from the first chapter of Malachi, where the Lord, reproaching the Jews for their ingratitude, mentions his former kindness to them,—“I have loved you,” he says; and then he refers to the origin of his love,—“Was not Esau the brother of Jacob?” as though he said,—“What privilege had he, that I should prefer him to his brother? None whatever. It was indeed an equal right, except that by the law of nature the younger ought to have served the elder; I yet chose the one, and rejected the other; and I was thus led by my mercy alone, and by no worthiness as to works. I therefore chose you for my people, that I might show the same kindness to the seed of Jacob; but I rejected the Edomites, the progeny of Esau. Ye are then so much the worse, inasmuch as the remembrance of so Edition: current; Page: [353] great a favour cannot stimulate you to adore my majesty.”1 Now, though earthly blessings are there recorded, which God had conferred on the Israelites, it is not yet right to view them but as symbols of his benevolence: for where the wrath of God is, there death follows; but where his love is, there is life.

14. What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.

15. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.

16. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.

17. For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.

18. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.

14. Quid ergo dicemus? num injustitia est apud Deum? Absit:

15. Moses enim dicit, Miserebor cujus miserebor, et miserebor quem miseratus fuero.

16. Ergo non volentis neque currentis, sed miserentis est Dei.

17. Dicit enim Scriptura Pharaoni, In hoc ipsum excitavi te, ut ostendam in te potentiam meam, et ut prædicetur nomen meum in universa terra.

18. Ergo cujus vult miseretur, et quem vult indurat.

14. What then shall we say? &c. The flesh cannot hear of this wisdom of God without being instantly disturbed by numberless questions, and without attempting in a manner to call God to an account. We hence find that the Apostle, whenever he treats of some high mystery, obviates the many absurdities by which he knew the minds of men would be otherwise possessed; for when men hear anything of what Scripture teaches respecting predestination, they are especially entangled with very many impediments.

The predestination of God is indeed in reality a labyrinth, from which the mind of man can by no means extricate itself: but so unreasonable is the curiosity of man, that the more perilous the examination of a subject is, the more boldly he proceeds; so that when predestination is discussed, as he cannot restrain himself within due limits, he immediately, Edition: current; Page: [354] through his rashness, plunges himself, as it were, into the depth of the sea. What remedy then is there for the godly? Must they avoid every thought of predestination? By no means: for as the Holy Spirit has taught us nothing but what it behoves us to know, the knowledge of this would no doubt be useful, provided it be confined to the word of God. Let this then be our sacred rule, to seek to know nothing concerning it, except what Scripture teaches us: when the Lord closes his holy mouth, let us also stop the way, that we may not go farther. But as we are men, to whom foolish questions naturally occur, let us hear from Paul how they are to be met.

Is there unrighteousness with God? Monstrous surely is the madness of the human mind, that it is more disposed to charge God with unrighteousness than to blame itself for blindness. Paul indeed had no wish to go out of his way to find out things by which he might confound his readers; but he took up as it were from what was common the wicked suggestion, which immediately enters the minds of many, when they hear that God determines respecting every individual according to his own will. It is indeed, as the flesh imagines, a kind of injustice, that God should pass by one and show regard to another.

In order to remove this difficulty, Paul divides his subject into two parts; in the former of which he speaks of the elect, and in the latter of the reprobate; and in the one he would have us to contemplate the mercy of God, and in the other to acknowledge his righteous judgment. His first reply is, that the thought that there is injustice with God deserves to be abhorred, and then he shows that with regard to the two parties, there can be none.

But before we proceed further, we may observe that this very objection clearly proves, that inasmuch as God elects some and passes by others, the cause is not to be found in anything else but in his own purpose; for if the difference had been based on works, Paul would have to no purpose mentioned this question respecting the unrighteousness of God, no suspicion could have been entertained concerning it if God dealt with every one according to his merit. It may Edition: current; Page: [355] also, in the second place, be noticed, that though he saw that this doctrine could not be touched without exciting instant clamours and dreadful blasphemies, he yet freely and openly brought it forward; nay, he does not conceal how much occasion for murmuring and clamour is given to us, when we hear that before men are born their lot is assigned to each by the secret will of God; and yet, notwithstanding all this, he proceeds, and without any subterfuges, declares what he had learned from the Holy Spirit. It hence follows, that their fancies are by no means to be endured, who aim to appear wiser than the Holy Spirit, in removing and pacifying offences. That they may not criminate God, they ought honestly to confess that the salvation or the perdition of men depends on his free election. Were they to restrain their minds from unholy curiosity, and to bridle their tongues from immoderate liberty, their modesty and sobriety would be deserving of approbation; but to put a restraint on the Holy Spirit and on Paul, what audacity it is! Let then such magnanimity ever prevail in the Church of God, as that godly teachers may not be ashamed to make an honest profession of the true doctrine, however hated it may be, and also to refute whatever calumnies the ungodly may bring forward.

15. For he saith to Moses, &c.1 With regard to the elect, God cannot be charged with any unrighteousness; for according to his good pleasure he favours them with mercy: and yet even in this case the flesh finds reasons for murmuring, for it cannot concede to God the right of showing favour to one and not to another, except the cause be made evident. As then it seems unreasonable that some should without merit be preferred to others, the petulancy of men quarrels with God, as though he deferred to persons more Edition: current; Page: [356] than what is right. Let us now see how Paul defends the righteousness of God.

In the first place, he does by no means conceal or hide what he saw would be disliked, but proceeds to maintain it with inflexible firmness. And in the second place, he labours not to seek out reasons to soften its asperity, but considers it enough to check vile barkings by the testimonies of Scripture.

It may indeed appear a frigid defence that God is not unjust, because he is merciful to whom he pleases; but as God regards his own authority alone as abundantly sufficient, so that he needs the defence of none, Paul thought it enough to appoint him the vindicator of his own right. Now Paul brings forward here the answer which Moses received from the Lord, when he prayed for the salvation of the whole people, “I will show mercy,” was God’s answer, “on whom I will show mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” By this oracle the Lord declared that he is a debtor to none of mankind, and that whatever he gives is a gratuitous benefit, and then that his kindness is free, so that he can confer it on whom he pleases; and lastly, that no cause higher than his own will can be thought of, why he does good and shows favour to some men but not to all. The words indeed mean as much as though he had said, “From him to whom I have once purposed to show mercy, I will never take it away; and with perpetual kindness will I follow him to whom I have determined to be kind.” And thus he assigns the highest reason for imparting grace, even his own voluntary purpose, and also intimates that he has designed his mercy peculiarly for some; for it is a way of speaking which excludes all outward causes, as when we claim to ourselves the free power of acting, we say, “I will do what I mean to do.” The relative pronoun also expressly intimates, that mercy is not to all indiscriminately. His freedom is taken away from God, when his election is bound to external causes.

The only true cause of salvation is expressed in the two words used by Moses. The first is חנן, chenen, which means to favour or to show kindness freely and bountifully; the Edition: current; Page: [357] other is רחם, rechem, which is to be treated with mercy. Thus is confirmed what Paul intended, that the mercy of God, being gratuitous, is under no restraint, but turns wherever it pleases.1

16. It is not then of him who wills, &c. From the testimony adduced he draws this inference, that beyond all controversy our election is not to be ascribed to our diligence, nor to our striving, nor to our efforts, but that it is wholly to be referred to the counsel of God. That none of you may think that they who are elected are elected because they are deserving, or because they had in any way procured for themselves the favour of God, or, in short, because they had in them a particle of worthiness by which God might be moved, take simply this view of the matter, that it is neither by our will nor efforts, (for he has put running for striving or endeavour,) that we are counted among the elect, but that it wholly depends on the divine goodness, which of itself chooses those who neither will, nor strive, nor even think of such a thing. And they who reason from this passage, that there is in us some power to strive, but that it effects nothing of itself unless assisted by God’s mercy, maintain what is absurd; for the Apostle shows not what is in us, but excludes all our efforts. It is therefore a mere sophistry to say that we will and run, because Paul denies that it is of him who wills or runs, since he meant nothing else than that neither willing nor running can do anything.

They are, however, to be condemned who remain secure and idle on the pretence of giving place to the grace of God; for though nothing is done by their own striving, yet that effort which is influenced by God is not ineffectual. These Edition: current; Page: [358] things, then, are not said that we may quench the Spirit of God, while kindling sparks within us, by our waywardness and sloth; but that we may understand that everything we have is from him, and that we may hence learn to ask all things of him, to hope for all things from him, and to ascribe all things to him, while we are prosecuting the work of our salvation with fear and trembling.

Pelagius has attempted by another sophistical and worthless cavil to evade this declaration of Paul, that it is not only of him who wills and runs, because the mercy of God assists. But Augustine, not less solidly than acutely, thus refuted him, “If the will of man is denied to be the cause of election, because it is not the sole cause, but only in part; so also we may say that it is not of mercy but of him who wills and runs, for where there is a mutual co-operation, there ought to be a reciprocal commendation: but unquestionably the latter sentiment falls through its own absurdity.” Let us then feel assured that the salvation of those whom God is pleased to save, is thus ascribed to his mercy, that nothing may remain to the contrivance of man.1

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Nor is there much more colour for what some advance, who think that these things are said in the person of the ungodly; for how can it be right to turn passages of Scripture in which the justice of God is asserted, for the purpose of reproaching him with tyranny? and then is it probable that Paul, when the refutation was at hand and easy, would have suffered the Scripture to be treated with gross mockery? But such subterfuges have they laid hold on, who absurdly measured this incomparable mystery of God by their own judgment. To their delicate and tender ears this doctrine was more grating than that they could think it worthy of an Apostle. But they ought rather to have bent their own stubbornness to the obedience of the Spirit, that they might not surrender themselves up to their gross inventions.

17. For the Scripture saith, &c. He comes now to the second part, the rejection of the ungodly, and as there seems to be something more unreasonable in this, he endeavours to make it more fully evident, how God, in rejecting whom he wills, is not only irreprehensible, but also wonderful in his wisdom and justice. He then takes his proof from Exodus ix. 16, where the Lord declares that it was he who raised up Pharaoh for this end, that while he obstinately strove to resist the power of God, he might, by being overcome and subdued, afford a proof how invincible the arm of God is; to bear which, much less to resist it, no human power is able. See then the example which the Lord designed to exhibit in Pharaoh!1

There are here two things to be considered,—the predestination of Pharaoh to ruin, which is to be referred to the past and yet the hidden counsel of God,—and then, the design of this, which was to make known the name of God; and on this does Paul primarily dwell: for if this hardening was of such a kind, that on its account the name of God deserved to be made known, it is an impious thing, according Edition: current; Page: [360] to evidence derived from the contrary effect, to charge him with any unrighteousness.

But as many interpreters, striving to modify this passage, pervert it, we must first observe, that for the word, “I have raised,” or stirred up, (excitavi,) the Hebrew is, “I have appointed,” (constitui,) by which it appears, that God, designing to show, that the contumacy of Pharaoh would not prevent him to deliver his people, not only affirms, that his fury had been foreseen by him, and that he had prepared means for restraining it, but that he had also thus designedly ordained it, and indeed for this end,—that he might exhibit a more illustrious evidence of his own power.1 Absurdly Edition: current; Page: [361] then do some render this passage,—that Pharaoh was preserved for a time; for his beginning is what is spoken of here. For, seeing many things from various quarters happen to men, which retard their purposes and impede the course of their actions, God says, that Pharaoh proceeded from him, and that his condition was by himself assigned to him: and with this view agrees the verb, I have raised up. But that no one may imagine, that Pharaoh was moved from above by some kind of common and indiscriminate impulse, to rush headlong into that madness the special cause, or end, is mentioned; as though it had been said,—that God not only knew what Pharaoh would do, but also designedly ordained him for this purpose. It hence follows, that it is in vain to contend with him, as though he were bound to give a reason; for he of himself comes forth before us, and anticipates the objection, by declaring, that the reprobate, through whom he designs his name to be made known, proceed from the hidden fountain of his providence.

18. To whom he wills then he showeth mercy, &c. Here follows the conclusion of both parts; which can by no means be understood as being the language of any other but of the Apostle; for he immediately addresses an opponent, and adduces what might have been objected by an opposite party. There is therefore no doubt but that Paul, as we have already reminded you, speaks these things in his own person, namely, that God, according to his own will, favours with mercy them whom he pleases, and unsheathes the severity of his judgment against whomsoever it seemeth him good. That our mind may be satisfied with the difference which exists between the elect and the reprobate, and may not inquire for any cause higher than the divine will, his purpose was to convince us of this—that it seems good to God to illuminate some that they may be saved, and to blind others that they may perish: for we ought particularly to notice these words, to whom he wills, and, whom he wills: beyond this he allows us not to proceed.

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But the word hardens, when applied to God in Scripture, means not only permission, (as some washy moderators would have it,) but also the operation of the wrath of God: for all those external things, which lead to the blinding of the reprobate, are the instruments of his wrath; and Satan himself, who works inwardly with great power, is so far his minister, that he acts not, but by his command.1 Then that frivolous evasion, which the schoolmen have recourse to respecting foreknowledge, falls to the ground: for Paul teaches us, that the ruin of the wicked is not only foreseen by the Lord, but also ordained by his counsel and his will; and Solomon teaches us the same thing,—that not only the destruction of the wicked is foreknown, but that the wicked themselves have been created for this very end—that they may perish. (Prov. xvi. 4.)

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19. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?

20. Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?

21. Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?

19. Dices itaque mihi, Quid adhuc conqueritur? voluntati ejus quis restitit?

20. Atqui, O homo, tu quis es qui contendis judicio cum Deo! num dicit fictile figulo, cur me sic fecisti?

21. An non habet potestatem figulus luti ex eadem massa, faciendi, aliud quidem vas in honorem, aliud in contumeliam?

19. Thou wilt then say, &c. Here indeed the flesh especially storms, that is, when it hears that they who perish have been destined by the will of God to destruction. Hence the Apostle adopts again the words of an opponent; for he saw that the mouths of the ungodly could not be restrained from boldly clamouring against the righteousness of God: and he very fitly expresses their mind; for being not content with defending themselves, they make God guilty instead of themselves; and then, after having devolved on him the blame of their own condemnation, they become indignant against his great power.1 They are indeed constrained to yield; but they storm, because they cannot resist; and ascribing dominion to him, they in a manner charge him with tyranny. In the same manner the Sophists in their schools foolishly dispute on what they call his absolute justice, as though forgetful of his own righteousness, he would try the power of his authority by throwing all things into confusion. Thus then speak the ungodly in this passage,—“What cause has he to be angry with us? Since he has formed us such as we are, since he leads us at his will where he pleases, what else does he in destroying us but punish his own work in us? For it is not in our power to contend with him; how much soever we may resist, he will yet have the upper hand. Then unjust will be his judgment, if he condemns us; and unrestrainable Edition: current; Page: [364] is the power which he now employs towards us.” What does Paul say to these things?

20. But, O man! who art thou? &c.1 As it is a participle in Greek, we may read what follows in the present tense, who disputest, or contendest, or strivest in opposition to God; for it is expressed in Greek according to this meaning,—“Who art thou who enterest into a dispute with God?” But there is not much difference in the sense.2 In this first answer, he does nothing else but beat down impious blasphemy by an argument taken from the condition of man: he will presently subjoin another, by which he will clear the righteousness of God from all blame.

It is indeed evident that no cause is adduced higher than the will of God. Since there was a ready answer, that the difference depends on just reasons, why did not Paul adopt such a brief reply? But he placed the will of God in the highest rank for this reason,—that it alone may suffice us for all other causes. No doubt, if the objection had been false, that God according to his own will rejects those whom he honours not with his favour, and chooses those whom he gratuitously loves, a refutation would not have been neglected by Paul. The ungodly object and say, that men are exempted from blame, if the will of God holds the first place in their salvation, or in their perdition. Does Paul deny this? Nay, by his answer he confirms it, that is, that God determines concerning men, as it seems good to him, and that men in vain and madly rise up to contend with God; for he assigns, by his own right, whatever lot he pleases to what he forms.

But they who say that Paul, wanting reason, had recourse Edition: current; Page: [365] to reproof, cast a grievous calumny on the Holy Spirit: for the things calculated to vindicate God’s justice, and ready at hand, he was at first unwilling to adduce, for they could not have been comprehended; yea, he so modifies his second reason, that he does not undertake a full defence, but in such a manner as to give a sufficient demonstration of God’s justice, if it be considered by us with devout humility and reverence.

He reminds man of what is especially meet for him to remember, that is, of his own condition; as though he had said,—“Since thou art man, thou ownest thyself to be dust and ashes; why then doest thou contend with the Lord about that which thou art not able to understand?” In a word, the Apostle did not bring forward what might have been said, but what is suitable to our ignorance. Proud men clamour, because Paul, admitting that men are rejected or chosen by the secret counsel of God, alleges no cause; as though the Spirit of God were silent for want of reason, and not rather, that by his silence he reminds us, that a mystery which our minds cannot comprehend ought to be reverently adored, and that he thus checks the wantonness of human curiosity. Let us then know, that God does for no other reason refrain from speaking, but that he sees that we cannot contain his immense wisdom in our small measure; and thus regarding our weakness, he leads us to moderation and sobriety.

Does what is formed? &c. We see that Paul dwells continually on this,—that the will of God, though its reason is hid from us, is to be counted just; for he shows that he is deprived of his right, if he is not at liberty to determine what he sees meet concerning his creatures. This seems unpleasant to the ears of many. There are also those who pretend that God is exposed to great reproach were such a power ascribed to him, as though they in their fastidiousness were better divines than Paul, who has laid down this as the rule of humility to the faithful, that they are to admire the sovereignty of God, and not to estimate it by their own judgment.

But he represses this arrogance of contending with God Edition: current; Page: [366] by a most apt similitude, in which he seems to have alluded to Is. xlv. 9, rather than to Jer. xviii. 6; for nothing else is taught us by Jeremiah, than that Israel was in the hand of the Lord, so that he could for his sins wholly break him in pieces, as a potter the earthen vessel. But Isaiah ascends higher, “Woe to him,” he says, “who speaks against his maker;” that is, the pot that contends with the former of the clay; “shall the clay say to its former, what doest thou?” &c. And surely there is no reason for a mortal man to think himself better than earthen vessel, when he compares himself with God. We are not however to be over-particular in applying this testimony to our present subject, since Paul only meant to allude to the words of the Prophet, in order that the similitude might have more weight.1

21. Has not the worker of the clay? &c. The reason why what is formed ought not to contend with its former, is, that the former does nothing but what he has a right to do. By the word power, he means not that the maker has strength to do according to his will, but that this privilege rightly and justly belongs to him. For he intends not to claim for God any arbitrary power but what ought to be justly ascribed to him.

And further, bear this in mind,—that as the potter takes away nothing from the clay, whatever form he may give it; so God takes away nothing from man, in whatever condition he may create him. Only this is to be remembered, that God is deprived of a portion of his honour, except such an authority over men be conceded to him as to constitute him the arbitrator of life and death.2

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22. What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:

23. And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,

22. Quid autem si Deus volens demonstrare iram, et notam facere potentiam suam, sustinuit in multa patientia vasa iræ, in interitum apparata;

23. Ut notas quoque faceret divitias gloriæ suæ in vasa misericordiæ, quæ preparavit in gloriam?

22. And what, &c. A second answer, by which he briefly shows, that though the counsel of God is in fact incomprehensible, yet his unblamable justice shines forth no less in the perdition of the reprobate than in the salvation of the elect. He does not indeed give a reason for divine election, so as to assign a cause why this man is chosen and that man rejected; for it was not meet that the things contained in the secret counsel of God should be subjected to the judgment of men; and, besides, this mystery is inexplicable. He therefore keeps us from curiously examining those things which exceed human comprehension. He yet shows, that as far as God’s predestination manifests itself, it appears perfectly just.

The particles, εἰ δὲ, used by Paul, I take to mean, And what if? so that the whole sentence is a question; and thus the sense will be more evident: and there is here an ellipsis, when we are to consider this as being understood,—“Who then can charge him with unrighteousness, or arraign him?” for here appears nothing but the most perfect course of justice.1

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But if we wish fully to understand Paul, almost every word must be examined. He then argues thus,—There are vessels prepared for destruction, that is, given up and appointed to destruction: they are also vessels of wrath, that is, made and formed for this end, that they may be examples of God’s vengeance and displeasure. If the Lord bears patiently for a time with these, not destroying them at the first moment, but deferring the judgment prepared for them, and this in order to set forth the decisions of his severity, that others may be terrified by so dreadful examples, and also to make known his power, to exhibit which he makes them in various ways to serve; and, further, that the amplitude of his mercy towards the elect may hence be more fully known and more brightly shine forth;—what is there worthy of being reprehended in this dispensation? But that he is silent as to the reason, why they are vessels appointed to destruction, is no matter of wonder. He indeed takes it as granted, according to what has been already said, that the Edition: current; Page: [369] reason is hid in the secret and inexplorable counsel of God; whose justice it behoves us rather to adore than to scrutinize.

And he has mentioned vessels, as commonly signifying instruments; for whatever is done by all creatures, is, as it were, the ministration of divine power. For the best reason then are we, the faithful, called the vessels of mercy, whom the Lord uses as instruments for the manifestation of his mercy; and the reprobate are the vessels of wrath, because they serve to show forth the judgments of God.

22. That he might also make known the riches of his glory, &c. I doubt not but the two particles καὶ ἵνα, is an instance of a construction, where the first word is put last; (ὕστερον πρότερον;) and that this clause may better unite with the former, I have rendered it, That he might also make known, &c. (Ut notas quoque faceret, &c.) It is the second reason which manifests the glory of God in the destruction of the reprobate, because the greatness of divine mercy towards the elect is hereby more clearly made known; for how do they differ from them except that they are delivered by the Lord from the same gulf of destruction? and this by no merit of their own, but through his gratuitous kindness. It cannot then be but that the infinite mercy of God towards the elect must appear increasingly worthy of praise, when we see how miserable are all they who escape not his wrath.

The word glory, which is here twice mentioned, I consider to have been used for God’s mercy, a metonymy of effect for the cause; for his chief praise or glory is in acts of kindness. So in Eph. i. 13, after having taught us, that we have been adopted to the praise of the glory of his grace, he adds, that we are sealed by the Spirit of promise unto the praise of his glory, the word grace being left out. He wished then to show, that the elect are instruments or vessels through whom God exercises his mercy, that through them he may glorify his name.

Though in the second clause he asserts more expressly, that it is God who prepares the elect for glory, as he had simply said before that the reprobate are vessels prepared for destruction; there is yet no doubt but that the preparation Edition: current; Page: [370] of both is connected with the secret counsel of God. Paul might have otherwise said, that the reprobate give up or cast themselves into destruction; but he intimates here, that before they are born they are destined to their lot.

24. Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

25. As he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved.

26. And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God.

27. Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved:

28. For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness; because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth.

29. And as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha.

24. Quos etiam vocavit, nimirum nos, non solum ex Iudæis, sed etiam ex Gentibus:

25. Quemadmodum et in Osee dicit, Vocabo populum meum eum qui non est populus, et dilectam eam quæ non est dilecta:

26. Et erit in loco ubi dictum est eis, Non populus meus vos, illic vocabuntur filii Dei viventis.

27. Iesaias autem clamat super Israel, Si fuerit numerus filiorum Israel ut arena maris, reliquiæ servabuntur:

28. Sermonem enim consummans et abbrevians,1 quoniam sermonem abbreviatum faciet Dominus in terra:

29. Et quemadmodum prius dixerat Iesaias, Nisi Dominus Sabbaoth reliquisset nobis semen, instar Sodomæ facti essemus, et Gomorrhæ essemus assimilati.

24. Whom he also called, &c. From the reasoning which he has been hitherto carrying on respecting the freedom of divine election, two things follow,—that the grace of God is not so confined to the Jewish people that it does not also flow to other nations, and diffuse itself through the whole world,—and then, that it is not even so tied to the Jews that it comes without exception to all the children of Abraham according to the flesh; for if God’s election is based on his own good pleasure alone, wherever his will turns itself, there his election exists. Election being then established, the way is now in a manner prepared for him to proceed to those things which he designed to say respecting the calling of the Gentiles, and also respecting the rejection of the Jews; Edition: current; Page: [371] the first of which seemed strange for its novelty, and the other wholly unbecoming. As, however, the last had more in it to offend, he speaks in the first place of that which was less disliked. He says then, that the vessels of God’s mercy, whom he selects for the glory of his name, are taken from every people, from the Gentiles no less than from the Jews.

But though in the relative whom the rule of grammar is not fully observed by Paul,1 yet his object was, by making as it were a transition, to subjoin that we are the vessels of God’s glory, who have been taken in part from the Jews and in part from the Gentiles; and he proves from the calling of God, that there is no difference between nations made in election. For if to be descended from the Gentiles was no hinderance that God should not call us, it is evident that the Gentiles are by no means to be excluded from the kingdom of God and the covenant of eternal salvation.

25. As he says in Hosea,2 &c. He proves now that the calling of the Gentiles ought not to have been deemed a new thing, as it had long before been testified by the prediction of the prophet. The meaning is evident; but there is some difficulty in the application of this testimony; for no one can deny but that the prophet in that passage speaks of the Israelites. For the Lord, having been offended with their wickedness, declared that they should be no longer his people: he afterwards subjoined a consolation, and said, that of those who were not beloved he would make some beloved, and from those who were not a people he would make a people. But Paul applies to the Gentiles what was expressly spoken to the Israelites.

They who have hitherto been most successful in untying this knot have supposed that Paul meant to adopt this kind of reasoning,—“What may seem to be an hinderance to the Gentiles to become partakers of salvation did also exist as to the Jewish nation: as then God did formerly receive into favour the Jews, whom he had cast away and exterminated, so also now he exercises the same kindness towards the Edition: current; Page: [372] Gentiles.” But as this interpretation, though it may be supported, yet seems to me to be somewhat strained, let the readers consider this,—Whether it would not be a more suitable view to regard the consolation given by the prophet, as intended, not only for the Jews, but also for the Gentiles: for it was not a new or an unusual thing with the prophets, after having pronounced on the Jews God’s vengeance on account of their sins, to turn themselves to the kingdom of Christ, which was to be propagated through the whole world. And this they did, not without reason; for since the Jews so provoked God’s wrath by their sins, that they deserved to be rejected by him, no hope of salvation remained, except they turned to Christ, through whom the covenant of grace was to be restored: and as it was based on him, so it was then renewed, when he interposed. And doubtless, as Christ was the only refuge in great extremities, no solid comfort could have been brought to miserable sinners, and such as saw God’s wrath impending over them, except by setting Christ before their eyes. Yes, it was usual with the prophets, as we have reminded you, after having humbled the people by pronouncing on them divine vengeance, to call their attention to Christ, as the only true asylum of those in despair. And where the kingdom of Christ is erected there also is raised up that celestial Jerusalem, into which citizens from all parts of the world assemble. And this is what is chiefly included in the present prophecy: for when the Jews were banished from God’s family, they were thus reduced to a common class, and put on a level with the Gentiles. The difference being taken away, God’s mercy is now indiscriminately extended to all the Gentiles. We hence see that the prophet’s prediction is fitly applied to the present subject; in which God declares, that after having equalized the Jews and the Gentiles, he would gather a Church for himself from aliens, so that they who were not a people would begin to be so.

I will call them my people which are not a people. This is said with respect to the divorce, which God had already made with the people, by depriving them of all honour, so that they did not excel other nations. Though they indeed, Edition: current; Page: [373] whom God in his eternal counsel has destined as sons to himself, are perpetually his sons, yet Scripture in many parts counts none to be God’s children but those, the election of whom has been proved by their calling: and hence he teaches us not to judge, much less to decide, respecting God’s election, except as far as it manifests itself by its own evidences. Thus Paul, after having shown to the Ephesians that their election and adoption had been determined by God before the creation of the world, shortly after declares, that they were once alienated from God, (Eph. ii. 12,) that is, during that time when the Lord had not manifested his love towards them; though he had embraced them in his eternal mercy. Hence, in this passage, they are said not to be beloved, to whom God declares wrath rather than love: for until adoption reconciles men to God, we know that his wrath abides on them.

The feminine gender of the participle depends on the context of the prophet; for he had said, that a daughter had been born to him, to whom he gave this name, Not beloved, in order that the people might know that they were hated by God. Now as rejection was the reason for hatred, so the beginning of love, as the prophet teaches, is, when God adopts those who had been for a time strangers.1

27. And Isaiah exclaims, &c. He proceeds now to the second part, with which he was unwilling to begin, lest he should too much exasperate their minds. And it is not without a wise contrivance, that he adduces Isaiah as exclaiming, not speaking, in order that he might excite more attention. But the words of the Prophet were evidently intended to keep the Jews from glorying too much in the flesh: for it was a thing dreadful to be heard, that of so large a multitude, a small number only would obtain salvation. For though the Prophet, after having described the Edition: current; Page: [374] devastation of the people, lest the faithful should think that the covenant of God was wholly abolished, gave some remaining hope of favour; yet he confined it to a few. But as the Prophet predicted of his own time, let us see how could Paul rightly apply this to his purpose. It must be in this sense,—When the Lord resolved to deliver his people from the Babylonian captivity, his purpose was, that this benefit of deliverance should come only to a very few of that vast multitude; which might have been said to be the remnant of that destruction, when compared with the great number which he suffered to perish in exile. Now that temporal restoration was typical of the real renovation of the Church of God; yea, it was only its commencement. What therefore happened then, is to be now much more completely fulfilled as the very progress and completion of that deliverance.

28. For I will finish and shorten the matter, &c.1 Omitting various interpretations, I will state what appears to me to be the real meaning: The Lord will so cut short, and cut off his people, that the residue may seem as it were a consumption, that is, may have the appearance and the vestige of a very great ruin. However, the few who shall remain from the consumption shall be a proof of the work of God’s righteousness, or, what I prefer, shall serve to testify the righteousness of God throughout the world. As word often in Scripture means a thing, the consummated word is put for consumption. Many interpreters have here been grossly mistaken, who have attempted to philosophize with too Edition: current; Page: [375] much refinement; for they have imagined, that the doctrine of the gospel is thus called, because it is, when the ceremonies are cut off, a brief compendium of the law; though the word means on the contrary a consumption.1 And not only here is an error committed by the translator, but also in Isaiah x. 22, 23; xxviii. 22; and in Ezek. xi. 13; where it is said, “Ah! ah! Lord God! wilt thou make a completion of the remnant of Israel?” But the Prophets meant to say, “Wilt thou destroy the very remnant with utter destruction?” And this has happened through the ambiguity of the Hebrew word. For as the word, בלה, cale, means to finish and to perfect, as well as to consume, this difference has not been sufficiently observed according to the passages in which it occurs.

But Isaiah has not in this instance adopted one word only, but has put down two words, consumption and termination, or cutting off; so that the affectation of Hebraism in the Greek translator was singularly unseasonable; for to what purpose was it to involve a sentence, in itself clear, in an obscure and figurative language? It may be further added, that Isaiah speaks here hyperbolically; for by consumption he means diminution, such as is wont to be after a remarkable slaughter.

29. And as Isaiah had before said, &c.2 He brings another Edition: current; Page: [376] testimony from the first chapter, where the Prophet deplores the devastation of Israel in his time: and as this had happened once, it was no new thing. The people of Israel had indeed no pre-eminence, except what they had derived from their ancestors; who had yet been in such a manner treated, that the Prophet complained that they had been so afflicted, that they were not far from having been destroyed, as Sodom and Gomorrah had been. There was, however, this difference, that a few were preserved for a seed, to raise up the name, that they might not wholly perish, and be consigned to eternal oblivion. For it behoved God to be ever mindful of his promise, so as to manifest his mercy in the midst of the severest judgments.

30. What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith:

31. But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness.

32. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone:

33. As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

30. Quid ergo dicemus? Quòd gentes quæ non sectabantur justitiam, adeptæ sunt justitiam, justitiam autem ex fide:

31. Israel autem sectando legem justitiæ, ad legem justitiæ non pervenit.

32. Quare? Quia non ex fide, sed quasi ex operibus; offenderunt enim ad lapidem offensionis:

33. Quemadmodum scriptum est, Ecce pono in Sion lapidem offensionis et petram offendiculi: et omnis qui crediderit in eum non pudefiet.

30. What then, &c. That he might cut off from the Jews every occasion of murmuring against God, he now begins to show those causes, which may be comprehended by human minds, why the Jewish nation had been rejected. But they do what is absurd and invert all order, who strive to assign and set up causes above the secret predestination of God, which he has previously taught us is to be counted as the first cause. But as this is superior to all other causes, so the corruption and wickedness of the ungodly afford a reason and an occasion for the judgments of God: and as he was Edition: current; Page: [377] engaged on a difficult point, he introduced a question, and, as though he were in doubt, asked what might be said on the subject.

That the Gentiles who did not pursue, &c. Nothing appeared more unreasonable, or less befitting, than that the Gentiles, who, having no concern for righteousness, rolled themselves in the lasciviousness of their flesh, should be called to partake of salvation, and to obtain righteousness; and that, on the other hand, the Jews, who assiduously laboured in the works of the law, should be excluded from the reward of righteousness. Paul brings forward this, which was so singular a paradox, in such a manner, that by adding a reason he softens whatever asperity there might be in it; for he says, that the righteousness which the Gentiles attained was by faith; and that it hence depends on the Lord’s mercy, and not on man’s own worthiness; and that a zeal for the law, by which the Jews were actuated, was absurd; for they sought to be justified by works, and thus laboured for what no man could attain to; and still further, they stumbled at Christ, through whom alone a way is open to the attainment of righteousness.

But in the first clause it was the Apostle’s object to exalt the grace of God alone, that no other reason might be sought for in the calling of the Gentiles but this,—that he deigned to embrace them when unworthy of his favour.

He speaks expressly of righteousness, without which there can be no salvation: but by saying that the righteousness of the Gentiles proceeded from faith, he intimates, that it was based on a gratuitous reconciliation; for if any one imagines that they were justified, because they had by faith obtained the Spirit of regeneration, he departs far from the meaning of Paul; it would not indeed have been true, that they had attained what they sought not, except God had freely embraced them while they were straying and wandering, and had offered them righteousness, for which, being unknown, they could have had no desire. It must also be observed, that the Gentiles could not have obtained righteousness by faith, except God had anticipated their faith by his grace; for they followed it when they first by faith aspired Edition: current; Page: [378] to righteousness; and so faith itself is a portion of his favour.

31. But Israel, by pursuing, &c. Paul openly states what seemed incredible,—that it was no wonder that the Jews gained nothing by sedulously following after righteousness; for by running out of the way, they wearied themselves in vain. But in the first place it seems to me that the law of righteousness is here an instance of transposition, and means the righteousness of the law;1 and then, that when repeated in the second clause, it is to be taken in another sense, as signifying the model or the rule of righteousness.

The meaning then is,—“That Israel, depending on the righteousness of the law, even that which is prescribed in the law, did not understand the true method of justification.” But there is a striking contrast in the expression, when he teaches us that the legal righteousness was the cause, that they had fallen away from the law of righteousness.

32. Not by faith, but as it were by works, &c. As false zeal seems commonly to be justly excused, Paul shows that Edition: current; Page: [379] they are deservedly rejected, who attempt to attain salvation by trusting in their own works; for they, as far as they can, abolish faith, without which no salvation can be expected. Hence, were they to gain their object, such a success would be the annihilation of true righteousness. You farther see how faith and the merits of works are contrasted, as things altogether contrary to each other. As then trust in works is the chief hinderance, by which our way to obtain righteousness is closed up, it is necessary that we should wholly renounce it, in order that we may depend on God’s goodness alone. This example of the Jews ought indeed justly to terrify all those who strive to obtain the kingdom of God by works. Nor does he understand by the works of the law, ceremonial observances, as it has been before shown, but the merits of those works to which faith is opposed, which looks, as I may say, with both eyes on the mercy of God alone, without casting one glance on any worthiness of its own.

For they have stumbled at the stone, &c. He confirms by a strong reason the preceding sentence. There is indeed nothing more inconsistent than that they should obtain righteousness who strive to destroy it. Christ has been given to us for righteousness, whosoever obtrudes on God the righteousness of works, attempts to rob him of his own office. And hence it appears that whenever men, under the empty pretence of being zealous for righteousness, put confidence in their works, they do in their furious madness carry on war with God himself.

But how they stumble at Christ, who trust in their works, it is not difficult to understand; for except we own ourselves to be sinners, void and destitute of any righteousness of our own, we obscure the dignity of Christ, which consists in this, that to us all he is light, life, resurrection, righteousness, and healing. But how is he all these things, except that he illuminates the blind, restores the lost, quickens the dead, raises up those who are reduced to nothing, cleanses those who are full of filth, cures and heals those infected with diseases? Nay, when we claim for ourselves any righteousness, we in a manner contend with the power of Christ; for his office is no less to beat down all the pride of the flesh, than Edition: current; Page: [380] to relieve and comfort those who labour and are wearied under their burden.

The quotation is rightly made; for God in that passage declares that he would be to the people of Judah and of Israel for a rock of offence, at which they should stumble and fall. Since Christ is that God who spoke by the Prophets, it is no wonder that this also should be fulfilled in him. And by calling Christ the stone of stumbling, he reminds us that it is not to be wondered at if they made no progress in the way of righteousness, who through their wilful stubbornness stumbled at the rock of offence, when God had showed to them the way so plainly.1 But we must observe, that this stumbling does not properly belong to Christ viewed in himself; but, on the contrary, it is what happens through the wickedness of men, according to what immediately follows.

33. And every one who believes in him shall not be ashamed. He subjoins this testimony from another part for the consolation of the godly; as though he had said, “Because Christ is called the stone of stumbling, there is no reason that we should dread him, or entertain fear instead of confidence; for he is appointed for ruin to the unbelieving, but for life and resurrection to the godly.” As then the former prophecy, concerning the stumbling and offence, is fulfilled in the rebellious and unbelieving, so there is another which is intended for the godly, and that is, that he is a firm stone, precious, a corner-stone, most firmly fixed, and whosoever builds on it shall never fall. By putting shall not be ashamed instead of shall not hasten or fall, he has followed the Greek Translator. It is indeed certain that the Lord in that passage intended to strengthen the hope of his people: and when the Lord bids us to entertain good hope, it hence follows that we cannot be ashamed.2 See a passage like this in 1 Peter ii. 10.

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CHAPTER X.

1. Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.

2. For I bear them record, that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.

3. For they, being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.

4. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.

1. Fratres, benevolentia certè cordis mei, et deprecatio ad Deum super Israel, est in salutem.

2. Testimonium enim reddo illis, quòd zelum Dei habent, sed non secundum scientiam:

3. Ignorantes enim Dei justitiam, et propriam justitiam quærentes statuere, justitiæ Dei subjecti non fuerunt;

4. Finis enim Legis Christus in justitiam omni credenti.1

We here see with what solicitude the holy man obviated offences; for in order to soften whatever sharpness there may have been in his manner of explaining the rejection of the Jews, he still testifies, as before, his goodwill towards them, and proves it by the effect; for their salvation was an object of concern to him before the Lord, and such a feeling arises only from genuine love. It may be at the same time that he was also induced by another reason to testify his love towards the nation from which he had sprung; for his doctrine would have never been received by the Jews had they thought that he was avowedly inimical to them; and his defection would have been also suspected by the Gentiles, for they would have thought, as we have said in the last chapter, that he became an apostate from the law through his hatred of men.2

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2. For I bear to them a testimony, &c. This was intended to secure credit to his love. There was indeed a just cause why he should regard them with compassion rather than hatred, since he perceived that they had fallen only through ignorance, and not through malignancy of mind, and especially as he saw that they were not led except by some regard for God to persecute the kingdom of Christ. Let us hence learn where our good intentions may guide us, if we yield to them. It is commonly thought a good and a very fit excuse, when he who is reproved pretends that he meant no harm. And this pretext is held good by many at this day, so that they apply not their minds to find out the truth of God, because they think that whatever they do amiss through ignorance, without any designed maliciousness, but with good intention, is excusable. But no one of us would excuse the Jews for having crucified Christ, for having cruelly raged against the Apostles, and for having attempted to destroy and extinguish the gospel; and yet they had the same defence as that in which we confidently glory. Away then with these vain evasions as to good intention; if we seek God sincerely, let us follow the way by which alone we can come to him. For it is better, as Augustine says, even to go limping in the right way than to run with all our might out of the way. If we would be really religious, let us remember that what Lactantius teaches is true, that true religion is alone that which is connected with the word of God.1

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And further, since we see that they perish, who with good intention wander in darkness, let us bear in mind, that we are worthy of thousand deaths, if after having been illuminated by God, we wander knowingly and wilfully from the right way.

3. For being ignorant of the righteousness of God, &c. See how they went astray through inconsiderate zeal! for they sought to set up a righteousness of their own; and this foolish confidence proceeded from their ignorance of God’s righteousness. Notice the contrast between the righteousness of God and that of men. We first see, that they are opposed to one another, as things wholly contrary, and cannot stand together. It hence follows, that God’s righteousness is subverted, as soon as men set up their own. And again, as there is a correspondence between the things contrasted, the righteousness of God is no doubt his gift; and in like manner, the righteousness of men is that which they derive from themselves, or believe that they bring before God. Then he who seeks to be justified through himself, submits not to God’s righteousness; for the first step towards obtaining the righteousness of God is to renounce our own righteousness: for why is it, that we seek righteousness from another, except that necessity constrains us?

We have already stated, in another place, how men put on the righteousness of God by faith, that is, when the righteousness of Christ is imputed to them. But Paul grievously dishonours the pride by which hypocrites are inflated, when they cover it with the specious mask of zeal; for he says, that all such, by shaking off as it were the yoke, are adverse to and rebel against the righteousness of God.

4. For the end of the law is Christ, &c. The word completion,1 seems not to me unsuitable in this place; and Erasmus Edition: current; Page: [384] has rendered it perfection: but as the other reading is almost universally approved, and is not inappropriate, readers, for my part, may retain it.

The Apostle obviates here an objection which might have been made against him; for the Jews might have appeared to have kept the right way by depending on the righteousness of the law. It was necessary for him to disprove this false opinion; and this is what he does here. He shows that he is a false interpreter of the law, who seeks to be justified by his own works; because the law had been given for this end,—to lead us as by the hand to another righteousness: nay, whatever the law teaches, whatever it commands, whatever it promises, has always a reference to Christ as its main object; and hence all its parts ought to be applied to him. But this cannot be done, except we, being stripped of all righteousness, and confounded with the knowledge of our sin, seek gratuitous righteousness from him alone.

It hence follows, that the wicked abuse of the law was justly reprehended in the Jews, who absurdly made an obstacle of that which was to be their help: nay, it appears that they had shamefully mutilated the law of God; for they Edition: current; Page: [385] rejected its soul, and seized on the dead body of the letter. For though the law promises reward to those who observe its righteousness, it yet substitutes, after having proved all guilty, another righteousness in Christ, which is not attained by works, but is received by faith as a free gift. Thus the righteousness of faith, (as we have seen in the first chapter,) receives a testimony from the law. We have then here a remarkable passage, which proves that the law in all its parts had a reference to Christ; and hence no one can rightly understand it, who does not continually level at this mark.

5. For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them.

6. But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:)

7. Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.)

8. But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith which we preach;

9. That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

10. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

5. Moses enim describit justitiam quæ est ex Lege, Quòd qui fecerit ea homo vivet in ipsis.

6. Quæ vero est ex fide justitia sic dicit, Ne dixeris in corde tuo, Quis ascendet in cœlum? hoc est Christum deducere:

7. Aut, Quis descendet in abyssum? hoc est Christum ex mortuis reducere:

8. Sed quid dicit? Propè est verbum, in ore tuo et in corde tuo; hoc est verbum fidei quod prædicamus,

9. Quod si confessus fueris in ore tuo Dominum Iesum, et credideris in corde tuo quòd Deus suscitavit illum ex mortuis, salvus eris:

10. Corde enim creditur in justitiam, ore fit confessio in salutem.

5. For Moses, &c. To render it evident how much at variance is the righteousness of faith and that of works, he now compares them; for by comparison the opposition between contrary things appears more clear. But he refers not now to the oracles of the Prophets, but to the testimony of Moses, and for this reason,—that the Jews might understand that the law was not given by Moses in order to detain them in a dependence on works, but, on the contrary, to Edition: current; Page: [386] lead them to Christ. He might have indeed referred to the Prophets as witnesses; but still this doubt must have remained, “How was it that the law prescribed another rule of righteousness?” He then removes this, and in the best manner, when by the teaching of the law itself he confirms the righteousness of faith.

But we ought to understand the reason why Paul harmonizes the law with faith, and yet sets the righteousness of one in opposition to that of the other:—The law has a two-fold meaning; it sometimes includes the whole of what has been taught by Moses, and sometimes that part only which was peculiar to his ministration, which consisted of precepts, rewards, and punishments. But Moses had this common office—to teach the people the true rule of religion. Since it was so, it behoved him to preach repentance and faith; but faith is not taught, except by propounding promises of divine mercy, and those gratuitous: and thus it behoved him to be a preacher of the gospel; which office he faithfully performed, as it appears from many passages. In order to instruct the people in the doctrine of repentance, it was necessary for him to teach what manner of life was acceptable to God; and this he included in the precepts of the law. That he might also instil into the minds of the people the love of righteousness, and implant in them the hatred of iniquity, promises and threatenings were added; which proposed rewards to the just, and denounced dreadful punishments on sinners. It was now the duty of the people to consider in how many ways they drew curses on themselves, and how far they were from deserving anything at God’s hands by their works, that being thus led to despair as to their own righteousness, they might flee to the haven of divine goodness, and so to Christ himself. This was the end or design of the Mosaic dispensation.

But as evangelic promises are only found scattered in the writings of Moses, and these also somewhat obscure, and as the precepts and rewards, allotted to the observers of the law, frequently occur, it rightly appertained to Moses as his own and peculiar office, to teach what is the real righteousness Edition: current; Page: [387] of works, and then to show what remuneration awaits the observance of it, and what punishment awaits those who come short of it. For this reason Moses is by John compared with Christ, when it is said, “That the law was given by Moses, but that grace and truth came by Christ.” (John i. 17.) And whenever the word law is thus strictly taken, Moses is by implication opposed to Christ: and then we must consider what the law contains, as separate from the gospel. Hence what is said here of the righteousness of the law, must be applied, not to the whole office of Moses, but to that part which was in a manner peculiarly committed to him. I come now to the words.

For Moses describes, &c. Paul has γράϕει, writes; which is used for a verb which means to describe, by taking away a part of it [ἐπιγράϕει.] The passage is taken from Lev. xviii. 5, where the Lord promises eternal life to those who would keep his law; for in this sense, as you see, Paul has taken the passage, and not only of temporal life, as some think. Paul indeed thus reasons,—“Since no man can attain the righteousness prescribed in the law, except he fulfils strictly every part of it, and since of this perfection all men have always come far short, it is in vain for any one to strive in this way for salvation: Israel then were very foolish, who expected to attain the righteousness of the law, from which we are all excluded.” See how from the promise itself he proves, that it can avail us nothing, and for this reason, because the condition is impossible. What a futile device it is then to allege legal promises, in order to establish the righteousness of the law! For with these an unavoidable curse comes to us; so far is it, that salvation should thence proceed. The more detestable on this account is the stupidity of the Papists, who think it enough to prove merits by adducing bare promises. “It is not in vain,” they say, “that God has promised life to his servants.” But at the same time they see not that it has been promised, in order that a consciousness of their own transgressions may strike all with the fear of death, and that being thus constrained by their own deficiency, they may learn to flee to Christ.

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6. But the righteousness1 which is by faith, &c. This passage is such as may not a little disturb the reader, and for two reasons—for it seems to be improperly applied by Paul—and the words are also turned to a different meaning. Of the words we shall hereafter see what may be said: we shall first notice the application. It is a passage taken from Deut. xxx. 12, where, as in the former passage, Moses speaks of the doctrine of the law, and Paul applies it to evangelic promises. This knot may be thus untied:—Moses shows, that the way to life was made plain: for the will of God was not now hid from the Jews, nor set far off from them, but placed before their eyes. If he had spoken of the law only, his reasoning would have been frivolous, since the law of God being set before their eyes, it was not easier to do it, than if it was afar off. He then means not the law only, but generally the whole of God’s truth, which includes in it the gospel: for the word of the law by itself is never in our heart, no, not the least syllable of it, until it is implanted in us by the faith of the gospel. And then, even after regeneration, the word of the law cannot properly be said to be in our heart; for it demands perfection, from which even the faithful are far distant: but the word of the gospel has a seat in the heart, though it does not fill the heart; for it offers pardon for imperfection and defect. And Moses throughout that chapter, as also in the fourth, endeavours to commend to the people the remarkable kindness of God, because he had taken them under his own tuition and government, which commendation could not have belonged to the law only. It is no objection that Moses there speaks of forming the life according to the rule of the law; for the spirit of regeneration is connected with the gratuitous righteousness of faith. Nor is there a doubt but that this verse depends on that main truth, “The Lord shall circumcise thine heart,” which he had recorded shortly before in the same chapter. They may therefore be easily disproved, who say that Moses speaks only in that passage of good works. That he speaks of works I indeed allow; but I Edition: current; Page: [389] deny it to be unreasonable, that the keeping of the law should be traced from its own fountain, even from the righteousness of faith. The explanation of the words must now follow.1

Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend? &c. Moses mentions heaven and the sea, as places remote and difficult of access to men. But Paul, as though there was some spiritual mystery concealed under these words, applies them to the death and resurrection of Christ. If any one thinks that this interpretation is too strained and too refined, let him understand that it was not the object of the Apostle strictly to explain this passage, but to apply it to the explanation of his present subject. He does not, therefore, repeat verbally what Moses has said, but makes alterations, by which he accommodates more suitably to his own purpose the testimony of Moses. He spoke of inaccessible places; Paul refers to those, which are indeed hid from the sight of us all, and may yet be seen by our faith. If then you take these things as spoken for illustration, or by way of improvement, you cannot say that Paul has violently or inaptly changed the words of Moses; but you will, on the contrary, allow, that without loss of meaning, he has, in a striking manner, alluded to the words heaven and the sea.

Let us now then simply explain the words of Paul:—As the assurance of our salvation lies on two foundations, that is, when we understand, that life has been obtained for us, and death has been conquered for us, he teaches us that faith through the word of the gospel is sustained by both these; for Christ, by dying, destroyed death, and by rising again he Edition: current; Page: [390] obtained life in his own power. The benefit of Christ’s death and resurrection is now communicated to us by the gospel: there is then no reason for us to seek anything farther. That it may thus appear, that the righteousness of faith is abundantly sufficient for salvation, he teaches us, that included in it are these two things, which are alone necessary for salvation. The import then of the words, Who shall ascend into heaven? is the same, as though you should say, “Who knows whether the inheritance of eternal and celestial life remains for us?” And the words, Who shall descend into the deep? mean the same, as though you should say, “Who knows whether the everlasting destruction of the soul follows the death of the body?” He teaches us, that doubt on those two points is removed by the righteousness of faith; for the one would draw down Christ from heaven, and the other would bring him up again from death. Christ’s ascension into heaven ought indeed fully to confirm our faith as to eternal life; for he in a manner removes Christ himself from the possession of heaven, who doubts whether the inheritance of heaven is prepared for the faithful, in whose name, and on whose account he has entered thither. Since in like manner he underwent the horrors of hell to deliver us from them, to doubt whether the faithful are still exposed to this misery, is to render void, and, as it were, to deny his death.

8. What does it say?1 For the purpose of removing the impediments of faith, he has hitherto spoken negatively: but now in order to show the way of obtaining righteousness, he adopts an affirmative mode of speaking. Though the whole might have been announced in one continuous sentence, yet a question is interposed for the sake of exciting attention: and his object at the same time was to show how great is the difference between the righteousness of the law and that of the gospel; for the one, showing itself at a distance, restrains all men from coming nigh; but the other, offering itself at hand, kindly invites us to a fruition of itself, Nigh thee is the word.

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It must be further observed, that lest the minds of men, being led away by crafts, should wander from the way of salvation, the limits of the word are prescribed to them, within which they are to keep themselves: for it is the same as though he had bidden them to be satisfied with the word only, and reminded them, that in this mirror those secrets of heaven are to be seen, which would otherwise by their brightness dazzle their eyes, and would also stun their ears and overpower the mind itself.

Hence the faithful derive from this passage remarkable consolation with regard to the certainty of the word; for they may no less safely rest on it, than on what is actually present. It must also be noticed, that the word, by which we have a firm and calm trust as to our salvation, had been set forth even by Moses:

This is the word of faith. Rightly does Paul take this as granted; for the doctrine of the law does by no means render the conscience quiet and calm, nor supply it with what ought to satisfy it. He does not, however, exclude other parts of the word, no, not even the precepts of the law; but his design is, to show that remission of sins stands for righteousness, even apart from that strict obedience which the law demands. Sufficient then for pacifying minds, and for rendering certain our salvation, is the word of the gospel; in which we are not commanded to earn righteousness by works, but to embrace it, when offered gratuitously, by faith.

The word of faith is to be taken for the word of promise, that is, for the gospel itself, because it bears a relation to faith.1 The contrast, by which the difference between the law and the gospel appears, is indeed to be understood: and from this distinction we learn,—that as the law demands works, so the gospel requires nothing else, but that men bring faith to receive the grace of God. The words, which we preach, are added, that no one might have the suspicion that Paul differed from Moses; for he testifies, that in the ministration of the gospel there was complete consent between Edition: current; Page: [392] him and Moses; inasmuch as even Moses placed our felicity in nothing else but in the gratuitous promise of divine favour.

9. That if thou wilt confess, &c. Here is also an allusion, rather than a proper and strict quotation: for it is very probable that Moses used the word mouth, by taking a part for the whole, instead of the word face, or sight. But it was not unsuitable for the Apostle to allude to the word mouth, in this manner:—“Since the Lord sets his word before our face, no doubt he calls upon us to confess it.” For wherever the word of the Lord is, it ought to bring forth fruit; and the fruit is the confession of the mouth.

By putting confession before faith, he changes the order, which is often the case in Scripture: for the order would have been more regular if the faith of the heart had preceded, and the confession of the mouth, which arises from it, had followed.1 But he rightly confesses the Lord Jesus, who adorns him with his own power, acknowledging him to be such an one as he is given by the Father, and described in the gospel.

Express mention is made only of Christ’s resurrection; which must not be so taken, as though his death was of no moment, but because Christ, by rising again, completed the whole work of our salvation: for though redemption and satisfaction were effected by his death, through which we are reconciled to God; yet the victory over sin, death, and Edition: current; Page: [393] Satan was attained by his resurrection; and hence also came righteousness, newness of life, and the hope of a blessed immortality. And thus is resurrection alone often set before us as the assurance of our salvation, not to draw away our attention from his death, but because it bears witness to the efficacy and fruit of his death: in short, his resurrection includes his death. On this subject we have briefly touched in the sixth chapter.

It may be added, that Paul requires not merely an historical faith, but he makes the resurrection itself its end. For we must remember the purpose for which Christ rose again;—it was the Father’s design in raising him, to restore us all to life: for though Christ had power of himself to reassume his soul, yet this work is for the most part ascribed in Scripture to God the Father.

10. For with the heart we believe1 unto righteousness, &c. This passage may help us to understand what justification by faith is; for it shows that righteousness then comes to us, when we embrace God’s goodness offered to us in the gospel. We are then for this reason just, because we believe that God is propitious to us in Christ. But let us observe this,—that the seat of faith is not in the head, (in cerebro—in the brain,) but in the heart. Yet I would not contend about the part of the body in which faith is located: but as the word heart is often taken for a serious and sincere feeling, I would say that faith is a firm and effectual confidence, (fiducia—trust, dependence,) and not a bare notion only.

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With the mouth confession is made unto salvation. It may seem strange, that he ascribes no part of our salvation to faith, as he had before so often testified, that we are saved by faith alone. But we ought not on this account to conclude that confession is the cause of our salvation. His design was only to show how God completes our salvation, even when he makes faith, which he implants in our hearts, to show itself by confession: nay, his simple object was, to mark out true faith, as that from which this fruit proceeds, lest any one should otherwise lay claim to the empty name of faith alone: for it ought so to kindle the heart with zeal for God’s glory, as to force out its own flame. And surely, he who is justified has already obtained salvation: hence he no less believes with the heart unto salvation, than with the mouth makes a confession. You see that he has made this distinction,—that he refers the cause of justification to faith,—and that he then shows what is necessary to complete salvation; for no one can believe with the heart without confessing with the mouth: it is indeed a necessary consequence, but not that which assigns salvation to confession.

But let them see what answer they can give to Paul, who at this day proudly boast of some sort of imaginary faith, which, being content with the secrecy of the heart, neglect the confession of the mouth, as a matter superfluous and vain; for it is extremely puerile to say, that there is fire, when there is neither flame nor heat.

11. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

12. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.

13. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

11. Dicit enim scriptura, omnis qui credit in eum non pudefiet:

12. Non enim est distinctio Iudæi et Græci; unus enim Dominus omnium, dives in omnes qui invocant eum;

13. Quisquis enim invocaverit nomen Domini salvus erit.

11. For the Scripture saith, &c. Having stated the reasons why God had justly repudiated the Jews, he returns to prove the calling of the Gentiles, which is the other part of the question which he is discussing. As then he had explained the way by which men obtain salvation, and one that is common and opened to the Gentiles no less than to Edition: current; Page: [395] the Jews, he now, having first hoisted an universal banner, extends it expressly to the Gentiles, and then invites the Gentiles by name to it: and he repeats the testimony which he had before adduced from Isaiah, that what he said might have more authority, and that it might also be evident, how well the prophecies concerning Christ harmonize with the law.1

12. For there is no distinction, &c. Since faith alone is required, wherever it is found, there the goodness of God manifests itself unto salvation: there is then in this case no difference between one people or nation and another. And he adds the strongest of reasons; for since he who is the Creator and Maker of the whole world is the God of all men, he will show himself kind to all who will acknowledge and call on him as their God: for as his mercy is infinite, it cannot be but that it will extend itself to all by whom it shall be sought.

Rich is to be taken here in an active sense, as meaning kind and bountiful.2 And we may observe, that the wealth of our Father is not diminished by his liberality; and that therefore it is not made less for us, with whatever multiplied affluence of his grace he may enrich others. There is then no reason why some should envy the blessings of others, as though anything were thereby lost by them.

But though this reason is sufficiently strong, he yet strengthens it by the testimony of the Prophet Joel; which, according to the general term that is used, includes all alike. But readers can see much better by the context, that what Joel declares harmonizes with the present subject; for he prophesies in that passage of the kingdom of Christ: and further, after having said, that the wrath of God would burn in a dreadful manner, in the midst of his ardour, he promises Edition: current; Page: [396] salvation to all who would call on the name of the Lord. It hence follows, that the grace of God penetrates into the abyss of death, if only it be sought there; so that it is not by any means to be withheld from the Gentiles.1

14. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?

15. And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!

16. But they have not all obeyed the gospel: for Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?

17. So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God?

14. Quomodo ergo invocabunt eum in quem non crediderint? quomodo vero in eum credent de quo non audiverint? quomodo autem audient absque prædicante?

15. Quomodo autem prædicabunt nisi mittantur? quemadmodum scriptum est, Quàm pulchri pedes annuntiantium pacem, annuntiantium bona!

16. Sed non omnes obedierunt evangelio; Iesaias enim dicit, Domine, quis credidit sermoni nostro?

17. Ergo fides ex auditu, auditus autem per verbum Dei.

I shall not engage the reader long in reciting and disproving the opinions of others. Let every one have his own view; and let me be allowed to bring forward what I think. That you may then understand the design of this gradation, bear in mind first, that there was a mutual connection between the calling of the Gentiles and the ministry of Paul, which he exercised among them; so that on the evidence for the one depended the evidence for the other. It was now necessary for Paul to prove, beyond a doubt, the calling of the Gentiles, and, at the same time, to give a reason for his own ministry, lest he should seem to extend the favour of God without authority, to withhold from the children the bread intended for them by God, and to bestow it on dogs. But these things he therefore clears up at the same time. But how he connects the thread of his discourse, will not be fully understood, until every part be in order explained.

The import of what he advances is the same as though Edition: current; Page: [397] he had said, “Both Jews and Gentiles, by calling on the name of God, do thereby declare that they believe on him; for a true calling on God’s name cannot be except a right knowledge of him were first had. Moreover, faith is produced by the word of God, but the word of God is nowhere preached, except through God’s special providence and appointment. Where then there is a calling on God, there is faith; and where faith is, the seed of the word has preceded; where there is preaching there is the calling of God. Now where his calling is thus efficacious and fruitful, there is there a clear and indubitable proof of the divine goodness. It will hence at last appear, that the Gentiles are not to be excluded from the kingdom of God, for God has admitted them into a participation of his salvation. For as the cause of faith among them is the preaching of the gospel, so the cause of preaching is the mission of God, by which it had pleased him in this manner to provide for their salvation.” We shall now consider each portion by itself.

14. How shall they call? &c. Paul intends here to connect prayer with faith, as they are indeed things most closely connected, for he who calls on God betakes himself, as it were, to the only true haven of salvation, and to a most secure refuge; he acts like the son, who commits himself into the bosom of the best and the most loving of fathers, that he may be protected by his care, cherished by his kindness and love, relieved by his bounty, and supported by his power. This is what no man can do who has not previously entertained in his mind such a persuasion of God’s paternal kindness towards him, that he dares to expect everything from him.

He then who calls on God necessarily feels assured that there is protection laid up for him; for Paul speaks here of that calling which is approved by God. Hypocrites also pray, but not unto salvation; for it is with no conviction of faith. It hence appears how completely ignorant are all the schoolmen, who doubtingly present themselves before God, being sustained by no confidence. Paul thought far otherwise; for he assumes this as an acknowledged axiom, that we cannot rightly pray unless we are surely persuaded of Edition: current; Page: [398] success. For he does not refer here to hesitating faith, but to that certainty which our minds entertain respecting his paternal kindness, when by the gospel he reconciles us to himself, and adopts us for his children. By this confidence only we have access to him, as we are also taught in Eph. iii. 12.

But, on the other hand, learn that true faith is only that which brings forth prayer to God; for it cannot be but that he who has tasted the goodness of God will ever by prayer seek the enjoyment of it.

How shall they believe on him? &c. The meaning is, that we are in a manner mute until God’s promise opens our mouth to pray, and this is the order which he points out by the Prophet, when he says, “I will say to them, my people are ye;” and they shall say to me, “Thou art our God.” (Zech. xiii. 9.) It belongs not indeed to us to imagine a God according to what we may fancy; we ought to possess a right knowledge of him, such as is set forth in his word. And when any one forms an idea of God as good, according to his own understanding, it is not a sure nor a solid faith which he has, but an uncertain and evanescent imagination; it is therefore necessary to have the word, that we may have a right knowledge of God. No other word has he mentioned here but that which is preached, because it is the ordinary mode which the Lord has appointed for conveying his word. But were any on this account to contend that God cannot transfer to men the knowledge of himself, except by the instrumentality of preaching, we deny that to teach this was the Apostle’s intention; for he had only in view the ordinary dispensation of God, and did not intend to prescribe a law for the distribution of his grace.

15. How shall they preach except they be sent? &c. He intimates that it is a proof and a pledge of divine love when any nation is favoured with the preaching of the gospel; and that no one is a preacher of it, but he whom God has raised up in his special providence, and that hence there is no doubt but that he visits that nation to whom the gospel is proclaimed. But as Paul does not treat here of the lawful call of any one, it would be superfluous to speak at large on Edition: current; Page: [399] the subject. It is enough for us to bear this only in mind, that the gospel does not fall like rain from the clouds, but is brought by the hands of men wherever it is sent from above.

As it is written, How beautiful, &c. We are to apply this testimony to our present subject in this manner, The Lord, when he gave hope of deliverance to his people, commended the advent of those who brought the glad tidings of peace, by a remarkable eulogy; by this very circumstance he has made it evident that the apostolic ministry was to be held in no less esteem, by which the message of eternal life is brought to us. And it hence follows, that it is from God, since there is nothing in the world that is an object of desire and worthy of praise, which does not proceed from his hand.1

But hence we also learn how much ought all good men to desire, and how much they ought to value the preaching of the gospel, which is thus commended to us by the mouth of the Lord himself. Nor is there indeed a doubt, but that God has thus highly spoken of the incomparable value of this treasure, for the purpose of awakening the minds of all, so that they may anxiously desire it. Take feet, by metonymy, for coming.2

16. But all have not obeyed the gospel, &c. This belongs Edition: current; Page: [400] not to the argument, which Paul designed to follow in the gradation he lays down; nor does he refer to it in the conclusion which immediately follows. It was yet expedient for Paul to introduce the sentence here, in order to anticipate an objection, lest any one should build an argument on what he had said,—that the word in order always precedes faith, as the seed the corn,—and draw this inference, that faith everywhere follows the word: for Israel, who had never been without the word, might have made a boast of this kind. It was therefore necessary, that, in passing, he should give them this intimation,—that many are called, who are yet not chosen.

He also quotes a passage from Isaiah liii. 1; where the Prophet, before he proceeds to announce a remarkable prediction respecting the death and the kingdom of Christ, speaks with astonishment of the few number of believers, who appeared to him in the Spirit to be so few, that he was constrained to exclaim, “O Lord, who has believed our report?” that is, the word which we preach. For though in Hebrew the term שמועה, [Editor: word missing] means passively a word,1 yet the Greeks have rendered it, ἀκοὴν—hearing, and the Latins, auditum—hearing; incorrectly indeed, but with no ambiguity in the meaning.

We now see why this exception was by the way introduced; it was, that no one might suppose that faith necessarily follows where there is preaching. He however does afterwards point out the reason, by saying, “To whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” by which he intimates that there is no benefit from the word, except when God shines in us by the light of his Spirit; and thus the inward Edition: current; Page: [401] calling, which alone is efficacious and peculiar to the elect, is distinguished from the outward voice of men. It is hence evident, how foolishly some maintain, that all are indiscriminately the elect, because the doctrine of salvation is universal, and because God invites all indiscriminately to himself. But the generality of the promises does not alone and by itself make salvation common to all: on the contrary, the peculiar revelation, mentioned by the Prophet, confines it to the elect.

17. Faith then is by hearing, &c. We see by this conclusion what Paul had in view by the gradation which he formed; it was to show, that wherever faith is, God has there already given an evidence of his election; and then, that he, by pouring his blessing on the ministration of the gospel, to illuminate the minds of men by faith, and thereby to lead them to call on his name, had thus testified, that the Gentiles were admitted by him into a participation of the eternal inheritance.

And this is a remarkable passage with regard to the efficacy of preaching; for he testifies, that by it faith is produced. He had indeed before declared, that of itself it is of no avail; but that when it pleases the Lord to work, it becomes the instrument of his power. And indeed the voice of man can by no means penetrate into the soul; and mortal man would be too much exalted, were he said to have the power to regenerate us; the light also of faith is something sublimer than what can be conveyed by man: but all these things are no hindrances, that God should not work effectually through the voice of man, so as to create faith in us through his ministry.

It must be further noticed, that faith is grounded on nothing else but the truth of God; for Paul does not teach us that faith springs from any other kind of doctrine, but he expressly restricts it to the word of God; and this restriction would have been improper if faith could rest on the decrees of men. Away then with all the devices of men when we speak of the certainty of faith. Hence also the Papal conceit respecting implicit faith falls to the ground, because it tears away faith from the word; and more detestable still is Edition: current; Page: [402] that blasphemy, that the truth of the word remains suspended until the authority of the Church establishes it.

18. But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.

19. But I say, Did not Israel know? First, Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you.

20. But Esaias is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me.

21. But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.

18. Sed dico, Nunquid non audierunt? Quinimo, In omnem terram exivit sonus eorum, et in fines orbis verba eorum.

19. Sed dico, Nunquid non cognovit Israel? Primus Moses dicit, Ego ad æmulationem provocabo vos in eo qui non est populus, et in gente stulta irritabo vos.

20. Iesaias autem audet et dicit, Inventus sum à non quærentibus me, conspicuus factus sum iis qui me non interrogabant.

21. De Israele autem dicit, Quotidie expandi manus meas ad populum contumacem et contradicentem (vel, non credentem.)

18. But I say, have they not heard? &c. Since the minds of men are imbued, by preaching, with the knowledge of God, which leads them to call on God, it remained a question whether the truth of God had been proclaimed to the Gentiles; for that Paul had suddenly betaken himself to the Gentiles, there was by that novelty no small offence given. He then asks, whether God had ever before directed his voice to the Gentiles, and performed the office of a teacher towards the whole world. But in order that he might show that the school, into which God collects scholars to himself from any part, is open in common to all, he brings forward a Prophet’s testimony from Ps. xix. 4; which yet seems to bear apparently but little on the subject: for the Prophet does not speak there of Apostles but of the material works of God; in which he says the glory of God shines forth so evidently, that they may be said to have a sort of tongue of their own to declare the perfections of God.

This passage of Paul gave occasion to the ancients to explain the whole Psalm allegorically, and posterity have followed them: so that, without doubt, the sun going forth as a bridegroom from his chamber, was Christ, and the heavens were the Apostles. They who had most piety, and showed a greater modesty in interpreting Scripture, thought Edition: current; Page: [403] that what was properly said of the celestial architecture, has been transferred by Paul to the Apostles by way of allusion. But as I find that the Lord’s servants have everywhere with great reverence explained Scripture, and have not turned them at pleasure in all directions, I cannot be persuaded, that Paul has in this manner misconstrued this passage. I then take his quotation according to the proper and genuine meaning of the Prophet; so that the argument will be something of this kind,—God has already from the beginning manifested his divinity to the Gentiles, though not by the preaching of men, yet by the testimony of his creatures; for though the gospel was then silent among them, yet the whole workmanship of heaven and earth did speak and make known its author by its preaching. It hence appears, that the Lord, even during the time in which he confined the favour of his covenant to Israel, did not yet so withdraw from the Gentiles the knowledge of himself, but that he ever kept alive some sparks of it among them. He indeed manifested himself then more particularly to his chosen people, so that the Jews might be justly compared to domestic hearers, whom he familiarly taught as it were by his own mouth; yet as he spoke to the Gentiles at a distance by the voice of the heavens, he showed by this prelude that he designed to make himself known at length to them also.

But I know not why the Greek interpreter rendered the word קום, kum, ϕϑόγγον αὐτohivrgrν, their sound; for it means a line, sometimes in building, and sometimes in writing.1 As Edition: current; Page: [404] it is certain that the same thing is mentioned twice in this passage, it seems to me probable, that the heavens are introduced as declaring by what is written as it were on them, as well as by voice, the power of God; for by the word going forth the Prophet reminds us, that the doctrine, of which the heavens are the preachers, is not included within the narrow limits of one land, but is proclaimed to the utmost regions of the world.

19. But I say, has not Israel known? This objection of an opponent is taken from the comparison of the less with the greater. Paul had argued, that the Gentiles were not to be excluded from the knowledge of God, since he had from the beginning manifested himself to them, though only obscurely and through shadows, or had at least given them some knowledge of his truth. What then is to be said of Israel, who had been illuminated by a far different light of truth? for how comes it that aliens and the profane should run to the light manifested to them afar off, and that the holy race of Abraham should reject it when familiarly seen by them? For this distinction must be ever borne in mind, “What nation is so renowned, that it has gods coming nigh to it, as thy God at this day descends to thee?” It was not then without reason asked, why knowledge had not followed the doctrine of the law, with which Israel was favoured.

First, Moses saith, &c. He proves by the testimony of Moses, that there was nothing inconsistent in God in preferring the Gentiles to the Jews. The passage is taken from that celebrated song, in which God, upbraiding the Jews with their perfidiousness, declares, that he would execute vengeance on them, and provoke them to jealousy by taking the Gentiles into covenant with himself, because they had Edition: current; Page: [405] departed to fictitious gods. “Ye have,” he says, “by despising and rejecting me, transferred my right and honour to idols: to avenge this wrong, I will also substitute the Gentiles in your place, and I will transfer to them what I have hitherto given to you.” Now this could not have been without repudiating the Jewish nation: for the emulation, which Moses mentions, arose from this,—that God formed for himself a nation from that which was not a nation, and raised up from nothing a new people, who were to occupy the place from which the Jews had been driven away, inasmuch as they had forsaken the true God and prostituted themselves to idols. For though, at the coming of Christ, the Jews were not gone astray to gross and external idolatry, they had yet no excuse, since they had profaned the whole worship of God by their inventions; yea, they at length denied God the Father, as revealed in Christ, his only-begotten Son, which was an extreme kind of impiety.

Observe, that a foolish nation, and no nation, are the same; for without the hope of eternal life men have properly no existence. Besides, the beginning or origin of life is from the light of faith: hence spiritual existence flows from the new creation; and in this sense Paul calls the faithful the work of God, as they are regenerated by his Spirit, and renewed after his image. Now from the word foolish, we learn that all the wisdom of men, apart from the word of God, is mere vanity.1

20. But Isaiah is bold, and says, &c. As this prophecy is somewhat clearer, that he might excite greater attention he says that it was expressed with great confidence; as though he had said,—“The Prophet did not speak in a figurative language, or with hesitation, but had in plain and clear words declared the calling of the Gentiles.” But the things which Paul has here separated, by interposing a few words, Edition: current; Page: [406] are found connected together in the Prophet, ch. lxv. 1, where the Lord declares, that the time would come when he should turn his favour to the Gentiles; and he immediately subjoins this reason,—that he was wearied with the perverseness of Israel, which, through very long continuance, had become intolerable to him. He then speaks thus,—“They who inquired not of me before, and neglected my name, have now sought me, (the perfect tense for the future to denote the certainty of the prophecy;) they who sought me not have beyond hope and desire found me.”1

I know that this whole passage is changed by some Rabbins, as though God promised that he would cause that the Jews should repent of their defection: but nothing is more clear than that he speaks of aliens; for it follows in the same context,—“I have said, Behold I come to a people, on whom my name is not called.” Without doubt, then, the Prophet declares it as what would take place, that those who were before aliens would be received by a new adoption unto the family of God. It is then the calling of the Gentiles; and in which appears a general representation of the calling of all the faithful; for there is no one who anticipates the Lord; but we are all, without exception, delivered by his free mercy from the deepest abyss of death, when there is no knowledge of him, no desire of serving him, in a word, no conviction of his truth.

21. But of Israel, &c. A reason is subjoined why God passed over to the Gentiles; it was because he saw that his favour was become a mockery to the Jews. But that readers may more fully understand that the blindness of the people is pointed out in the second clause, Paul expressly reminds us that the elect people were charged with their own wickedness. Literally it is, “He says to Israel;” but Paul has imitated the Hebrew idiom; for ל, lamed, is often put for מן, men. And he says, that to Israel he stretched forth his hands, whom he continually by his word invited to himself, Edition: current; Page: [407] and ceased not to allure by every sort of kindness; for these are the two ways which he adopts to call men, as he thus proves his good-will towards them. However, he chiefly complains of the contempt shown to his truth; which is the more abominable, as the more remarkable is the manner by which God manifests his paternal solicitude in inviting men by his word to himself.

And very emphatical is the expression, that he stretches out his hands; for by seeking our salvation through the ministers of his word, he stretches forth to us his hands no otherwise than as a father who stretches forth his arms, ready to receive his son kindly into his bosom. And he says daily, that it might not seem strange to any one if he was wearied in showing kindness to them, inasmuch as he succeeded not by his assiduity. A similar representation we have in Jer. vii. 13; and xi. 7, where he says that he rose up early to warn them.

Their unfaithfulness is also set forth by two most suitable words. I have thought it right to render the participle ἀπειθούντα, refractory, or rebellious, and yet the rendering of Erasmus and of the Old Translator, which I have placed in the margin, is not to be wholly disapproved. But since the Prophet accuses the people of perverseness, and then adds that they wandered through ways which were not good, I doubt not but that the Greek Translator meant to express the Hebrew word םורר, surer, by two words, calling them first disobedient or rebellious, and then gainsaying; for their contumacy showed itself in this, because the people, with untamable pride and bitterness, obstinately rejected the holy admonitions of the Prophets.1

Edition: current; Page: [408]

CHAPTER XI.

1. I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.

2. God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying,

3. Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life.

4. But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal.

5. Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.

6. And if by grace, then is it no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace; otherwise work is no more work.

1. Dico igitur, Num abjecit Deus populum suum? absit: etenim ego Israelita sum, ex genere Abrahæ, tribu Beniamin.

2. Non abjecit Deus populum suum quem præcognovit. An nescitis in Elia quid scriptura dicat? quomodo appellet Deum adversus Israel, dicens,

3. Domine, Prophetas tuas occiderunt, et altaria tua diruerunt, et ego relictus sum solus, et quærunt animam meam.

4. Sed quid dicit ei oraculum?1 Reservavi mihi ipsi septem millia virorum, qui non flexerunt genu imagini Baal.

5. Sic ergo et hoc tempore, reliquiæ secundum electionem gratiæ supersunt:

6. Quòd si per gratiam, jam non ex operibus; alioqui gratia, jam non est gratia: si verò ex operibus, jam non est gratia; alioqui opus, jam non est opus.

1. I say then, &c. What he has hitherto said of the blindness and obstinacy of the Jews, might seem to import that Christ at his coming had transferred elsewhere the promises of God, and deprived the Jews of every hope of salvation. This objection is what he anticipates in this passage, and he so modifies what he had previously said respecting the repudiation of the Jews, that no one might think that the covenant formerly made with Abraham is now abrogated, or that God had so forgotten it that the Jews were now so entirely alienated from his kingdom, as the Gentiles were before the coming of Christ. All this he denies, and he will presently show that it is altogether false. But the question is not whether God had justly or unjustly rejected the people; for Edition: current; Page: [409] it was proved in the last chapter that when the people, through false zeal, had rejected the righteousness of God, they suffered a just punishment for their presumption, were deservedly blinded, and were at last cut off from the covenant.

The reason then for their rejection is not now under consideration; but the dispute is concerning another thing, which is this, That though they deserved such a punishment from God, whether yet the covenant which God made formerly with the fathers was abolished. That it should fail through any perfidiousness of men, was wholly unreasonable; for Paul holds this as a fixed principle, that since adoption is gratuitous and based on God alone and not on men, it stands firm and inviolable, howsoever great the unfaithfulness of men may be, which may tend to abolish it. It was necessary that this knot should be untied, lest the truth and election of God should be thought to be dependent on the worthiness of men.

For I am also an Israelite, &c. Before he proceeds to the subject, he proves, in passing, by his own example, how unreasonable it was to think that the nation was utterly forsaken by God; for he himself was in his origin an Israelite, not a proselyte, or one lately introduced into the commonwealth of Israel. As then he was justly deemed to be one of God’s special servants, it was an evidence that God’s favour rested on Israel. He then assumes the conclusion as proved, which yet he will hereafter explain in a satisfactory manner.

That in addition to the title of an Israelite, he called himself the seed of Abraham, and mentioned also his own tribe; this he did that he might be counted a genuine Israelite, and he did the same in his Epistle to the Philippians, ch. iii. 4. But what some think, that it was done to commend God’s mercy, inasmuch as Paul sprung from that tribe which had been almost destroyed, seems forced and far-fetched.

2. God has not cast away, &c. This is a negative answer, accompanied with a qualifying clause; for had the Apostle unreservedly denied that the people were rejected, he would Edition: current; Page: [410] have been inconsistent with himself; but by adding a modification, he shows it to be such a rejection, as that God’s promise is not thereby made void. So the answer may be divided into two parts,—that God has by no means cast away the whole race of Abraham, contrary to the tenor of his own covenant,—and that yet the fruit of adoption does not exist in all the children of the flesh, for secret election precedes. Thus general rejection could not have caused that no seed should be saved; for the visible body of the people was in such a manner rejected, that no member of the spiritual body of Christ was cut off.

If any one asks, “Was not circumcision a common symbol of God’s favour to all the Jews, so that they ought to have been all counted his people?” To this the obvious answer is,—That as outward calling is of itself ineffectual without faith, the honour which the unbelieving refuse when offered, is justly taken from them. Thus a special people remain, in whom God exhibits an evidence of his faithfulness; and Paul derives the origin of constancy from secret election. For it is not said here that God regards faith, but that he stands to his own purpose, so as not to reject the people whom he has foreknown.

And here again must be noticed what I have before reminded you of,—that by the verb foreknow, is not to be understood a foresight, I know not what, by which God foresees what sort of being any one will be, but that good pleasure, according to which he has chosen those as sons to himself, who, being not yet born, could not have procured for themselves his favour.1 So he says to the Galatians, that Edition: current; Page: [411] they had been known by God, (Gal. iv. 9); for he had anticipated them with his favour, so as to call them to the knowledge of Christ. We now perceive, that though universal calling may not bring forth fruit, yet the faithfulness of God does not fail, inasmuch as he always preserves a Church, as long as there are elect remaining; for though God invites all people indiscriminately to himself, yet he does not inwardly draw any but those whom he knows to be his people, and whom he has given to his Son, and of whom also he will be the faithful keeper to the end.

Know ye not, &c. As there were so few of the Jews who had believed in Christ, hardly another conclusion could have been drawn from this small number, but that the whole race of Abraham had been rejected; and creep in might this thought,—that in so vast a ruin no sign of God’s favour appeared: for since adoption was the sacred bond by which the children of Abraham were kept collected under the protection of God, it was by no means probable, unless that had ceased, that the people should be miserably and wretchedly dispersed. To remove this offence, Paul adopts a most suitable example; for he relates, that in the time of Elias there was such a desolation, that there remained no appearance of a Church, and yet, that when no vestige of God’s favour appeared, the Church of God was, as it were, hid in the grave, and was thus wonderfully preserved.

It hence follows, that they egregiously mistake who form an opinion of the Church according to their own perceptions. And surely if that celebrated Prophet, who was endued with so enlightened a mind, was so deceived, when he attempted by his own judgment to form an estimate of God’s people, what shall be the case with us, whose highest perspicuity, when compared with his, is mere dulness? Let us not then determine any thing rashly on this point; but rather let this truth remain fixed in our hearts—that the Church, though it may not appear to our eyes, is sustained by the Edition: current; Page: [412] secret providence of God. Let it also be remembered by us, that they are foolish and presumptuous who calculate the number of the elect according to the extent of their own perception: for God has a way, easy to himself, hidden from us, by which he wonderfully preserves his elect, even when all things seem to us past all remedy.

And let readers observe this,—that Paul distinctly compares here, and elsewhere, the state of things in his time with the ancient condition of the Church, and that it serves in no small degree to confirm our faith, when we bear in mind, that nothing happens to us, at this day, which the holy Fathers had not formerly experienced: for novelty, we know, is a grievous engine to torment weak minds.

As to the words, In Elias, I have retained the expression of Paul; for it may mean either in the history or in the business of Elias; though it seems to me more probable, that Paul has followed the Hebrew mode of speaking; for ב,