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Olympas. We have a species of dialogue in the first ten verses of this chapter. In this dialogue Paul objects as a man, and answers as an Apostle.
He had proved both Jews and Gentiles to be alike under sin, in his reasonings in the second chapter. Hence originates the first question-"What advantage, then, has the Jew, and what profit in circumcision!” You will now severally state and answer the five questions propourded by “a man," and answered by the Apostle.
Susan. Paul having affirmed, “That circumcision profits only when a Jew keeps the law, otherwise, his circumcision becomes uncircumcision,” the question, “What advantage, then, háth the Jew,”! and "What profit in circumcision,” is very natural. To this Paul responds—“Much, every way, but especially because they had the Oracles of God committed in keeping to them.
James. But one might still object—“Will not their unbelief destroy the truthsulness of God!" A phrase, indeed, I do not well understand. Olympas. There is, perhaps, some obscurity about it.
A fact recorded in these Oracles explains it;-God had made a covenant with the Jewish fathers, in which he promised to be a God to their offspring, as well as to them. Now, if unbelief cuts them off from all the blessings promised in the Oracles, where is the covenant keeping character of God? This was the difficulty,
James. I see it now, but I cannot answer the question.
Henry. This reminds me of an objection I saw stated in a newspaper, against sending the gospel to China. It was alleged it would make the doom of the Chinese worse upon the whole, because more would be lost than saved by it; and because the lost would suffer more because of rejecting it, than they would have done had they never heard it. But, thought I, it is better that some should be saved than all lost.
Olympas. Besides, when we compute all that is gained to a na. tion through the Bible, besides the eternal salvation of a portion of its population, there appears, in all the civilization which it imparts, “much, every way" an advantage to any people enjoying so rich a boon of heaven. And although arithmetical ratios are no standard of moral advantages, we may always expect, in the long run, an increase of blessings, if only some of a people believe. At all events, comprehend as we may, the present and future blessings to a nation from the Bible and its civilization, we must say, "God forbid,” or “Far be it!” The faithfulness of God must not be called into question. SERIES INI.-Vol. VI.
“Let God be true," says Paul, “though every man should be a liar.” This is an indication of great confidence in the veracity of God, and the truth of the Bible, whatever our ability to answer or not answer an objection against it or its doctrine. The quotation, “That thou mayest be justified in thy sayings,”' &c., made from Psalm li. 4. is very apposite. Although oppressed with grief, and borne down with affiiction, David acknowledges that God was right in punishing him. And whether we comprehend or not, the scheme of moral government, or divine providence, we must always believe and say that God is just, and faithful, and true.
But with immediate reference to the objection-What if some did not believe, shall their unbelief or unfaithfulness make God unfaithful,” we may with propriety say, that the nation of Israel has not yet passed away, and that what may have happened in different crises of its history and affairs, is not to be placed against the system of moral government ander which God has placed them as the repositories of his oracles. We must have read their yet unwritten and unfinished history before we can pronounce upon the truthfulness of God, or the value of his oracles, vouchsafed to that people. Proceed, Susan.
Susan. The third objection is "If our unrighteousness display the justice of God, what shall we say?. Is not God unjust, who inflicts punishment? [I speak after the manner of men.] By no means; otherwise, how shall God judge the world?” It would hence seem that the Jews admitted a future judgment day, and that this is an argument based on that admission. If God punish the wicked, he will glorify his truth and justice. But because their punishment glorifics him, ought he on that account, to regard their sin as an evil, or refrain from punishing it? Were that the case, how, then, could there be a Judgment Day?
James. The fourth question is—“Still, if the truth of God has, through my lie, more abounded to his glory, why am I also yet condemned as a sinner?” This is a question so deep that I cannot fathom it. I know that the consequences of a transgression are not to be regarded in the judging of it. A transgression is a transgresgression, and should be judged or punished as such, regardless of its consequences. The crucifying of Christ was a horrible deed, yet it has become the salvation of millions. But reason seems to say, that the crucifiers should be punished forever, although all mankind, themselves excepted, were saved by it. I cannot, however comprehend the matter farther.
Clement. You have well spoken, James. None of us can say much more to the point. We may add, that actions are to be praised or blamed, rewarded or punished according to their direct tendency, and not because God may overrule them for good, as all his own, and the evil as man's own. Many reason very falsely on this subjectbut none more than they who practically, and in their conduct, say,
- Then let us do evil that good may be brought out of it. “Some," says Paul, “affirm that we teach this doctrine,” because, I presume, that he said so much of the good educed from the death of Christ, and that where sin abounded, grace superabounded. Those, indeed, that wilfully do evil that good may come out of it, are worthy of condemnation. And they who thus perversely slandered the apostolic doctrine, were also worthy of a similar punishment.
Henry. The fifth question is easily answered—“What then? Do we excel?” Not at all. For in the second chapter Paul has shown that both Jews and Gentiles were all under sin:- And here he addu. ces ample proof of the fact.
Olympas. What a profusion of evidence is adduced from the Jew. ish oracles in proof of the enormous wickedness of man under the dispensation of Moses and the Prophets! True, these affirmations must not be interpreted in a strictly literal acceptation. To say that there was not one' righteous person in the Jewish nation, is similar to what the Baptist said of his contemporaries concerning Jesus Christ, viz:-"No man receiveth his testimony." Amongst the Asiatics, universal propositions are seldom strictly interpreted. When but a few persons receive a person, or a witness, they boldly say, “no one receiveth him.” “No one receiveth his testimony.” A very few at first received the testimony of John. And a very few were righteous, in a very strict sense of the word, even in the times of David, from whose odes Paul here quotes so freely. And, indeed, in the letter and spirit of the Jewish law, no one possessed the righteousness which it required. Before its requisitions, every mouth must be silent, and every man condemned. “Wherefore, by works of law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: because through law is the knowledge of sin.” Whence, Henry, are these quotations adduced?
Henry. From Psalm xiv, 2; v, 9; cxl, 3; x, 7; xxxvi, 1. One passage only, appears to be taken from Isaiah, chapter lix, 7. 8; not one from the law of Moses. Yet the Apostle says—“Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them that are under the law.”
Olympas. “The law," sometimes indicates the law of Ten Com. mands; sometimes the five Books of Moses; sometimes the whole Old
Testament. The Jewish scriptures are, however, logically distributed under the heads of “THE LAW, THE PROPHETS, and the PSALMS." Here the phrase is taken in its largest sense. And what, Susan, appears to be the drift of the Apostle, in the section closing with the twentieth verse of this chapter?
Susan. That no one can be justified by the law of Moses. The Gentiles could, not because they were not under it, and the Jews could not, because they did not keep it.
Clement. It is worthy of notice, that the Apostle, in concluding his argument upon the impossibility of legal justification, confines not himself nor the subject to the law in any of the three senses in which it has been defined, whether as implying the ten precepis or the five Books of Moses, or the Jewish scriptures. But casting away all definitions, and the article itself, he affirms of each and every law, the utter impossibility of any one violating it in any one particular, and ever after being justified by it. Hence, we ought to read it in English as in Greek—"By works of law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight, because through law is the knowledge of sin.” The New Version is beautifully exact and literal in this passage, ard therefore, more intelligible. This observation is necessary for another purpose:— The Apostle has now reached the main proposition in this epistle; and, indeed, the most essential doctrine in the Bible--the most fundamental and important in the whole evangelical system.
Olympas. I am glad to hear you say so. My children and family have often heard me say that in the following six verses is the kernel of the Christian system—the basis of the whole evangelical sys. tem. I will read thein myself:
21.-—“But now, a righteousness of God, without law, is exhibited, attested by the law and the prophets: a righteousness of God, through faith of Jesus Christ, for all, and upon all that believe; for there is 110 difference; for all, have sinned, and come short of the glory of God, being freely justified by his favur, through the redemption which is by Christ Jesus, whom God has set forth a propitiatory, through faith in his blood, for an exhibition of his own righteousness, in passing by the sins which were before committed through the forbearance of God: for an exhibition of his own righteousness in the present time, in order that he may be just, when justifying him, who is of the faith of Jesus.”
I have read this passage from the received Greek text, now in my hand, translating it exactly from the original. Though in no doctrinal point of view differing from either the Common or New Version, I think, in some words I am more literally exact, and more intelligible than either of them.
Clement. I agree with you, both in the version you have given and in the opinion you expressed of it. I do not approve of either Locke's or Taylor's exposition of this passage as a whole.-Tholuck and Stuart are learned, but not simple enough for my taste. Chalmers and Baraes are too diffuse, and a score of others have their perfections and imperfections, but none of them seems to touch the main points with that skill and delicacy of discernment and taste which I could wish; and yet I might not be able to equal any of them. Still, I feel more elevated and pleased when reading the text, than when reading the comment or the criticism.
Olympas. I would be pleased, brother Clement, to hear you freely, and in a plain conversational style, give us your views of this transcendent passage. But before proceding, I will propound a question or two to the children, and our faithful domestic servant, Sarah, to interest and prepare them to understand you. Sarah, what is the meaning of the word now, in the twenty-first verse?
Sarah. It means the present time, compared with the times of the law, as I suppose.
Olympas. True. It is not, then, a mere particle to give force or character to the following enunciation; but an adverb of time, a date, a new epoch, or era. The Christian age in contrast with the Jewish. And what, Susan, indicates “a righteousness of God?"
Susan. It is not an attribute of God, called righteousness, for that was not now, but long ago declared and exhibited.
Olympas. But what is it. I do not merely ask what it is not, but what it is.
Susan. I said it was not an attribute of God, merely to say it was a thing provided by God; Something provided, as was the ram which Abraham substituted for Isaac. It was caught by the horns in the bramble; yet the patriarch said—“God, my son, will provide a lamb for a burnt offering.” This was a type, you told us, when reading Moses, before we began to read Christ intelligently, of the redemption by Christ. This righteousness is, therefore, something wrought out for us, not by us. It is called God's righteousness, because he is the author of it.
Olympas. It was "without law.” What means this, Henry?
Henry. It is not a righteousness performed by us by keeping the law of Moses, or any other law. It is not a legal righteousness. It is not the righteousness of our obedience. It is, indeed, attested or borne witness of in the typical law and by the Prophets. “The law was a shadow good things to come.” And the Prophets said"Surely, shall one say-In the Lord have I righteousness." "In the