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Gospel to them: how “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them:” and now commanded all men everywhere to repent, “ because he would judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he had ordained.” They, too, received the word: they “turned from idols to serve the living and true God:” they “were washed, were sanctified, were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” -
Thus was the Gospel the power of God unto salration. It did that which no other power can do. It converted men's hearts: it brought them out of a state in which they were enemies of God through wicked works, and placed them in a state which God regards with favour: it turned them from ways in which those who walk can have no inheritance in the kingdom of God, and it enabled them to look forward to a pure and holy world, beyond the reach of Satan, and free from the defilement of sin.
Justly might Paul say, I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ ; when he could point to those who had been “dead in trespasses and sins,” and were now quickened into spiritual life: when he saw “the works of the flesh” abandoned, and “the fruits of the Spirit” flourishing in their stead: when he could show the sensual made pure, the covetous made liberal, the malicious made merciful, the “lover of this world” become “a lover of God.” He had good reason to declare, I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation to erery one that beliereth.
* Acts xvii. 30. * I Cor. vi. 11.
Not indeed to every one; but to every one that beliereth. There were those that did not believe; who scoffed alike at its warnings and its promises, being “blinded by the god of this world.” The righteousness of God from faith, the righteousness which is by faith in Jesus Christ,--is revealed to faith; it is made known that it may be possessed by faith.” The Gospel can no more save those who do not receive it in full confidence, than the ark of Noah could deliver those who refused to enter it. The promises are exceeding great and precious promises; but they must be credited. The blessing is held forth on the part of God: but the hand must also be stretched out on the part of man, to accept the offered blessing.
And great indeed is the blessing, to him who has stretched out the hand. The support on which he has laid hold, will not fail him in the hour of need : the strength will not yield, on which he leans. The Gospel is the power of God. The power of God is engaged in it, for man's salvation : engaged to overcome all that would oppose his salvation: to strengthen weakness; to enlighten darkness; to dispel doubts; to conquer fears; to break the force of temptation; to frustrate all the arts of Satan. It is exactly that which frail and corrupt nature needs, to urge the heart when it lingers, to sustain it when it droops, to restore it when it fails: to preserve what it has attained of holiness, and to supply what is still wanting. Who has not cause to say, “Lord, I am weak, undertake for me!” Who will not thankfully acknowledge, “Not I, but the grace of God that was with me?”
* Such seems the best explanation of a difficult sentence. As in chapter iii. 22. Ata tria rewc there, is here ék Twarewc: eit, zovc roarevowrac there, here etc. Two ruv. The righteousness of God from or by faith in Jesus Christ availeth to believers.
THE SINFUL CHARACTER OF THE HEATHEN
RoMANs i. 18–32.
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 fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.
St. Paul had been describing the Gospel as the power of God unto salvation, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile. And this leads him to show the
need of such salvation, to the Gentile first, and
things were made. When they saw a building, or a statue, or any other work of art, they well knew it must have a maker: and how could they look upon that astonishing fabric, the world around them, or the human body which a statue imitates, and not perceive that these must have had a Creator? Therefore, says St. Paul, they are without ereuse. He is without excuse, who does not rightly use the opportunities he has, but neglects and loses them. If a man has enjoyed fair opportunity of advancing himself in the world, and has forfeited it through idleness and folly, we say that he is without earcuse. If a man who has had the means of learning, still remains ignorant, we blame him beyond another who has possessed no such means. And this was the case with the heathen. When they knew God, they glorified him not as God. Instead of glorifying him, they pretended to represent him by images made like to corruptible man, they even worshipped in his stead the creatures which he made: they bowed down to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things, saying, “Deliver me, for thou art my God.” What could be more insulting to the divine Majesty? Further, they showed no gratitude to him for all his goodness. David inquires, in the language of grateful piety, “What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits towards me?” But though there were many among the heathen who professed themselves to be wise, there were none who showed this pious wisdom. They made no such inquiry, neither were thankful: they abused the gifts of God, instead
2 Psalm cyvi. 12.