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delayeth his coming.” They did not judge of that delay as it ought to have been judged of, and see it to be a proof of God's goodness and forbearance; a space granted, when the wicked might “forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and return unto the Lord, that he might have mercy upon him.” They treated the longsuffering of God as a plea of excuse for their hardness and impenitent heart. God is satisfied with us;–sees no sin in us;–we are the “children of Abraham;” and the children of Abraham have nothing to fear. We “abhor idols,” and will not sit at meat with “sinners of the Gentiles.” Such were the thoughts which pervaded the Jewish people, wherever settled: whether remaining in the land of their forefathers, or dispersed, like those at Rome, among “strangers and foreigners and aliens from the commonwealth of Israel.” St. Paul rouses them from their slumber, awakens them to a knowledge of their danger, reminds them of the account to which they must be called, in 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 : 11. For there is no respect of persons with God.
The two classes into which mankind is divided, are here described. Those who live for this world, and those who look for another. They have two different objects, and two different ways. The way of the one class, is patient continuance in well doing. Not to make a temporary resolution; not to enter upon a partial reformation;–not to “receive the word with joy,” and presently, when anything is to be done, or anything left undone, which costs a sacrifice of pains and inclination, to fail and yield;—but to lay out the course of life according to the principles of the Gospel, and to persevere in the same, in spite of difficulties and opposition.
* Matt. xxiv. 48.
And as this will not be undertaken without an object, so there is an object for which it is undertaken. It is undertaken for the sake of glory, and honour, and immortality. “For we look not at the things which are seen, and are temporal; but at the things which are not seen, and are eternal.” As Paul himself represents his own desire and aim, “If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.” Towards this “mark I press forward,” by patient continuance in well doing; and seek “the prize of our high calling,” honour, and glory, and immortality.
The other class is also here described, as those that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness.
The Jewish people, in all that related to the Gospel, gave a perpetual example of contention. They set aside all the arguments and proofs by which the divinity of Christ was manifested. “Look and see; for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet.” “He casteth out devils through Beelzebub, the prince of the devils.” “We were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?” “Are we blind also "" And daily they opposed the apostle himself, “forbidding him to preach unto the Gentiles that they might be saved.” Thus they were contentious, and would not obey the truth: some pretending that they had light enough: and others preferring to remain in darkness. And the end would be, indigmation and wrath, tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man that doetheril. “That the righteous should be as the wicked,” or the wicked as the righteous– that is “far from God:” far from what we expect from the Governor of the world. Scripture only confirms our reasonable belief, when it denounces indignation and wrath against the hardened and impenitent. And it equally agrees with our own reasonable convictions, in saying that there is no respect of persons with God: but that all will be rewarded according to their works, and all judged according to their opportunities. So that “in every nation, he that feareth God and worketh righteousness, is accepted of him.” Therefore the Jew had need to examine into his state, and make sure of some better title to eternal life, than God's favour towards him as a son of Abraham. Both eternal life, and eternal death, are to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile. As the privileges of the Jew are “great every way,” so is his condemna
* 2 Cor. iv. 18. 7 Phil. iii. 11.
* John vii. 52. Matt. ix. 34. John viii. 33; ix. 40. 9 Acts, passim. See 1 Thess. ii. 16. * See Gen. xviii. 25. * Acts x. 35.
tion great, if he neglects those privileges. For many shall “come from the east and west, and sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
RoMANs ii. 12–16.
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.
St. Paul had spoken of the judgment which should try the lives of all men, and determine their everlasting destiny according as those lives had been. He now speaks of justice: and declares that God shall judge the world in righteousness: and not as the Jews believed, with respect of persons.
Now it is a rule of justice, which Paul himself lays down, (Rom. iv. 15,) that “where no law is, there is no transgression.” For the nature of wrong is to offend against a known duty. In the case, for instance, of the very first sin. If our first parents had not been forbidden to eat the fruit of a particular tree, they might have eaten it with impunity: the command to abstain, made it sinful to indulge.
* Matt. viii. 11.
The apostle transfers this general rule to the case of the heathen of whom he was writing. They were not in the same state as the Jews: for to the Jews the will of God had been revealed: to the heathen it had not been revealed. They would not therefore be judged by the law, the law of Moses. It would not be charged against them, for example, that they had not kept holy the sabbath-day; because they had never been enjoined to “remember the sabbath-day.” But still they had sinned, and would be judged. They had sinned without law ; without a written or revealed law, but not without a law of natural reason and understanding, which if their heart had not been too corrupt to follow it, would have taught them ways more pleasing to God than those they practised.
By the same just rule, the Jew must also abide the righteous judgment of God. For as many as have sinned in the law, shall be judged by the law. They might pride themselves in the distinction of possessing a revelation from God, of being his favoured people." But they were happy in knowing his will, only in proportion as they obeyed it. Their privileges made them not the less, but the more, accountable. For not the hearers of the law, but the doers of the law, shall be justified.
* It was a received motion amongst the Jews, that no son of Abraham, no circumcised person could perish : and, on the other hand, that no other could be saved. See this and other like traditions in Whitby, in loco.