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on this account withdraw his solemn covenant? Shall their unfaithfulness make God unfaithful? 3. For what if some did not believe? Shall their unbelief make the faith of God of none effect 2 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.” No such thought must be admitted, as that God can break his promise. “God is not a man, that he should lie, or the son of man, that he should repent.” When the promise was given to the nation, the obedience of the nation was required. The promise is binding no longer than whilst that condition is fulfilled. But even if this were otherwise, man's notions must be wrong, if they contradict the attributes of God. Yea, let God be true, but every man a liar. The truth and faithfulness of God is a fixed principle which nothing can overthrow. As it is written by your great ancestor, David;” who proclaimed the truth of God, even to his own condemnation; and acknowledged, “Against thee have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight:” that thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged. And so be assured that God’s “counsels of old are faithfulness and truth:” He “will not break his covenant nor alter the thing that is gone out of his lips.” “Hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?”
Another objection might be started. Granted, then, our unbelief does not make the faith of God of none effect. It rather serves to establish his faithfulness. It might therefore be argued; why should God take vengeance (bring chastisement) upon conduct, which after all contributes to the setting forth of his glory?
* Ps. li. 4. Where David confesses, that he cannot reply
* Isa. xxv. 1; Ps. lxxxix. 34; Numb. xxiii. 19.
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 2 whose damnation is just."
Thus St. Paul meets the question which arises against the moral government of God. Nothing can be done without his permission: and all that is done will conspire to give him glory. “Why does he then find fault” If good comes out of the evil, may we not do the evil, and be blameless?
Such an argument, says St. Paul, would confound right and wrong, truth and falsehood. Our common notions contradict it. Admit this, and how shall God judge the world? How make a difference between the righteous and the wicked, if nothing is to be treated as wickedness which God turns to his own glory, or causes to prove his truth?
It was wise, for instance, and kind in Joseph, to speak the words of comfort to his brethren, who had been sufficiently humbled for their crime: when after their father's death he quieted their fears, and said, (Gen. l. 20) “As for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” Such was the beneficial event, which resulted from the murderous intent of Joseph's brethren. Still that result could never excuse their action. No subsequent good could ever efface the evil purpose, when “ they said one to another, Behold, this dreamer cometh ; come now, therefore, and let us slay him.” "
7 Who incur just condemnation, for perverting what we say.
Nay, if we were to admit the principle of doing eril that good may come, Judas himself might excuse his guilt. He, by his treachery, betrayed Jesus to the Pharisees. This led to his condemnation and death: and his condemnation and death “fulfilled those things which God had before shown by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer.” But the conscience of Judas could not find this comfort. He felt, and justly felt, “I have sinned, in that I have betrayed the innocent blood.”
Here then we must take our stand. “The transgression of the law is sin.” And God is not unrighteous, who taketh vengeance upon transgression. Our unrighteousness may commend the righteousness of God. But we are unrighteous notwithstanding. Our unfaithfulness may serve in the end to display his truth. But his wisdom which leads to this result, cannot palliate our disobedience. We are not the less evil, when we offend against his law, though he is good, and causes our wrong to minister to his praise.
* Gen. xxxvii. 19. 9 Acts iii. 18. * Matt. xxvii. 4.
THE GUILT OF THE JEWISH NATION PROVED.
RoMANs iii. 9—20.
9. What then f are we better then they 2 No, in no wise : for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin;
St. Paul had been conceding to the Jews, that their nation had “an advantage great every way.” And now he shows the melancholy fact, how little the nation had profited by that advantage. As he had already proved, they were no better than others. If the Gentiles could not be justified before God, neither could they. He takes his proof of this from their own Scriptures. He did not wish to be the accuser of his nation, though he could not keep back the truth. Therefore he quotes the words of David and the prophets, written long before: as if to say, See now the description of those who flatter themselves that they are righteous, and boast that they have Abraham as their father.
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.”
A sad description of man, once formed in the image of God. And yet the too just description of those who are not renewed in the spirit of their minds. It represented the state of unconverted man in the time of David, who wrote these words. A thousand years after, Paul applies it to his own time. And may not we ourselves appeal to it?
If man is righteous, it is not his original nature. Left to himself, there is none that understandeth his position in the world, or seeketh after God. He goeth out of the way which God has prescribed for his people, and is unprofitable : does him no service. The throat is too often as an open sepulchre, disgusting those that pass by. The tongue, which is man's distinguishing property, is employed to use deceit: nay, to blast and destroy like the poison of the asp: or to express in curses the bitterness which lurks within. Instead of the way of peace, private strife and public wars spread destruction and misery abroad. The fear of man is far more commonly before the eyes, than the fear of God. And the language of Pharaoh is
* Ps. xiv. 1–3. 2 Ps. v. 9.
3 Ps. X. 7. * Prov. i. 16. * Is. lix. 7, 8. - 6 Ps. xxxii. 1.