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to prison and death. False, or man-pleasing professors would endeavour to escape all this disgrace and danger by getting into the favour of the great, the worldly, and the irreligious. There have not been wanting, in all ages of the church, persons, who losing the savour of divine things from their own souls, by drinking into a worldly spirit, have endeavoured to shun the reproach of the cross by renouncing the company of the godly, speaking evil of the way of life, and, perhaps, sitting down in the chair of the scorner with apostates like themselves. And yet, strange to tell, these men will keep up a form of godliness! for a decent outside is often necessary to enable them to secure the ends of their ambition. Be not tcise in your own conceits.] Be not pulled up with an opinion of your own consequence; for this will prove that the consequence itself is imaginary. Be nut Kisevap' iavToic, by yourselves. Do not suppose that wisdom and discernment dwell alone with you. Believe that you stand in need both of help and instruction from others.
Y^erse 17. Recompense, kc] Do not take notice of every little injury you may sustain. Do not be litigious. Beware of too nice a sense of your own honour; intolerable pride is at the bottom of this. The motto of the Royal Arms of Scotland is in direct opposition to this divine direction, Nemo me impunc lucessct; of which, "I render evil for evil to every man," is a pretty literal translation. This is both antichristian aud abominable, whether in a state or in an individual. Provide things honest'] Be prudent; be cautious; neither tat, drink, nor iccar, but as you pay for every thing. "Live not on trust; for that is the way to pay double;" and by this means the poor, are still kept poor. He who takes credit, even for food or raiment, when he has no probable meai:.s of defraying the debt, is a dishonest man. It is no sin to die through lack of the necessaries of life, when the providence of God has denied the means of support; but it is a sin to take up goods without the probability of being able to pay for them. Poor man! suffer poverty alittle; perhaps God is only trying thee for a time; and who can tell if he will not turn again thy captivity. Labour hard to live honestly; if God still appear to withhold his providential blessing, do not despair; leave it all to him; do not make a sinful choice; he cannot err. He will bless thy poverty, while he curses the ungodly man's blessings.
19 Dearly beloved, 'avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is
Prov. 24. 29.
Verse 18. If it be possible] To live in a state of peace with one's neighbours, friends, and even family, is often very difficult. But the man who loves God must labour after this; for it is indispensably neces-.ary even for his own sake. A man cannot have broils and misunderstandings with others, without having his own peace very materially disturbed. He must, to be happy, be at peace with all men, whether they will be at peace with him or not. The apostle knew that it would be difficult to get into and maintain such a state of peace, and this, his own words amply prove; and if it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably. Though it be but barely possible, labour after it.
Verse 19. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves] Ye arc the children of God, and he loves you, and because he loves you he will permit nothing to be done to you that he will not turn to your advantage. Never take the execution of the law into your own hands; rather suffer injuries. The Son of man is come, not to destroy men's lives, but to save; be of the same spirit. When He was reviled, he reviled not again. It is the part of a noble mind to bear up under unmerited disgrace; little minds are litigious and quarrelsome.
Give place unto wrath] Aars nircy ry ocyr, leave room for the civil magistrate to do his duty ; he holds the sword for this purpose; and if he be unfaithful to the trust reposed in him by the state, leave the matter to God, who is the righteous judge; for by avenging yourselves, you take your cause both out of the hands of the civil magistrate, and out of the hands of God. I believe this to be the meaning of give place to wrath, opyr}, punishment; the penalty which the laws, properly executed, will inflict. This is well expressed by the author of the book of Ecclesiasticus, chap. xix. ver. 17. Admonish thy neighbour before thou threaten him, and not being angry, Give Place To The Law Of The Most High.
Vengeance is mine] This fixes the meaning of the apostle, and at once shews that the exhortation, rather give place to wrath or punishment means, leave the matter to the judgment of God; it is his laze that, in this case, is broken; and to him the infliction of deserved punishment belongs. Some think it means, "Yield a little to a mail when in a violent passion, for the sake of peace, until he grow cooler?"
/ will repay] In my own time, and in my own way. But
he gives the sinner space to repent, and this long-suffering leads to salvation. Dr. Taylor, after Dr. Benson, conjectures that the apostle, in these directions, had his eye upon the indignities which the Jens, and probably the Christians too, (for they were often confounded by the heathen,) suffered by the edict of Claudius, mentioned Acts xviii. 2. which, "commanded all Jews to depart from Rome." Upon this occasion Aquila and Priscilla removed to Corinth, where Paul found them, and dwelt with them a considerable time. No doubt they gave him a full account of the state of the Christian church at Rome, and of every thing relating to the late persecution under Claudius. That emperor's edict probably died with him, if it were not repealed before, and then the Jezcs and Christians, (if the Christians were also expelled,) returned again to Rome; for Aquila and Priscilla were there when Paul wrote this epistle, chap. xvi. 3. which was in the fourth year of Nero, successor to Claudius.
Verse 20. If thine enemy hunger, feed him'] Do not withhold from any man the offices of mercy and kindness; you have been God's enemy, and yet God fed, clothed, and preserved you alive; do to your enemy as God has done to you; if your enemy be hungry, feed him; if he be thirsty, give him drink; so has God dealt with you. And has not a sense of his goodness and long-suffering towards you, been a means of melting down your heart into penitential compunction, gratitude, and love towards him? How know you that a similar conduct towards your enemy, may not have the same gracious influence on him towards you? Your kindness may be the means of begetting in him a sense of his guilt; and from being your fell enemy, he may become your real friend. This I believe to be the sense of this passage, which many have incumbered with difficulties of their own creating. The whole is a quotation from Prov. xxv. 21, 22. in the precise words of the Sepluaginl; and it is very likely that the latter clause of this verse, thou shall heap tools of fire upon his head, is a metaphor taken from smelting metals. The ore is put into the furnace, and fire put both under and over, that the metal may be liquified, and, leaving the scoriae and dross, may fall down pure to the bottom of the furnace. This is beautifully expressed by one of onr own poets, in reference to this explanation of this passage. "So artists melt the sullen ore of lead, By heaping coals of fire upon Us head.
for in so doing, thou shalt heap coals \*•• cc!^ of fire on his head. ^Ew
cir. CI IX. 1
21 c Be not overcome of evil, but over- A-U-c.ar.8u, come evil with good.
21, 22. Matt 5. 44. • Gen. 45. 4, 5. Luke 23. 31.
In the kind zcarmth the metal learns to glow, And pure front dross, the silver runs below." It is most evident from the whole connexion of theplace, and the apostle's use of it, that the heaping of the coals of fire on the head of the enemy, is intended to produce not an eril, but the most beneficent effect; and the following verse is an additional proof of this.
Verse 21. Be not overcome of evil] Do not, by giving place to evil, become precisely the same character ■which thou condemnest in another. Overcome evil tcilh good; however frequently he may grieve and injure thee, always repay him with kindness; thy good will, in the end, may over, come his evil.
1. Thomas Aquinas has properly said, vincilur a malo qui vult peccare in alium, quia Me peccavit in ipsum. "He is overcome of evil who sins against another; because he sins against himself." A moral enemy is more easily overcome by kindness, than by hostility. Against the latter he arms himself; and all the evil passions of his heart concentrate themselves in opposition to him who is striving to retaliate by violence, the injurious acts which he has received from him. But where the injured man is labouring to do him good for his evil; to repay his curses with blessings and prayers; his evil passions have no longer any motive, any incentive; his mind relaxes, the turbulence of his passions is calmed; reason and conscience are permitted to speak; he is disarmed, or, in other words, he finds that he has no use for his weapons; he beholds in the injured man a magnanimous friend, whose mind is superior to all the insults and injuries which he has received; and who is determined never to permit the heavenly principle that influences his soul to bow itself before the miserable, mean, and wretched spirit of revenge. This amiable man views in his enemy a spirit which he beholds with horror, and he cannot consent to receive into his own bosom a disposition which he sees to be so destructive to another; and he knows that as soon as he begins to avenge himself, he places himself on a par with the unprincipled man whose conduct he has so much reason to blame, and whose spirit he has so much cause to abomiuafe. He who avenges himself, receives into his own heart all the evil and disgraceful passions by which his enemy is rendered both wretched and contemptible. There is the voice of eternal reason in "avenge not yourselves:—overcome evil with
The necessities of subjection to
the civil constituted authorities.
good;" as well as the high authority and command of the Jifing God.
2. The reader will, no doubt, hare observed with pleasure the skill and address, as well as the divine wisdom with which the apostle has handled the important subjects which he has brought forth to view in the preceding chapters. Nothing can be more regular or judicious than his plan of proceeding. He first shews the miserable, wretched, fallen, degraded stale of man; next, the merciful provision which God has made for his salvation; and, lastly, the use which man should make of the mercies of his God. He shews us, in a most pointed manner, the connexion that subsists between the doctrines of the gospel, and practical piety. From the beginning of the first to the end of the eleventh chapter, he states and defends the grand truths of Christianity; and from the beginning of the 12th to the end of the Epistle, he shews the practical use of these doctrines. This is a point
which is rarely considered by professors; multitudes run to the Epistle to the Romans for texts to prop up their peculiar system of doctrine; but how few go to this sacred book for rules relative to a holy life! They abound in quotations from the doctrinal parts, but seldom make that use of them which the apostle makes in this chapter; "I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service; and be not conformed to this world, &c." Now, we learn, from the use which the apostle makes of his doctrines, that whatsoever teaching comes from God, leads to a holy and useful life. And if we hold any doctrine that does not excite us to labour after the strictest conformity to the will of God in all our tempers, spirit, and actions; we may rest assured that either that doctrine is not of God, or we make an improper use of it. He that knows God best, loves and resembles him most.
Subjection to civil governors inculcated from the consideration, that civil government is according to the ordinance of God; and thai those who resist the lawfully constituted authorities, shall receive condemnation, 1—2. And those who are obedient, shall receive praise, 3. The character of a lawful civil governor, 4. The necessity of subjection, 5. The propriety of paying lawful tribute, 6, 7. Christians should love one another, 8—10. The necessity of immediate conversion to God, proved from the shortness and uncertainty of time, 11, 12. How the Gentihs should walk so as to phase God, and put on Christ Jesus in order to their salvation, 13, 14.
that be, are * ordained of God
LET every soul abe subject unto
•Tit. 3.1. 1 Pet. 8.13 » Prov. 8.15, 16. Dan. 2. 21. & 4. 32.
NOTES ON CHAP. XIII.
To see with what propriety the apostle introduces the important subjects which he handles in this chapter, it is necessary to make a few remarks on the circumstances in which the church of God then was.
It is generally allowed that this Epistle was written about the year of our Lord 58, four or five years after the edict of the emperor Claudius, by which all the Jews were banished from Rome. And as in those early times, the Christians were generally confounded with the Jews, it is likely that both were included in this decree.
For what reason this edict was issued, does not satisfactorily appear. Suetonius tells us that it was because the Jews were making continual disturbances under their leader Chres
are ■ 2 Whosoever, therefore, resisteth cArn-£$x- , d the power, resisteth the ordinance A.u.c.cir.8u
Wisd. 6.3. John 19.11. cOr, ordertd. * Tit. 3. 1.
tus. (See the note on Acts xviii. 2.) That the Jews were, iu general, an uneasy and seditious people, is clear enough from every part of their own history. They had the most rooted aversion from the heathen government, and it was a maxim with them that the world was given to the Israelites/ that they should have supreme rule every where, and that the Gentiles should be their vassals. With such political notions, grounded on their native restlessness, it is no wonder, if, in several instances, they gave cause of suspicion to the Roman government, who would be glad of an opportunity to expel from the city persons, whom they considered dangerous to its peace and security; nor is it unreasonable, on this account, to suppose with Dr. Taylor, that the Christians, under a notion of being the peculiar ptople of God. and th«
subjects of his kingilon alone, might be iu danger of being infected with those unruly and rebellious sentiments; therefore the apostle shews (horn that they were, notwithstanding their honours and privileges as Christians, bound by the strongest obligations of conscience to be subject to the civil government. The judicious commentator adds; "I cannot forbear observing the admirable skill and dexterity with which the apostle has handled the subject. His views in writing, are always comprehensive on every point; and he takes into his thoughts and instructions, all parties that might probably reap any benefit by them. As Christianity was then growing, and the powers of (he world began to take notice of it, it was not unlikely that this letter might fall into the hands of the Roman magistrates. And, whenever that happened, it was right not only that they should see that Christianity was no favourer of sedition; but likewise, that they should have an opportunity of reading their own duty and obligations. But as they were too proud and insolent to permit themselves to be instructed in a plain, direct -way; therefore, the apostle, with a masterly hand, delineates, and strongly inculcates the magistrate's duty: while he is pleading his cause with the subject, and establishing his duty on the most sure and solid ground, he dexterously sides with the magistrate, and vindicates his power against any subject who might have imbibed seditious principles, or might be inclined to give the government any disturbance: and, under this advantage, he reads the magistrate a fine and close lecture, upon the nature and ends of civil government. A way of conveyance so ingenious and unexceptionable, that even Nero himself, had this epistle fallen into his hands, eould not fail of seeing his duty clearly stated, without finding any thing servile or flattering on the one hand, or offensive or disgusting on the other.
"The attentive Reader will be pleased to see, with what dexterity, truth and gravity, the apostle, in a small compass, affirms and explains the foundation, nature, ends, and just limits of the magistrate's authority, while he is pleading his cause; and teaching the subject the duty and obedience he owes to the civil government." Dr. Taylor's Notes, pag. 352.
Verse 1. Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers'] This is a very strong saying, and most solemnly introduced: and we must consider the apostle as speaking not from his own private judgment, or teaching a doctrine of present expediency; but declaring the mind of God on a subject of the utmost importance to the peace of the world; a doctrine
which does not exclusively belong to any class of people, order • of the community, or official situations; but to every soul: and, on the principles which the apostle lays down, to every : soul in all possible varieties of situation, and on all occasions. And what is this solemn doctrine? It is this: Let every soul be subject to the higher powers. Let every man be obedient to the civil government, under which the Providence, of God has cast his lot. i
For, there is no power but of God] As God is the origin
, of power, and the Supreme Governor of the universe, he delegates authority to whomsoever he will; and though, in many cases, the governor himself may not be of God, yet, civil government is of him; for, without this, there could be
: no society, no security, no private property ; all would be confusion and anarchy ; and the habitable world would soon be depopulated. In ancient times, God, in an especial man
1 ner, on many occasions, appointed the individual who was to govern, and he accordingly governed by a Divine right; as
; in the case of Muses, Joshua, the Hebrew judges, and several
1 of the Israelilish kings. In after times, and to the present day, he does that by a general superintending Providence, which he did before by especial designation. In nil nations of the earth, there is what may be called a Constitution, t plan by which a particular country or state is governed; and
! this constitution is less or more calculated to promote the intere?ts of the community. The civil governor, whether he be elective or hereditary, agrees to govern according to that
'constitution. Thus, we may consider, that there is a compact and consent between the governor and the governed: and, in such a case, the potentate may be considered as coming to the supreme authoiity in the direct way of God's Providence: and, as civil government is of God, who is the fountain of law, order, and regularity, the civil governor
; who administers the laws of a state according to it> constitution, is the minister of God. But it has been asked, if the ruler be an immoral or profligate man, does he not prove himself, thereby, to be unworthy of his high office, and should he not be deposed? I answer—No: if he rule according to the constitution, nothing can justify rebellion against his authority. He may be irregular in his own private life; he may be an immoral man, and disgrace himself by an improper conduct; but if he rule according to the law; if he make no attempt to change the constitution, nor break the compact between him and the people; there is therefore, no legal ground of opposition to his civil authority; and every act against him is not only rebellion, in
the worst sense of the wo:d, but is unlawful, and absolutely sinful.
Nothing can justify the opposition of the subjects to the ruler but ouvcrt uttempts on his part, to change the constitution, or to rule contrail/ to lazs. When the ruler acts thus, lie dissolves the compact between him and his people; his! authority is no longer binding, because illegal; and it is i)log;il,because he is acting contrary to the laics of that con-! stitution, according to which, on being raised to the supreme power, ho promised to govern. This conduct justifies opposition to his government: but I contend, that no personal misconduct in the ruler, no immorality in his own life, while he governs according to laic, can either justify rebellion against him, or contempt of his authority. For his political conduct, he is accountable to hi* people: for his moral conduct, he is accountable to God, his conscience, and the ministers of religion. A king mnv boa good moral man, and yet a weak, ami indeed a bad and dangerous prince. He may be a bad man, and fctained with vice in liis private life, and yet be a good prince. S.iul was a good moral man, but a bad prince; because he endeavoured to act contrary to the Israel.tisb constitution : he changed some essential parts of that constitution: as I have elsewhere shewn, (see the Note on Acts xiii. ver. 22.) he was therefore lawfully deposed. James the Ilud. was a good moral man, as far as 1 can Jcarn, but he was a bail and dangerous prince; he endeavoured to alter, and essentially change, the British constitution, both in church and state; therefore, he was lawfully deposed. It would be easy, in running over the list of our own kings, to point out several who were deservedly reputed good kings, who in their private life were very immoral. Bad as they might be, in private life, the constitution was, in their hands, ever considered a sai red deposit; and they faithfully > preserved it, and transmitted it unimpaired to their successors; and took care, while they held the reins of government, to have it impartially and effectually administered.
It must be allowed, notwithstanding, thai, when a prince, howsoever heedful to the laws, is unrighteous in pi ivatc life, his example is contagious: morality banished from the throne, is discountenanced by the community; and happiness is diminished in proportion to the increase of vice. On the other . hand, when a king governs according to the constitution of his realms, and has his hcait and life governed by the laws of j his God, he is then a double blessing to his people; while he; is ruling carefully according to the laws, his pious example i.s a gicat means of extending and confirming the reign of;
pure morality among his subjects. Vice is discredited from the throne; and the profligate dare not hope for a place of trust and confidence, (however in other respects he may be qualified for it,) because he is a vicious man.
As I have already mentioned some potentates by name, as apt examples of the doctrines I have been laying down ; my Headers w ill naturally expect that, on so fair an opportunity, I should introduce another; one in whom the double blessing meels; one who, through an unusually protracted reign, during every year of which he lias most conscientiously watched over the sacred constitution committed to his care: one who not only did not impair this constitution, but took care that its w holcsome laws should be properly administered; and who, in every respect, acted as the father of his people: and, added to all this, the most exemplary moral conduct, perhaps ever exhibited by a prince, whether in ancient or modern times; not only tacitly discountenancing vice, by his truly religious conduct, but by his frequent proclamations, most solemnly forbidding sabbath-breaking, profane swearing, and immorality in general : more might be justly 'aid, but when I have mentioned all these things, (and 1 mention them with exultation, and with giatitude to God,) I need scarcely add the venerable name of G ROUGE the Third, king of Great Britain; as every Header will at once perceive that the description suits no potentate besides. I mnv just observe, that notwithstanding his long reign has been a reign of unparalleled troubles and commotions in the world, in which his empire has always been involved; yet, never did useful arts, enobling sciences, and pure religion, gain a more decided and general ascendancy: and much of this, under God, is owing to the manner in which this king has lived; and the encouragement he invariably gave to whatever had a tendency to promote the best interests of his people. Indeed, it has betn well observed, that, under the ruling providence of God, it was chiefly owing to the private and personal virtues of the sovereign, that the House of Brunswick remained firmly seated ou the throne, amidst the storms arising from democratical agitations, and revolutionary convulsions in Europe, during the years 1792—1791. The stability of his throne, amidst these dangers and distresses, may prove a useful lesson to his successors, and shew them the strength of a virtuous character: and that morality and religion form the best bulwark against those great evils to which all human governments are exposed. This small tribute of praise to the character and conduct of the British king, and yrntitudetoGod for such a governor, will not be suspected of sinister motive;