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22 volved in darkness. Professing themselves to be sages, or lovers 23 of wisdom, they became fools : and they changed the glory of the
incorruptible God into the representing image of corruptible mar,
and birds, and four-footed animals, and reptiles, such as serpenis 24 and beetles. God therefore in righteous judgment withdrew from
them, and delivered them up to uncleanness, in gratifying the
lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their bodies among them. 25 selves : Who changed the truth of God into a lie*, and worship
ped and served the creature to the neglect of the Creator, who is 26 blessed for ever. Amen.t [Therefore God abandoned them to
the most infamous passions: for their women changed the natural 27 use to that which is against nature. And likewise their males,
leaving the natural use of the female have been inflamed with desires towards each other, males with males perpetrating that which
is most shameful, and receiving in themselves the just recom28 pence of their error.] And as they were not solicitous to retain
God in their knowledge, God delivered them over to an undiscern29 ing mind, to do things most inexpedient and enormous : according
ly, the whole of their discourses and actions shewed that they were full of all injustice, lewdness, mischief, covetousness, malignity;
filled with envy, murder, contention, fraud, inveteracy of evil 80 habits; whispering, backbiting, haters of God, violent, proud, 31 boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents ; without
understanding, implacable, without natural affectiont, breaking
treaties, unmerciful. This character generally prevailed among the 32 heathen, who though they knew the righteous judgments of God,
that they who do such things are worthy of death, not only do these things, but agree together with, and have complacency in those that do them.
REFLECTIONS. When we dwell on the representation of that character which this humane and candid apostle gives of the heathen world, with regard to their idolatries, impieties, and other immoralities, what reason have we to bless God for the dispensation of the gospel ; which hath wrought so effectually for the reformation of thousands, who might otherwise have been as deeply drenched in all these enormities as the vilest of them ! For we know, that it was not the barbarous nations alone, but some of the politest, who in neglect of all the opportunities they had of knowing better, and in opposition to that better knowledge whích some of them actually obtained, were often distinguished for the superstition of their worship, and the scandal of their lives ; so that the chief illustrations of this sad subject are to be borrowed from Egypt, Greece, and Rome.
* Elsner shews that the truth of God here signifies what he really was, and a lie, a false representation of him. Idols are often called hes.
† The Reader in a Fumily will probably deeın it prudent to omit these two verses.
# Exposing infants, and killing aged parents, were common in the heathen world. VOL. II.
Let us learn, not only to guard against the vices for which the heathens are here branded (knowing that the practice in us will be yet more criminal) let us cultivate the opposite virtues of justice and temperance, benevolence and contentment, peace and charity, sincerity and humility; and let us cherish the natural tender affections. If offences arise, let us always be ready to hearken to terms of reconciliation, and faithfully observe our engagements; taking the greatest heed, that knowing so clearly as we do the judgments of God, we do not, by any means, give countenance to, and seem to join in a confederacy with sinners.
Let us bless God for all the capacities and opportunities he hath given to the heathen nations of coming to the knowledge of himself by the things that are made, which declare his eternal power and Godhead, and render inexcușable both atheists and idolaters among them. But when we recollect how many either entirely lost the truth, or imprisoned it in unrighteousness, let us be most affectionately thankful for so superior a light; for that gospel which is to every believer, without exception, the power of God for salvation, and which declareth the righteousness of God, as the object of our faith. May we properly receive it, and so escape the terrors of that divine wrath which is revealed from heaven against all impiety and unrighteousness of men.To this revelation let us give the most attentive hcech, and be inuch upon our guard against those vain and sophistical reasonings, to which they, who knowing God, neglect to glorify him as God, are so ready to fly; lest we approve ourselves fools in proportion to the degree in which we profess to be wise, and provoke God to give us up to an injudicious mind, and to leave us to that reciprocal influence which evil principles and evil actions have to render each other more inveterate and incurable.
The condemnation of those who know their duty, and yet act contrary to its
the Jews charged, above all others, as answering that character. Ch. ji. 1-16.
OW if the heathen were justly condemned, for acting 89 contra
ry to their natural light ; therefore thou art inexcusable, (), man, whosnever thou art, that judgest : for wherein thou judgest,
another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou who judgest and condem2 nest others, dost the same things.* For we know that the judgment
of God is according to truth against all those who do such things. 3 And reasonest thou thus, O man, who judgest those that do such
things, while thou doest them thyself, that thou shouldest escape 4 the judgment of God? Or dost thou despise the riches of his gen
tleness, and forbearance, and long-suffering ; not knowing that the 5 goodness and gentleness of God leadeth thee to repentance ? But
by this hardness and impenitence of thy heart, art treasuring up * That this was the case with the Jews, Josephus has testified ; but the apostle doth not directly speak of them till v. 9.
to thyself a store of wrath in the day of final wrath, and the revela6 tion of the righteous judgment of God; who will then recom7 pense every man according to his works : to those that by a pa
tient course of well-doing, seck for glory, and honour, and immor8 tality, eternal life : but to the children of contention, who quarrel
with the merciful dispensation which should have saved them; who
are disobedient to the truth, but obedient to unrighteousness, he 9 will render indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon
every soul of man who worketh evil; to the Jew first, who has had 10 superior advantages, and then also to the Greek. But glory, hon
our, and peace shall be to every one who worketh good; first to 11 the Jew, and then to the Greek : For there is no partial acceptance 12 of persons with God. For as many as have sinned without the writ
ten law, shall without the law perish. And as many as have sin13 ned under the law, shall be judged by the law; for not the hear
ers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be 14 justified. For when the Gentiles, who have not the law, do by
nature the duties required by the law, these having not the benefit 15 of a revealed law, are a law unto themselves: who shew the work
of the law written upon their hearts; their consciences joining to
bear witness, and their mutual reasonings among themselves ac16 cusing or defending them. On this equitable principle will all be
treated in that day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.
REFLECTIONS. Let us revere the righteous judgment of God, which is here laid before us in so particular and affecting a manner; remembering we are each of us to have our part in that day of final retribution, and that the secrets of our hearts will then be made mani fest. Let us often reflect upon the awful result; and consider, that indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish will be our portion, if we are contentious and disobedient to the truth, yea, if we do not, by a patient continuance in well-doing, seek the promised glory, honour, and immortality : which, if we do, we shall, through the grace of God, secure everlasting life. Vain will our knowledge and our profession otherwise be, and our testimony against the sins of others will only inflame the guilt of our
Let it ever be remembered, that the goodness of God, which we have such daily reason to acknowledge and adore, gently takes us, as it were, by hand, and leadeth to repentance ; and while we continually live upon it, let us not act in contempt of it, or abuse it to our own inconceivable detriment. Is the wrath already laid up so small, that we should be increasing the treasure ? Increasing the terrors of the day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgment of God ? It will be a most impartial, as well as important day. Nor are we concerned to know how the heathen will fare in it : let it suffice us, that if they are condemned, they will be righteously condemned ; not for remaining ignorant of the gospel they never had an opportunity of hearing, but for violating those precepts of the divine law which were inscribed on their consciences. Let us bless God that he has written it there, and reverence the traces of his hand on our own minds; always remembering, that the discoveries of revelation were never intended to erase or discredit the dictates of nature, but to illustrate and confirm them.-We shall be judged by the dispensation we have enjoyed ; and how devoutly soever we may hear and speak of it, shall be condemned, if we have not acted agreeably thereto. The Lord grant that we may all find that mercy of the Lord, which we shall every one of us need in that day ; and that we may find it, may we keep that day continually in view, and direct all our actions with a regard to its grand decisions,
The Jews being sinners as well as the Gentiles, stood in equal need of
justification by the grace of the gospel. Ch. ii. 17, &c.
17 EHOLD, thou bearest the name of a Jew, and thou reposest
thyself on the knowledge and profession of the law; and thou 18 gloriest in the true God; and that thou knowest his revealed will,
and discernest things that differ, being from thine infancy instruct19 ed out of the law, and art confident that thou thyself art fit to be
a guide of the blind, a light to them that are in heathen darkness, 20 an instructor of the ignorant, a teacher of babes, having a form
or summary of the knowledge and truth, which is in the law, 21 Thou therefore that teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? 22 For instance ; thou that preachest, a man should not steal, dost
thou steal? Thou that forbiddest a man to commit adultery, dost
thou commit adultery? Thou that dost abominate idols, dost thou 23 commit sacrilege ? Thou that gloriest in the law, dost thou by the 24 transgression of the law dishonour God ? For “the name of God
is by your means blasphemed among the Gentiles," as it is writ25 ten in your own scriptures. * Circumcision is indeed profitable,
if a man keep the law : but if thou be a transgressor of the law, 26 thy circumcision is in effect become uncircumcision. And there
fore if the uncircumcision + observe the righteous determinations
of the law, though without the book that contains them, shall not 27 his uncircumcision be imputed as circumcision ? Yea the uncir
cumcision that is by nature, (one who continues as he was born, without this rite) accomplishing the law, in its great moral pur
proses, shall judge and condemn thee, who by the letter and cir. 28 cumcision art a transgressor of the law. For he is not a Jew, who
is so in outward shew, neither is that the true circumcision, which
“ For," here, as in many other places, like “now,” is little more than an expletive.
+ That is, an uncircumcised person.
Bi.e. Who though acting according to the letter of its ceremonial precepts, yet in more essential matters art, &e.
29 is apparent in the flesh : But he is a Jew, who is one in the hidden
part; and acceptable circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, not in the letter, whose praise is not of men, but of God.
REFLECTIONS. Let our hearts be always attentive to these lessons of inward religion which the sacred oracles fail not continually to inculcate. It is the fraise of God that is in question : and who can be so lost to all true greatness of mind, to all generous ambition, as that he should not long, and even burn to obtain it? Or who can enjoy, or attend to the praise of men, while he has any reason to fear that God condemns ? To have the name of a Jew, or of a Christian, how little will it signify? To boast in an external and temporary relation to God, if we are such as shall finally be disowned by him, will make us the more wretched. To have known his will, to have distinguished things that differ, and set up for instructors or reprovers of others, will only furnish out matter of condemnation from our own mouths ; if, while teaching others, we teach not ourselves. Well may the punishment be aggravated, where the guilt is so great; when it brings so peculiar a reproach upon religion, and in effect dictates so many blasphemies against the name of God, at the very time it pretends to exalt it.
We pity the Gentiles, and we have reason to do it ; for they are lamentably blind and dissolute : but let us take heed, lest those appearances of virtue, which are to be found among some of them, condemn 28, who, with the letter of the law and the gospel, and with the solemn tokens of a covenant-relation to God, transgress his precepts, and violate our engagements to him ; su turning the means of goodness and happiness into the occasion of more aggravated guilt and misery.
After removing some objections, the sad case both of Jews and Gentiles is
further illustrated, and proved from scripture. Ch. iii. 1-19.
3 UT some may object, If it be 80, What then is the advantage
? , 2 Much every way : chiefly in that they who have received it have
been intrusted with the oracles of God, the divinely inspired scrip3 tures. And what if some believed them not? Shall their unbelief A disannul the faith or fidelity of God? God forbid! Let God be.
acknowledged true, though every man be cstcemed a liar, as it is
written, “ That thou mightest be justified in thy words, and 5 mightest overcome, when thou art called to judgment.” But a
Jew may further object, If our unrighteousness recommend the righteousness of God, and illustrate his perfections in that way of becoming righteous by faith, what shall we say and expect? Is not
God unrighteous, who inflicteth wrath for rejecting it? I now speak 6 a man disposed to cavil. God forbid ! how then should God 7 judge the world ? Such a caviller might as well say, For if the truth
of God hath abounded to his own glory by means of my lie, or ine