W I T H P R A C T I C A L O B S E R V A T I O N
OF THE EPISTLE OF ST. PAUL TO
T H E R O M A N S
IF we may compare
scripture with scripture, and take the opinion of some devout and pious
persons, in the Old Testament David's Psalms, and in the New Testament Paul's
Epistles, are stars of the first magnitude, that differ from the other stars
in glory. The whole scripture is indeed an epistle from heaven to earth: but
in it we have upon record several particular epistles, more of Paul's than of
any other, for he was the chief of the apostles, and laboured more abundantly
than they all. His natural parts, I doubt not, were very pregnant; his
apprehension was quick and piercing; his expressions were fluent and copious;
his affections, wherever he took, very warm and zealous, and his resolutions
no less bold and daring: this made him, before his conversion, a very keen and
bitter persecutor; but when the strong man armed was dispossessed, and the
stronger than he came to divide the spoil and to sanctify these
qualifications, he became the most skilful zealous preacher; never any better
fitted to win souls, nor more successful. Fourteen of his epistles we have in
the canon of scripture; many more, it is probable, he wrote in the course of
his ministry, which might be profitable enough for doctrine, for reproof,
&c., but, not being given by inspiration of God, they were not received as
canonical scripture, nor handed down to us. Six epistles, said to be Paul's,
written to Seneca, and eight of Seneca's to him, are spoken of by some of the
ancients [Sixt. Senens. Biblioth. Sanct. lib. 2] and are extant; but,
upon the first view, they appear spurious and counterfeit.
This epistle to the Romans is placed first, not because of the priority of its
date, but because of the superlative excellency of the epistle, it being one
of the longest and fullest of all, and perhaps because of the dignity of the
place to which it is written. Chrysostom would have this epistle read over to
him twice a week. It is gathered from some passages in the epistle that it was
written Anno Christi 56, from Corinth, while Paul made a short stay
there in his way to Troas, Acts xx. 5, 6. He commendeth to the Romans Phebe, a
servant of the church at Cenchrea (ch. xvi.), which was a place
belonging to Corinth. He calls Gaius his host, or the man with whom he
lodged (ch. xvi. 23), and he was a Corinthian, not the same with Gaius
of Derbe, mentioned Acts xx. Paul was now going up to Jerusalem, with the
money that was given to the poor saints there; and of that he speaks, ch.
xv. 26. The great mysteries treated of in this epistle must needs produce in
this, as in other writings of Paul, many things dark and hard to be
understood, 2 Peter iii. 16. The method of this (as of several other of the
epistles) is observable; the former part of it doctrinal, in the first eleven
chapters; the latter part practical, in the last five: to inform the judgment
and to reform the life. And the best way to understand the truths explained in
the former part is to abide and abound in the practice of the duties
prescribed in the latter part; for, if any man will do his will, he shall know
of the doctrine, John vii. 17.
I. The doctrinal part of the epistles instructs us,
1. Concerning the way of salvation (1.) The foundation of it laid in
justification, and that not by the Gentiles' works of nature (ch. i.),
nor by the Jews' works of the law (ch. ii., iii.), for both Jews and
Gentiles were liable to the curse; but only by faith in Jesus Christ, ch.
iii. 21, &c.; ch. iv. (2.) The steps of this salvation are, [1.]
Peace with God, ch. v. [2.] Sanctification, ch. vi., vii. [3.]
Glorification, ch. viii.
2. Concerning the persons saved, such as belong to the election of grace (ch.
ix.), Gentiles and Jews, ch. x., xi. By this is appears that the
subject he discourses of were such as were then the present truths, as the
apostle speaks, 2 Peter i. 12. Two things the Jews then stumbled
at--justification by faith without the works of the law, and the admission of
the Gentiles into the church; and therefore both these he studied to clear and
II. The practical part follows, wherein we find, 1. Several general
exhortations proper for all Christians, ch. xii. 2. Directions for our
behaviour, as members of civil society, ch. xiii. 3. Rules for the
conduct of Christians to one another, as members of the Christian church, ch.
xiv. and ch. xv. 1-14.
III. As he draws towards a conclusion, he makes an apology for writing to them
(ch. xv. 14-16), gives them an account of himself and his own affairs (v.
17-21), promises them a visit (v. 22-29), begs their prayers (v.
30-32), sends particular salutations to many friends there (ch. xvi.
1-16), warns them against those who caused divisions (v. 17-20), adds
the salutations of his friends with him (v. 21-23), and ends with a
benediction to them and a doxology to God (v. 24-27).