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P A RT II.
CHAPTER THE NINTH.
OF THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS.
of the emperor
I. Date and other Circumstances of this Epistle.
II. The Introduction of the Gospel into Rome.
III. Design and Substance of this Epistle. 1. This Epistle was written from Corinth, A. D. 58, being the fourth
year Nero, just before St. Paul set out for Jerusalem with the contributions, which the Christians of Macedonia and Achaia had made for the relief of their poor brethren in Judæa (a). It was transcribed, or written as St. Paul dictated it, by Tertius (6); and the person who conveyed it to Rome was Phoebe (c), a deaconess of the church at Cenchrea, which was the eastern
(a) Rom. c. 15. v. 25 and 26. Acts, C. 20. v. I. (b) Rom. c. 16. v. 22.
(c) Rom. c. 16. v. 1. Vol. I,
port of the city of Corinth. It is addressed to the church at Rome, which consisted partly of Jewish, and partly of heathen converts; and throughout the Epistle it is evident that the Apostle has regard to both these descriptions of Christians.
II. St. Paul, when he wrote this Epistle had not been at Rome (d), but he had heard an account of the state of the church in that city from Aquila and Priscilla, two Christians who were banished from thence by the edict of Claudius, and with whom he lived during his first visit to Corinth. Whether any other apostle had at this time preached the Gospel at Rome, cannot now be ascertained. Among those who witnessed the effect of the first effusion of the Holy Ghost, are mentioned, “strangers of Rome, Jews and Proselytes (e),” that is, persons of the Jewish religion, who usually resided at Rome, but who had come to Jerusalem to be present at the feast of Pentecost. It is highly probable that these men, upon their return home, proclaimed the Gospel of Christ; and we may farther
many Christians, who had been converted in other places, afterwards settled at
(d) Rom. c. I. v. 13. C. 15. V. 23. re) Acts, c. 2. v. IO.
Rome, and were the cause of others embracing the Gospel (f).
III. But by whatever means Christianity had been introduced into Rome, it seems to have flourished there in great purity; for we learn from the beginning of this Epistle, that the faith of the Roman Christians was at this time much celebrated (g). To confirm them in that faith, and to guard them against the errors of Judaizing
Christians, (f) “ It may seem,” says Mr. Milner, in his Ecclesiastical History, “ to have been purposely appointed by Infinite Wisdom, that our first accounts of the Roman church should be very imperfect, in order to confute the proud pretensions to universal dominion which its bishops have, with unblushing arrogance, supported for so many ages. If a line or two in the Gospels, concerning the keys of St. Peter, has been made the foundation of such lofty pretensions in his supposed successors to the primacy, how would they have gloried if his labours at Rome had been so distinctly celebrated, as those of St. Paul in several churches? What bounds would have been set to the pride of ecclesiastical Rome, could she have boasted of herself as the mother church, like Jerusalem, or even exhibited such trophies of scriptural fame, as Philippi, Thessalonica, Corinth, or Ephesus? The silence of Scripture is the more remarkable, because the church itself was in an early period by no means insignificant, either for the number or piety of its converts ;“their faith 6 was spoken of through the whole world.' Romans, c. 1. v. 8.” Vol. 1. sect. 12. (8) Rom. c. I. v. 8.
Christians, was the object of this letter, in which St. Paul takes occasion to enlarge upon the nature of the Mosaic institution; to explain the fundamental principles and doctrines of Christianity; and to shew that the whole human race, formerly divided into Jews and Gentiles, were now to be admitted into the religion of Jesus, indiscriminately, and free from every other obligation.
The Apostle, after expressing his affection for the Roman Christians, and asserting that the Gospel is the power of salvation to all who believe, takes a comprehensive view of the conduct and condition of men under the different dispensations of Providence; he shews that all mankind, both Jews and Gentiles, were equally " under sin,” and liable to the wrath and punishment of God; that therefore there was a necessity for an universal propitiation and redemption, which were now offered to the whole race of men, without any preference or exception, by the mercy of him who is God of the Gentiles as well as of the Jews; that faith in Jesus Christ, the universal Redeemer, was the only means of obtaining this salvation, which the deeds of the Law were wholly incompetent to procure (h); that as the sins of the whole world originated from the disobedience of Adam, so the justification from those sins was
to (h) First four chapters.
to be derived from the obedience of Christ (i); that all distinction between Jew and Gentile was now abolished, and the ceremonial law entirely abrogated; that the unbelieving Jews would be excluded from the benefits of the Gospel, while the believing Gentiles would be partakers of them; and that this rejection of the Jews, and call of the Gentiles, were predicted by the Jewish prophets Hosea and Isaiah. He then points out the superiority of the Christian over the Jewish religion, and earnestly exhorts the Romans to abandon every species of wickedness, and to practise the duties of righteousness and holiness, which were now enjoined upon higher sanctions, and enforced by more powerful motives (k). In the latter part of the Epistle, St. Paul gives some practical instructions, and recommends some particular virtues; and he concludes with salutations, and a doxology.
This Epistle is very valuable, on account of the arguments and truths which it contains, relative to the necessity, excellence, and universality of the Gospel dispensation,