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Introduction to Alethea In Heart Ministries



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VERSES 1—18.



l. THERE are two epistles of Paul which have a direct and special reference to the Jews—the Epistle to the Romans, and the Epistle to the Hebrews. The first appears under the name of the apostle. The second, though written by him, is anonymous. The question might arise, why did Paul take this particular course in addressing his countrymen? The reasons are obvious. Had he addressed the Jews directly, and in his own name, such were their prejudices against him, that they would never have read his epistles at all. By arguing the question in difference between him and them before the church of Rome, and by addressing them anonymously, however, he had some hope of gaining a hearing. When an individual speaks of us to a third person, and especially to a distant community in whom we are deeply interested, we naturally feel a great curiosity to know what he has said of us. Paul, then, manifested great wisdom in arguing the point in difference between the Jew and the Christian before the church and people of Rome, the capital of the empire to which all were alike subject, in the first instance; and in addressing an anonymous epistle to his brethren, in the second. Their curiosity would be greatly excited to understand what was written about them in the former epistle, and the truth would thus be brought distinctly before their minds through its instrumentality; and existing prejudices against him, as an individual, would, as far as possible, be avoided in the case of the latter. There were many Jewish Christians in Rome also, that needed to be instructed in the way of God more perfectly, and to be confirmed in the faith, by having all their remaining tendencies to Judaism fully corrected. Gentile converts, also, not only in Rome, but everywhere else, and in all ages, who should read the epistle, would better understand the way of life, by seeing the plan of redemption by Christ, and through faith in Him, placed in full and distinct contrast with a system of error, with which, in many minds, it was likely to be confounded. Such, as I suppose, are some of Paul's reasons for the method adopted in the two epistles under consideration.

2. Of the Epistle to the Romans, the first eleven chapters, after certain introductory remarks, are wholly occupied in arguing three great questions in difference between the Christian and the Jew; the questions pertaining to the doctrine of Justification, of Sanctification, and the privileges to which the Jew fancied himself entitled consequent on his relations to Abraham, and the other patriarchs, Isaac and Jacob. The doctrine of Justification, he argues and elucidates in the first five chapters. The discussion of that of Sanctification occupies the next three chapters; and the elucidation of the relations of the Jew to Abraham, and his privileges consequent thereon, occupies the remaining three. The argument of the apostle throughout is made to bear directly and immediately upon, and to confirm, the proposition which he lays down in chapter i., ver. 16, 17. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, The just shall live by faith." The real meaning of these verses may be thus expressed. I am not ashamed to proclaim anywhere in the wide world the gospel of Christ, and this is the reason why I am not ashamed to do so. This gospel contains in itself a divine power, all-efficacious to the complete salvation of every one that receives it by faith. For in it God's righteousness or plan of salvation is revealed, to wit:—righteousness or salvation "from," that is, by faith, and revealed "to faith," that is, for the purpose of being received by faith by all who hear it. Moreover, this doctrine of righteousness or salvation by faith accords with the express teachings of Scripture. "As it is written, the just shall live," or obtain righteousness or salvation, "by faith." The apostle then proceeds to elucidate and confirm this fundamental doctrine of salvation by faith, by placing it in opposition to the three great errors of the Jew above referred to. By showing, in respect to each form of error, that the doctrine of the Jew must be false, and the Christian doctrine true, he elucidates and confirms the great fundamental article of Christianity, the doctrine of salvation by faith, in distinction from, and in opposition to, every other system.

3. The ninth, with the two following chapters, is, as I said, occupied with the elucidation of the doctrine of righteousness by faith, in opposition to the error of the Jew, founded on his relations to Abraham. As preparatory to the attainment of the object I have in view in these lectures, special attention is now invited to the error under consideration. The Jew supposed that, as a descendant of Abraham, he could not by any possibility be lost, unless he openly apostatized from his religion, or became guilty of the most flagrant forms of crime. When entreated to repent, or accept of mercy, and especially to consent to receive it through Christ, he repelled the exhortation with contempt and indignation. "He had Abraham to his father." He need not exercise either "repentance towards God, or faith towards Christ." As a descendant of Abraham, and in consequence of that descent, his salvation was secure, his perdition impossible. Christ, therefore, was "to the Jew a stumbling-block." With what earnestness did John the Baptist guard his hearers against the common error of his nation. To this error the Christian fathers refer in their controversies with the Jews. "Ye," (Jews,) says Justin Martyr, "expect to be saved, since ye are the lineally descended children of Jacob." Again, he says, "Your Rabbins deceive both themselves and you, supposing that the everlasting kingdom shall assuredly be given to them who are lineally descended from Abraham, even although they be sinners and unbelievers, and disobedient toward God." "All Israel shall have a share in the world to come," says the Talmud, the great national work of the Jews. Says one of their writers about the beginning of the Christian era, "Because of the works of our righteous fathers, who were of old, we shall be redeemed." It was this delusion which made Christ a stumbling-block to the Jew. How important, then, would the apostle deem it, as a means of bringing him to Christ, to wrest this delusion from his mind! Under the influence of this, and the two fundamental errors discussed in the first eight chapters of this epistle, Paul saw, that the masses of his own countrymen were about to reject God's righteousness, which is through and obtained only by faith, and, in consequence of that rejection, to be given over of God to hopeless reprobation. Under the pressure of this awful fact, the apostle opens the discussion of the relation of the Jews to Abraham and the patriarchs in the chapter before us.

4. Connected with the error of the Jew in respect to himself, consequent on his ideas of the efficacy of observing the ceremonial law, and of his relations to Abraham, was another error, equally fundamental, pertaining to the Gentiles. He not only held that he was elected of God to eternal life, simply and exclusively on these grounds, but, also, that they, unless they became circumcised and united with the Jews by being adopted into their nation, were, whatever their moral character might be, hopelessly reprobated of God. God was the God of the Jews only, and in no case the God of the Gentiles remaining out of the pale of the Jewish community. This error of the Jew the apostle refutes, in connection with the others above referred to. We must keep all these facts in mind, in reading the Epistle to the Romans, or else we shall not appreciate the apostle's reasonings. In respect to the statements above made, there is a general, if hot universal, agreement among evangelical commentators on the Scriptures. None, probably, would deny any of them. The difference of opinion between them pertains, not to the general plan or design of the epistle, but to the special explanation of particular passages, and especially of the chapter which we are now to consider. One of the most common errors, as it appears to me, of commentators, in the explanation of particular passages, lies here: that they forget the real relations of all such passages to the general design referred to, and consequently fail to explain them in the light of it.

5. The reason why the apostle commences the chapter with the most solemn asseveration of concern for and love to his own brethren, the Jews, is obvious. When we expose the errors and delusions of others, we very commonly appeal to them as enemies; so the apostle appeared to his countrymen. Hence, his solemn asseverations of his real feelings towards them, and of his reasons for all that he had written and spoken concerning them.

Explanation of Verses 1—5.

We advance now to a direct consideration of the portion of the chapter before us, the portion to which attention is to be directed in this lecture. I will first direct attention to the first five verses.

"I say the truth in Christ. I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the holy Ghost. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, or my kinsmen according to the flesh who are Israelites: to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises: whose are the fathers, and of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen."

In respect to these verses, also, there is a very general agreement among commentators, excepting in reference to one or two clauses; and in respect to these, the difference has no reference whatever to anything bearing particularly upon our general inquiries. The passage naturally divides itself into four parts: the affirmation, including verse 1, "I say the truth," &c.; the thing affirmed, verse 2, "That I have great heaviness;" the object of this sorrow, verse 3, "My brethren:" and certain circumstances connected with their state, which aggravated this sorrow, verses 4, 5, "Who are Israelites." The phrase, "I could wish that myself," &c., is admitted by all to be a parenthesis, and may be considered by itself.

We will first consider the asseveration. Two explanations have been given of the words "in Christ." They have been considered as a part of the formula of an oath. The passage would then read, "I say the truth by Christ." It is enough to say, in reply to this explanation, that wherever the words in Christ have this meaning, they are found in conjunction with a verb of swearing, one necessarily implying an oath. Such an explanation, then, should not be given to them in this connection. The second form of explanation is this: these words may be connected with the pronoun "I." The passage would then read thus: "I in Christ,"—that is, in the consciousness of my union with Christ,—"speak the truth, I lie not." In other words, what I am about to affirm, I declare, in the consciousness of my union with Christ, to be the truth, and nothing false. The term "conscience," in the following clause, should be understood as synonymous with consciousness. In this sense the term is often used in the Bible. The words, in the Holy Ghost, are, of course, to be explained in the same manner as the words, in Christ, have been. The meaning of the whole verse may be thus expressed: In the consciousness of my union with Christ I speak, or am about to speak, the truth; I lie not; my own consciousness, while I am under the influence of the Holy Ghost, testifying to my integrity in what I am about to utter. Some connect the words, the Holy Ghost, with the phrase, I lie not, and make the following clause parenthetic. No difference in regard to the real meaning of the passage is made, whichever way it is explained.

The thing affirmed is found in verse 2:—"That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart." The term heaviness designates the idea of excessive grief. When an object excites great pain to us whenever we think of it, it is said to be to us a source of continual sorrow. So Paul asserts, that he experienced the most excessive grief, and continual sorrow to his heart.

But who, or what, is the object of this sorrow This we are informed of in the following verse: "for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh." The explanation of the parenthetic clause, "I could wish," &c., I shall omit till I have explained the two following verses. The meaning of the verses which we have now considered may be thus expressed. In the consciousness of my union with Christ I speak the truth; I lie not; my own consciousness, while I am speaking under the direct illumination and influence of the Holy Ghost, bearing testimony to my integrity, when I affirm that I have the most excessive grief and continual sorrow in my heart for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.

In the two following verses, the apostle points out certain circumstances connected with his brethren and kinsmen, by which his heaviness and sorrow of heart were aggravated. 1. They were Israelites, that is, descendants from Israel, and consequently, from the patriarch Abraham, and Isaac through him. 2. To them pertained the adoption, that is, the peculiar privilege of being adopted of God, as his peculiar people. Thus we read, Deut. vii. 6: "For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God; the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth." No other nation had been thus adopted of God. 3. To the Jewish nation also, and to them only, pertained the glory,—that is, the visible symbol of the divine presence which attended them from Egypt, and finally rested over the ark of the covenant in the first temple. This visible manifestation of God was called the shekinah of the Jews. 4. Another special privilege of the Israelites, was the covenants, that is, the various compacts or promises to the patriarch, and the nation itself, of the divine protection and favor. 5. Another peculiarity of the Israelites pertained to the "giving of the law," that is, in the language of Mr. Morison, "to the sublime and glorious publication of the moral law upon Mount Sinai, when God pronounced, in the audience of the people, the ten cardinal commandments, and subsequently delivered them to Moses, engraved on two tables of stone." No nation or people had been thus distinguished of God. So we read, (Dent. v. 6,) "For who is there of all flesh, that hath heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived?" 6. Still another peculiarity of the Israelites was, that to them pertained the service of God,—that is, the sublime ritual service which God prescribed for them. The words, of God, are not in the original. The term service only is found there. 7. Another peculiarity still of the Jews, was the promises,—that is, of the Messiah, and of the spread of the gospel of peace and salvation through them to all the nations of the earth. 8. In the commencement of verse 5, we have another peculiarity of the Jews: "Whose are the fathers,"—that is, they are the descendants of the great patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. No nation on earth could boast of such an ancestry, an ancestry so great, so wise, so good, and so favored of God. 9. But the great peculiarity still remains to be mentioned. They were the messianic people, "of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen." The two-fold nature of Christ, the physical and spiritual, the human and divine, are here brought distinctly and undeniably to view. In respect to the former. Christ was of the Jews, one of their brethren, "bone of their bone, and flesh of their flesh." In respect to the latter, He is over all: God, that is the Supreme God, who should be blessed by all creatures forever and ever. "Amen,"—that is, so let it be: or, thus let him be blessed. Such were the peculiarities of the Jews. Such were the circumstances which added to the poignancy of Paul's grief in respect to them.

We will now consider the meaning of the clause in verse 3:—"I could wish that myself," &c. To be "accursed from Christ." means, according to the literal and necessary signification of the words, to be forever separated from Christ, in a state of hopeless accursedness. When an individual seeks that which is necessarily connected with such a state as separation from Christ, he is said, in Scripture, to seek the state itself. Thus it is said. (Prov. viii. 36,) "they that hate me" (wisdom or religion) "love death." The words, "I could wish," do not express the true meaning of the original. The verb rendered could wish, is in the imperfect tense, the tense that refers to past time, and of course relates to a state of mind in which Paul had been, and not to that in which he then was. The real meaning of the phrase may be thus expressed:—I was myself once in a state of mind in which I did wish to be eternally separated from Christ, and, in this sense, willed my own hopeless accursedness. Why did Paul use this language here? He was writing about his brethren, who were then in the very slate of mind, relatively to Christ, in which he had been. Then they were, and to this day are, accustomed to pronounce Jesus accursed. As we can be saved only by becoming united to Him by faith, to will a separation from Him is equivalent to willing our own damnation. The meaning of Paul, then, is this:—I know the condition of my brethren. They wish themselves accursed from Christ. I once—oh, horrid wish!—willed myself to be thus accursed. How can I but feel for my brethren, who are now in the state in which I once was?—a state which I tremble even to think of. This is the explanation of the phrase given by Mr. Morison, and is the only one that to my mind is perfectly, and, in all respects, satisfactory.

The apostle has now affirmed his sorrow of heart, the objects of that sorrow, his brethren the Jews, and the circumstances connected with them which imparted such fearful poignancy to his grief in respect to them, to wit, the fact of his once having been himself in their precise condition; their descent from such God-fearing and God-obedient and believing ancestors, and the privileges which pertained to them as thus descended. But what the circumstances were, connected with the Jews, which were the source and cause of this sorrow, the apostle has not told us. That he has left us to infer for ourselves, the cause and source being so obvious that he had no occasion to specify them. It was, as all commentators will agree, the melancholy fact, that such a people, instead of walking in the footsteps of their godly ancestors, and availing themselves of the great salvation proffered to them through Christ, were about, in consequence of rejecting that salvation, to be delivered over to hopeless reprobacy, and were about to incur that reprobation under the fearful delusion that their relations to the patriarchs and consequent privileges, instead of increasing their obligations to be holy themselves, actually shielded them from the curse of God, whatever their personal character should be, and rendered faith in Christ unnecessary.

Such, as all admit, was the cause of the apostle's grief in respect to the Jews. Under such circumstances, and pressed down with such feelings and apprehensions, which course would he be most likely to take in his subsequent reasonings? Would he proceed to show that the unbelief and reprobation of the Jew were the object of an eternal, immutable, and all-necessitating decree—an event which he could by no possibility avoid? Would he not rather attempt to erase this fearful delusion from his mind, and thus, if possible, prevent his destruction? We now advance to the inquiry, which of these two courses the apostle actually did take.

The true answer to these questions turns wholly upon the explanation to be given to the first sentence in verse 6 to which very special attention is now invited. The sentence is this—"Not as though the word of God had taken none effect." The term "for" in the next sentence connects all that follows in the whole chapter with, makes it depend upon, this one sentence. As to this statement there is, I believe, a perfect agreement among commentators, and the case is so obvious that there hardly can be a disagreement on this point. The question is, What is the real, meaning of this sentence?

Here permit me, in the first place, to call special attention to an important particle which is found in the original Greek, but which has been wholly omitted in the authorized version, and as wholly overlooked by all commentators with whom I am acquainted excepting Mr. Morison.1 It is the particle de, which, in such connections as that in which it is here found, is always translated but, or by some term equivalent to it in its meaning. This term, when located as it is here, has a fixed and definite meaning in the Greek. It separates words, clauses, and sentences, where one is opposed to the other, and where what is affirmed in one is denied in the other. Thus we may say, in English, of an individual, he is a talented, but not a good, a good, but not a prudent man. This term, then, connects this sentence by way of opposition with what goes before, and makes the apostle deny of the Jew what is expressed in the sentence, as not implied in what he had previously affirmed of him. The meaning of the sentence may be thus expressed. But it is not with the Jew, in consequence of relations to the patriarchs, &c., as though the word of God had taken none effect.

But what are we to understand by the clause the "word of God," in this connection? The phrase, the word of God, has, among others, three distinct meanings in different passages in the Bible. 1. Any declaration of God. 2. Some divine promise. 3. A divine threatening. In the sense last named, the phrase is used in such passages as Heb. iv. 12. "The word (threatening) of God is quick and powerful." In a similar sense the term word, translated "work," is used in the 28th verse of Romans, ch. 9. "He will finish the work (word) and cut it short in righteousness; because a short work (word) will the Lord make upon the earth." That is, He will speedily execute his word of threatening, and cut it short in righteousness, ("execute it speedily in righteous vengeance,") because he will cause his word of threatening to be executed upon the earth. That the phrase, "the word of God," is used in this sense in the passage under consideration, is perfectly evident from the following considerations. 1. These words are as well adapted to express this idea as any other, and may as properly, as far as usage is concerned, be employed in this sense, as in either of the others named above. This statement no one at all acquainted with the Greek language will deny. The real meaning to be attached to such words must in all instances, be learned from the context. 2. The divine threatenings at that time hanging over the Jew,—threatenings under h was about to fall, but from which he vainly supposed himself, consequent on his patriarchal descent, secure,—are the special objects of the apostle's attention, in the verses preceding. These threatenings, and the relations of his countrymen to them, were the exclusive source of the excessive sorrow referred to. God's word of threatening, and not of promise, was the object of special attention. All the laws of correct interpretation require us to suppose the former, and not the latter, to be referred to in the phrase, "the word of God," in this passage. 3. According to this construction, the apostle directly and immediately denies the great error of the Jew, based upon the very circumstances previously specified. The Jew did, in fact, suppose himself, in consequence of the relations and privileges referred to, free from all exposure to God's word of threatening denounced against the wicked. We ought then to put that construction here upon the words under consideration, which will make the apostle deny that error. 4. Everything said in the entire chapter most readily, as we shall see hereafter, falls in with this construction. 5. In this very sense the term "word" is, as we have seen above, used in a subsequent part of this chapter. 6. The passages of Scripture cited in a subsequent part of this chapter, to prove the proposition containing these words, are threatenings, and not promises. See verses 26—29. These passages are all cited expressly to confirm the facts and arguments adduced by the apostle to establish this one proposition; and, as the passages themselves are threatenings, in the same light should we understand the phrase "the word of God," in the verse before us. 7. It is this very error of the Jew, to wit, that he was not exposed to the threatened judgments of God against the wicked that the apostle denies in the remaining part of the verse, and proceeds to overthrow in his subsequent reasonings. "For they are not all Israel that are of Israel," &c. The Jew affirmed that "all who were Israel (his natural descendants) were Israel," that is, his spiritual as well as natural offspring, and consequently heirs with him of eternal life, and free from all exposure to God's word of threatening. This is what the apostle denies. It is to God's word of threatening, and not to his word of promise, as commentators generally though not universally suppose, that the apostle refers in the sentence, "Not as though the word of God had taken none effect."

The phrase "hath taken none effect," is a single word in the original. Its meaning is, according to the best Lexicons, to fall out of, to fall from or off; to fall from any former state or condition, to become inefficacious or vain. Its meaning in this place evidently is, to cease to be efficacious, or to lose its former power. The meaning of the whole sentence, then, may be thus expressed. The case of the Jew consequent on his relations and privileges as a descendant of the ancient patriarchs, great and important as these privileges are, is not such that the word of God's threatening has ceased to be efficacious, or lost its curse-inflicting power in respect to him, should he continue in sin, and reject the mercy of God in Christ.

This is the proposition that the apostle now proceeds to prove and elucidate. How has he done this? Can you suppose that he has attempted to prove such proposition, by showing that a portion of the nation were eternally and unconditionally elected to salvation, and a portion in a similar manner reprobated to eternal death? What tendency is there in such a dogma to impress an individual with the conviction that if he should reject God's righteousness, nothing could shield him from the curse of God? Would not the apostle rather proceed to prove, as I will now attempt to show that he does, that relationship to Abraham and the patriarchs does not render the rejecter of mercy secure against the curse of God? The proposition, then, which the apostle proceeds to establish and elucidate, is this. The case of the Jew, notwithstanding his patriarchal descent, does not render God's word of threatening inefficacious in regard to him any more than in regard to other sinners. In accomplishing this object, he first makes an affirmation containing the reason why descent from the patriarchs does not render the subject curse-proof, while he remains in sin. "For they are not all Israel (heirs of God with Israel) that are of Israel," that is, descended from him. "Neither, because they are the seed (natural descendants) of Abraham, are they all children," (his spiritual offspring, and heirs with him of the kingdom of God.) All are aware that the words, Israel, Israelite, Abraham's children, &c., are used in the Scriptures in two opposite senses—to designate those who have descended from these patriarchs by natural generation, and those who resemble them in moral character. Thus, Christ says to the Jews, John viii. 39: "If ye were Abraham's children (his spiritual as well as natural offspring, which you pretend to be) ye would do the works of Abraham." Again, John i. 47: "Be hold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!" The Jews contended that all who were the natural descendants of these patriarchs, were for that reason their spiritual offspring also. This the apostle denies in the passage just explained, and now proceeds to prove the truth of that denial.

Before attempting to elucidate or explain the passages that follow, I would invite special attention to two or three preliminary observations.

1. There were two distinct and opposite classes of persons upon whom the name of Abraham was to be called. (1.) A certain portion of those who were to descend from him through the line of Isaac. (2.) As the great founder of the sect of believers, he was to be called the father of the faithful in all subsequent ages. They were to be called his seed, and to become "heirs according to the promise."

2. Both of these alike were given to Abraham by promise—the first, in such promises as these: "At this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son," and "In Isaac shall thy seed be called;" and the second, in the promise, "In thee and thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed." Individuals became Abraham's seed, in the first sense, by natural birth, according to the promise in respect to Isaac. They became his offspring, in the second sense, by "walking in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham;" that is, by embracing the faith the promise made to him. "If we are Christ's," (united to Christ by faith,) "then are we Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise."

3. If, now, Paul could adduce examples of natural descent from Abraham, and the other patriarchs, which did not place individuals even among their natural descendants upon whom the name of Abraham was to be called, how perfectly would he annihilate the hope of the Jew of eternal life, or of being reckoned by God among Abraham's believing offspring, and made heirs of God with him, simply because he had a place among the natural offspring of that patriarch. This, we shall see, is just what the apostle has done. "All are not Israel" (heirs with him) "who are of" (that is, the natural descendants of) "Israel." "Neither, because they are the seed" (natural offspring) "of Abraham, are they all children," induced among Abraham's spiritual descendants, and consequently heirs with him of eternal life. To sustain this proposition is the avowed object of the remaining clause of verse 7, "but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called." This declaration, which is quoted from Gen. xxi. 12. contains the affirmations not only that the name of Abraham should be called upon the descendants of Isaac, but also that it should not be called upon those of Ishmael. The descendants of the latter were not to be included among the theocratic or messianic seed of Abraham. What a strong case was this for the apostle to base his argument upon, that mere descent from Abraham did not render an individual an heir with him of eternal glory! The descendants of Ishmael, though with those of Isaac, springing from Abraham, were excluded by the Most High from being reckoned even among his messianic seed, or among his natural descendants upon whom, as such, his name was to be called. How, then, could mere descent from him place an individual with Abraham, as his spiritual ancestor, among the children of God? Moreover, the Jew himself acknowledged, in the case of the descendants of Abraham through Ishmael, that because one is a natural descendant from that patriarch, he is not for that reason to be reckoned among Abraham's seed in either of the senses under consideration. How presumptuous, then, from his own acknowledgments, was the hope of eternal life which he had based upon the simple fact that he was one of Abraham's natural descendants!

The conclusion which the apostle deduces from the case of Isaac and Ishmael, is presented directly in verse 8. "That is, they which are the children of the flesh, (mere natural descendants from Abraham,) these are not (simply because they are thus descended) the children of God," heirs of spiritual life with Abraham: "but the children of the promise are counted for the seed." Here the principle, which I noticed above, is directly asserted; to wit, that individuals who are reckoned as Abraham's seed in either of the senses under consideration, become such, not by mere natural descent from him, but by becoming children of the promise,—the one class, by being by birth included among the natural descendants given to Abraham by the promise pertaining to Isaac, and the other, by embracing the faith, the promise pertaining to Abraham's spiritual seed.

In verse 9, the apostle simply cites the promise pertaining to Isaac, in illustration of the great truth which he had previously established.

"For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son."

Such is the most triumphant argument of the apostle, based upon the example of Isaac and Ishmael. "With what amazing skill," says Mr. Morison, "and with what triumphant success the apostle has proved that there were room and verge enough for cursing to alight upon his fellow Israelites. It was true that they could boast a pure patriarchal descent; and high, certainly, was the privilege of such illustrious parentage. But the Ishmaelites were as really an Abrahamic people as they. The blood of the great 'Friend of God,' and progenitor of the Messiah, circulated in common within Ishmaelitish and Israelitish veins. Yet, the Jews themselves being judges, their cousin Ishmaelites were not a tries messianic people, nor elevated into the privilege of being the theocratic 'children of God.' Assuredly, then, the patriarchal ancestry of the Jews could not constitute them the people peculiar for the enjoyment of the Messiah's salvation; it could not constitute them the glory-inheriting 'sons and daughters of the Most High.' All that are 'of Israel' are not 'Israelites indeed;' neither, because they are partakers of Abraham's flesh, does it follow as a corollary, sanctioned by the logic of revelation, or the logic of reason, that they shall be partakers, as his worthy children of his honor and immortality. Everlasting life is secured by connection, not with the patriarchs, but with Christ. And if, therefore, the great mass of the apostle's 'kinsmen and brethren, according to the flesh,' disclaimed connection with that Jesus who was the only Christ, and leaned back for safety upon their connection with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, there can be no wonder that the apostle should mourn over the misery of their impending doom, and behold in them, with anguish, but a multiplication into millions of his former infatuated and soul-cursing self," One remark further, before leaving the cases of Isaac and Ishmael. Nothing whatever has been said by the apostle pertaining to the election or reprobation of either of these individuals or their descendants, as far as a future state is concerned. Nothing has yet been said that bears either directly or indirectly in favor, or upon, the doctrines of election and reprobation. The descendants of Ishmael were excluded from the messianic seed of Abraham, and thus afford perfect demonstration of the fact that even Abrahamic descent does not render one a child of God. The exclusion of Ishmael, however, neither implied that himself or posterity would or would not be finally saved, or threw the least obstacle in the way of their salvation.

The apostle now proceeds to cite a case still more in point. The Jew might object to the former argument, that Ishmael was the son of a bond-woman; though to this it might be replied, that several of the twelve tribes upon whom Abraham's name was actually called, were similarly descended. Their mothers were bond-women as well as the mother of Ishmael. Against the case of the descendants of Esau and Jacob, however, no such objection, and none of any kind, could be brought. Their ancestors were both born at the same birth, and from the same parents. Yet the descendants of Esau were, notwithstanding a patriarchal descent of the most perfect "purity" conceivable, not included in, but excluded from, the messianic seed of Abraham, the seed upon whom the name of Abraham was to be called. How, then, could the Jew hope that mere descent could place him among the spiritual seed of Abraham, and render him, even though he should reject "God's righteousness," secure against God's word of threatening? This is the precise use which, as I will now proceed to show, the apostle does make of the divine declarations and arrangements in respect to the descendants of Esau and Jacob. I will cite the entire passage pertaining to this subject, and then give the needful explanations.

"And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac; (for the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) it was said unto her, the elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated."

There are two verses in this passage that need a special explanation, before we consider the meaning, and bearing upon the apostle's argument of the passage entire. The first that I notice Is verse 12. "It was said unto her, the elder shall serve the younger." This declaration, which is quoted from Gen. xxv. 23, should most unquestionably be rendered thus:—The greater shall serve the less. The original word here rendered elder, is used forty-five times in the New Testament, and in every other instance is rendered greater. There is no authority for rendering it elder. A similar remark may be made in respect to the original word, here rendered younger. It is not the word that is adapted to express that idea. But who or what are we to understand as referred to, by the words greater and less in this verse? This we may learn by reference to Gen. xxv. 23, from whence it is cited. "And the Lord said unto her, two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger." The original Hebrew word, here rendered elder, is used, as Mr. Morison observes, upwards of six hundred times in the Old Testament, and in no solitary instance can it be made to bear the meaning here given to it, with one solitary exception; and even then, as he shows, this meaning should not be given to it. Its literal meaning, as well as universal usage, requires that it should be rendered greater, and not elder. In this place, then, as well as in Romans, the phrase under consideration should be rendered:—and the greater shall serve the less. The meaning of the whole verse is now perfectly plain. "Two nations"—that is, the ancestors of two nations—"are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the greater people shall serve the less." No reference whatever is had here to the ancestors of these peoples, nor to the relations which, as individuals, they should sustain to each other, nor to the spiritual or eternal destiny of either, or of that of their posterity. But it is said that one of these people should become stronger than the other, and that the greater should finally be subjected to the less,—facts which actually occurred in the subsequent history of these nations. In saying, however, that these people should constitute two nations, instead of being blended into, and thus together constituting the messianic seed of Abraham, as the descendants of the twelve patriarchs did, it is affirmed that one of them should constitute the messianic seed of Abraham, while the other people should be excluded from that relation. Nor was there anything in this divine revelation to Rebecca, intimating directly or indirectly, clearly or obscurely, which of these people should be the greater or which the less, or which should constitute the messianic seed, or which should be excluded from it. Of this fact both Isaac and Rebecca remained profoundly ignorant, till after Jacob obtained and Esau lost the blessing. The communication did imply, however, as I have said, that the one people should constitute the messianic seed, and the other be excluded from it, and thus laid the foundation for the unanswerable argument of the apostle; that, inasmuch as the purest conceivable patriarchal descent was not of itself sufficient to place the subject even among the messianic people upon whom the name of Abraham was to be called, much less could it of itself, as the Jew contended, place that subject among the children of God, as the spiritual seed of Abraham.

The verse following the one now under consideration next deserves attention. As it is written, "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated." By referring to Mal. i. 2, 3, from which this verse is taken, you will perceive clearly, that the terms, Jacob and Esau, as here used, refer not at all to them as individuals, but exclusively to their posterity. "I loved Jacob, (the descendants of Jacob,) and I hated Esau, (the descendants of Esau,) and laid his mountains and his heritage waste." Among the Hebrews, when one object is loved less than another, and when one is treated with less severity than another, the one is said to be loved and the other hated. Thus, in Gen. xxix. 33, Leah says that she was "hated" of her husband, while the same idea is presented in the verse preceding, in which it is said "that Jacob loved Rachael more than Leah." The meaning of these words in the passage before us is, that God had brought the most desolating judgments upon the descendants of Esau, while he had spared those of Jacob. The love here referred to was not the love of an eternal election, nor the hatred that of eternal and unconditional reprobation, of Jacob or Esau, or of the posterity of either. They refer simply and exclusively to temporal mercies and judgments bestowed and inflicted with a wise and righteous discrimination.

But, in verse 11, we read of an "election," and of "a purpose of God according to (in respect to) election." We now learn distinctly and undeniably to what that purpose and election referred. 1. They refer not at all to the individuals as such, to wit, Jacob and Esau, but exclusively to their posterity. 2. They simply refer to one as the elected messianic seed of Abraham, and exclude the other from that seed. 3. They have no reference whatever to the spiritual and eternal destiny of either people, but simply to the temporal relations which one should sustain to the other. The greater people shall serve the less. 4. No argument whatever can be adduced from this passage in favor of, or, in the least, bearing upon, the doctrine of eternal and unconditional election and reprobation. No reference whatever can be shown in the passage, anywhere, to either of these doctrines. But why does the apostle I say, "For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil," &c.? The reason is obvious. The Jew might reply to the apostle's argument, based upon the example of Esau and Jacob, on this wise. To be sure the posterity of Esau was excluded from, and those of Jacob included in, the messianic seed of Abraham. The reasons for this distinction, however, are found in the overshadowing merit of Jacob. To exclude such a resort, he is reminded that the communication under consideration was made before either was born, or had done any good or evil,—that is, had any moral character whatever that could constitute the basis of the election between them. The election and purpose in respect to these peoples, constituting one the messianic seed of Abraham, and excluding the other from it, were an election and purpose "not of works," that is, they had not their basis in the merits or demerits of the ancestors of these peoples, and thus affording ground of boasting to the Jew. They were of "Him that calleth," that is, had their basis in the good pleasure of God.

The bearings of this case of Jacob and Esau upon the apostle's argument, against the position of the Jew, that descent from the patriarchs, of itself, secured him a place among the children of God, and consequently rendered him secure against God's word of threatening, even though he should reject the offer of mercy through Christ, is perfectly obvious. 1. Their posterity stood in a perfect equality, as far as patriarchal descent is concerned. 2. Before any merit or demerit attached to either Jacob or Esau, and consequently before any ground of preference on the part of the posterity of either, consequent on superior ancestral merit, did or could exist, the purpose of God to elect the posterity of one as constituting the messianic seed, and the rejection of the other from that relation, was announced by God. 3. As a place even among the messianic seed was not at all conditioned on mere patriarchal merit or descent, but upon the good pleasure of God, how could the Jew hope that through such descent and merit, and that only, he could have a place among the spiritual seed of Abraham? 4. In the case of the descendants of Esau, the Jew himself acknowledged that there was the purest conceivable patriarchal descent, with an actual exclusion from a place among the messianic seed, and with no title on that account to a place among the children of God, and no security consequently against God's word of threatening, in case of a rejection of "God's righteousness." Why, then, should the Jew rest his hope of eternal life upon a foundation which he himself acknowledged had proved wholly inadequate in the case of others?


We have thus traversed the important portion of the Bible which attention was to be directed in this lecture. What have we found in it? 1. We have found clearly and undeniably set forth one of the great cardinal doctrines of Christianity—the divinity and humanity of our Lord and Saviour.

2. We have found also this great truth set forth and implied in the reasoning of he apostle; that if we neglect the great salvation presented to our faith through Christ, nothing can shield us from the curse of God.

3. We have also learned another important truth, that the highest privileges, the clearest light, and the choicest influences of Heaven, may consist with utter and final reprobation, and, if unimproved, will combine their influence to render our doom infinitely the more aggravated.

4. We have seen the entire passage to possess a beautiful consistency throughout; all the propositions, arguments, illustrations, and facts, adduced by the sacred writer, culminating in one grand conclusion, and sweeping away with resistless force the refuge of lies, where the Jew had concealed himself, in the vain hope that he was thereby secure against God's word of threatening.

5. In our sojourn amid the great realities shadowed forth to our apprehension in this passage, we have searched in vain for a place for that great stumbling-block in the way of the salvation of sinners, the doctrines of eternal and unconditional election and reprohation. In traversing through the length and breadth of the apostle's reasonings, we have found not a solitary nook or corner where these dogmas have a legitimate dwelling-place.

1 "There is," says Mr. Morison, "a little but not insignificant word which our translators have neglected to render. It is a very common particle in all Greek writings, and it occurs many hundreds of times in the New Testament. It has very frequently an 'adversative,' or, stronger still, an 'oppositive' meaning, and then it is generally translated 'but.' In this same epistle, for example, it occurs in chap. ii. 10. 'Tribulation and anguish upon every, soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first and also of the Gentile; but glory, honor, and peace, to every one that doeth good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile.' It occurs again in chap. vi. 23—'For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.' Now it ought to have had, in the passage before us, the same rendering. When it is employed in the manner in which it is used in this clause, it is never redundant. The very first word, then, of the sixth verse should have been 'but;' 'But not as though the word of God had taken none effect.'"










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Eposition of Romans IX., Etc. By Asa Mahan - Romans 9 Commentary