Romans 9

For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ; I should be willing to be sacrificed myself to save them. It would seem to be unnecessary to inquire for any definite and precise meaning to be attached to the phrase, accursed from Christ; for the language was doubtless not intended to present an idea seriously entertained, but only as a strong expression indicating deep anxiety and earnest desire.

The adoption; adoption as the chosen people of God.—The glory; the visible manifestation of the divine presence over the ark. (Ex. 13:21, 22, 25:22.)—The covenants; those which God made with the patriarchs.—The service of God; the divinely-instituted rites of public worship.

The fathers; the patriarchs.—As concerning the flesh; in respect to human parentage.—God blessed forever. It is unusual for the sacred writers to identify the Redeemer in so direct and unqualified a manner with the supreme Divinity; because they generally speak of him in his mediatorial capacity, in which he occupies a position subordinate to the Father. (See particularly 1 Cor. 15:24-28.) This case is, however, not solitary, as will appear by referring to Phil. 2:6, Tit. 1:3, 2:13. Various attempts have been made to detach the last part of the verse from what precedes, so as to give the doxology an independent interpretation. But the construction of the passage in the original resists these attempts; and they are admitted by those who make them not to be satisfactory.

Not as though, &c.; that is, his solicitude, as expressed above, did not arise from fear lest the promises of God should not be fulfilled.—Not all Israel which are of Israel; they are not all the true children of God which are of the Jewish nation.

But, In Isaac, &c. The general argument commenced here, and coming to its result in v. 18, is this,—that as God, in constituting the Hebrew nation in ancient times, made a selection, for reasons not revealed, of some of the descendants of the patriarchs to the exclusion of others, so does he now choose from among mankind whomsoever he will as objects of spiritual mercy. This first illustration is taken from the case of Isaac, who was chosen to the exclusion of Ishmael, (Gen. 17:19-21,) and of Abraham's six sons, whose mother was Keturah. (Gen. 25:1, 2.)

Children of the flesh; naturally descended.—These are not, &c.; that is, not necessarily.—The children of the promise; those contemplated in the divine councils, as included in the intent of the promise.

By one. In the case of Abraham, the children rejected were children of another mother, which might have been considered as the ground of the distinction; but, in the case of Esau and Jacob, a selection was made between two whose parentage on both sides was the same.

According to election; according to his own choice and determination.—Not of works, &c.; that is, the supremacy of Jacob over Esau was not a reward for any good works which he performed, but it rested solely, on the decision of God, adopted for other reasons, and before either of the subjects of it were born.

The elder; Esau.—Shall serve; be subject to.

Loved; chosen.—Hated; rejected.

This passage, is to be found in Ex. 33:19.

The meaning is, that divine favors are never earned by the spontaneous exertions of man; they are bestowed gratuitously by the mercy of God. We must not consider this verse as implying that men may honestly strive, and yet fail of obtaining the favor of God, but that they do not strive for it. The expression is, as If we were to say, "The fertility of Egypt is not of rain, but of the overflowing of the Nile." This does not imply that rain, if it were to descend, would not produce fertility,—but that it does not descend, and so the land is dependent upon another source. So in this case; if men were honestly to attempt to do their duty and please God, they would doubtless please him; but they do not make the attempt,—and so their salvation rests entirely on his mercy.

This is, perhaps, the most of the numerous passages, occurring in the Scriptures, in which it is asserted that the control of Almighty God is absolute and entire over all the moral conduct of his creatures, whether evil or good—a control so absolute and entire, that if, in the course of his administration, he deems it expedient to exhibit to the universe a spectacle of sin and its consequences, he can do so,—while yet the moral responsibility and ill desert of the sin rests solely with the being who commits it. Such a doctrine awakens very different feelings in different minds. Some repose in quiet and submissive confidence under the absolute and boundless moral sovereignty with which it invests Jehovah. Others find it utterly irreconcilable with what they regard as plain principles of justice, and the very statement of it seems to awaken in their minds feelings of abhorrence and detestation. Many classes of excellent Christians endeavor to soften this doctrine by allowing to the power of Jehovah an efficient control over all the right and holy desires and acts of his creatures, while they limit, and qualify in various ways, his agency in respect to those that are wrong; for the minds of mankind at large are found to acquiesce much more readily in assigning to God a direct agency in the production of holiness, than in that of sin. It is, however, somewhat doubtful whether the real difficulty is much alleviated, in a philosophical point of view, by this management; for we cannot easily conceive how one kind of moral conduct or character can be determined by a superior power, consistently with the freedom of the agent, rather than another; that is to say, if God can produce penitence in David's heart, which shall yet be wholly David's penitence, and for which David only shall be morally responsible, it is difficult to show any reason why the same kind of moral power, operating reversely, may not produce obduracy in Pharaoh's heart, which shall be wholly Pharaoh's obduracy, and for which Pharaoh alone is morally accountable. There is a great difference between the two cases, in respect to the readiness with which the mind is willing to admit such a power; but it would probably not be easy to establish between them any philosophical distinction. The difficulty seems insurmountable to human powers in either case. But, then, we must consider that, whatever difficulties may attend this subject, they seem to be involved in the very idea of a divinity really supreme. And, even if we relinquish the idea of a divinity, and substitute, as in that case we must, the control of steadily-acting laws, mental and corporeal, over the phenomena of matter and mind,—the doctrine of philosophical necessity takes the place of that of the personal sovereignty of Jehovah, and it is, to say the least, quite as intractable in respect to its consistency with human freedom. The difficulties, then, would seem, cannot, on any hypothesis, be either solved or avoided. The result is, that the only way in which the mind can be really at peace on this subject is humbly to acquiesce in our incapacity to fathom this gulf, in theory, and then practically to yield our full and cordial assent, on the one hand, to the dictates of conscience, which testify that we are entirely unrestrained in our moral conduct, and so accountable for it,—and, on the other, to the word of God, asserting that Jehovah is supreme, and that his providence includes and controls all that takes place under his reign.

Who art thou, &c. It is remarkable that, while the difficulties which occur in the discussion of other subjects, in the word of God, are often fully explained, in this instance, no attempt is made to answer the objector. He is simply silenced.

Osee; Hosea 2:23.—And her Beloved; meaning, I will call her Beloved, that is, I will make her so; referring to the Gentiles, who were originally not among the chosen people of God, but were now received under the Christian dispensation.

In the few preceding verses, the apostle has been showing that some Gentiles were to be saved: he now proceeds to say that some Jews would not be saved.—A remnant; a remnant only; that is, not the whole. The passage, v. 27 and 28, is quoted from Isa. 10:22, 23, and is to be understood as a threatening of judgment denounced by Isaiah against the Jews.

Said before; viz., Isa. 1:9.—The Lord of Sabaoth; the Lord of hosts.—A seed; a remnant.—We had been as Sodoma; that is, we should have been utterly destroyed. The idea is that, so far were the Jews from being of course secure of the favor of God, they are in one case represented by the prophet as just escaping absolute extermination.

Righteousness; justification.

The law of righteousness; the righteousness of the law, that is, justification by means of it.

That stumbling-stone; the one described in the quotation contained in the next verse.

As it is written; in Isa. 8:14, and 28:16.

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