Romans 12

CHAPTER XII.

Such displays of God's mercy as Jews and Gentiles have received

should induce them to consecrate themselves to Him; and not be

conformed to the world, 1, 2.

Christians are exhorted to think meanly of themselves, 3.

And each to behave himself properly in the office which he has

received from God, 4-8;

Various important moral duties recommended, 9-18.

We must not avenge ourselves, but overcome evil with good,

19-21.

NOTES ON CHAP. XII.

The apostle having now finished the doctrinal part of this

epistle, proceeds to the practical; and here it may be necessary

to take a view of his arguments in the preceding chapters.

The election, calling, and justification of the believing

Gentiles, and their being admitted into the kingdom and covenant

of God, and having an interest in all the privileges and honours

of his children. (1.) That they have a clear and substantial

title to all these he has proved in Rom. 1, 2, and 3. (2.) That

this right is set on the same footing with Abraham's title to the

blessings of the covenant he proves Rom. 6. (3.) That it gives us

a title to privileges and blessings, as great as any the Jews

could glory in, by virtue of that covenant, Ro 5:1-12. (4.) He

goes still higher, and shows that our being interested in the gift

and grace of God in Christ Jesus is perfectly agreeable to the

grace which he has bestowed upon all mankind, in delivering them

from that death of the body brought on them by Adams'

transgression, Ro 5:12-21. (5.) He fully explains, both with

regard to the Gentiles and Jews, the nature of the Gospel

constitution in relation to its obligations to holiness, and the

advantages it gives for encouragement, obedience, and support,

under the severest trials and persecutions, Rom. 6, 7, 8. (6.) As

to the pretences of the Jews, that "God was bound by express

promise to continue them as his only people for ever, and that

this was directly inconsistent with the election and calling of

the Gentiles, on the condition of faith alone;" he demonstrates

that the rejection of the Jews is consistent with the truth of

God's word, and with his righteousness: he shows the true cause

and reason of their rejection, and concludes with an admirable

discourse upon the extent and duration of it; which he closes with

adoration of the Divine wisdom in its various dispensations,

Rom. 9, 10, 11. Thus, having cleared this important subject with

surprising judgment, and the nicest art and skill in writing, he

now proceeds, after his usual manner in his epistles and the

apostolic method of preaching, to inculcate various Christian

duties, and to exhort to that temper of mind and conduct of life

which are suitable to the profession of the Gospel, and the

enjoyment of its privileges.-Dr. Taylor.

Verse 1. I beseech you therefore, brethren] This address is

probably intended both for the Jews and the Gentiles; though some

suppose that the Jews are addressed in the first verse, the

Gentiles in the second.

By the mercies of God!] διατωνοικτιρμωντουθεου By the

tender mercies or compassions of God, such as a tender father

shows to his refractory children; who, on their humiliation, is

easily persuaded to forgive their offences. The word οικτιρμος

comes from οικτος, compassion; and that from εικω, to yield;

because he that has compassionate feelings is easily prevailed on

to do a kindness, or remit an injury.

That ye present your bodies] A metaphor taken from bringing

sacrifices to the altar of God. The person offering picked out

the choicest of his flock, brought it to the altar, and presented

it there as an atonement for his sin. They are exhorted to give

themselves up in the spirit of sacrifice; to be as wholly the

Lord's property as the whole burnt-offering was, no part being

devoted to any other use.

A living sacrifice] In opposition to those dead sacrifices

which they were in the habit of offering while in their Jewish

state; and that they should have the lusts of the flesh mortified,

that they might live to God.

Holy] Without spot or blemish; referring still to the

sacrifice required by the law.

Acceptable unto God] ευαρεστονυ The sacrifice being

perfect in its kind, and the intention of the offerer being

such that both can be acceptable and well pleasing to God, who

searches the heart. All these phrases are sacrificial, and show

that there must be a complete surrender of the person-the body, the

whole man, mind and flesh, to be given to God; and that he is to consider

himself no more his own, but the entire property of his Maker.

Your reasonable service.] Nothing can be more consistent with

reason than that the work of God should glorify its Author. We

are not our own, we are the property of the Lord, by the right of

creation and redemption; and it would be as unreasonable as it

would be wicked not to live to his glory, in strict obedience to

his will. The reasonable service, λογικηνλατρειαν, of the

apostle, may refer to the difference between the Jewish and

Christian worship. The former religious service consisted chiefly

in its sacrifices, which were διαλογων, of irrational

creatures, i.e. the lambs, rams, kids, bulls, goats, &c., which

were offered under the law. The Christian service or worship is

λογικη, rational, because performed according to the true intent

and meaning of the law; the heart and soul being engaged in the

service. He alone lives the life of a fool and a madman who lives

the life of a sinner against God; for, in sinning against his

Maker he wrongs his own soul, loves death, and rewards evil unto

himself.

Reasonable service, λογικηνλατρειαν, "a religious service

according to reason," one rationally performed. The Romanists

make this distinction between λατρεια, and δουλεια, latreia and

douleia, (or dulia, as they corruptly write it,) worship and

service, which they say signify two kinds of religious worship;

the first proper to GOD, the other communicated to the creatures.

But δουλεια, douleia, services, is used by the Septuagint to

express the Divine worship. See De 13:4; Jud 2:7; 1Sa 7:3,

and 1Sa 12:10: and in the New Testament, Mt 6:24; Lu 6:23;

Ro 16:18; Col 3:24.

The angel refused δουλειαν, douleia, Re 22:7, because he was

συνδουλος sundoulos, a fellow servant; and the Divine worship is

more frequently expressed by this word δουλεια, douleia, service,

than by λατρεια, latreia, worship. The first is thirty-nine times in

the Old and New Testament ascribed unto God, the other about

thirty times; and latreia, worship or service, is given unto the

creatures, as in Le 23:7, 8, 21; Nu 28:18; yea, the word

signifies cruel and base bondage, De 28:48: once in the New

Testament it is taken for the worship of the creatures, Ro 1:25.

The worshipping of idols is forbidden under the word λατρεια,

latreia, thirty-four times in the Old Testament, and once in the

New, as above; and twenty-three times under the term δουλεια,

doaleia, in the Old Testament; and St. Paul uses δουλευεινθεω,

and λατρευεινθεω indifferently, for the worship we owe to God.

See Ro 1:9, 25; 12:1, Ga 4:8, 9; 1Th 1:9; Mt 6:24.

And Ludouicus Vives, a learned Romanist, has proved out of

Suidas, Xenophon, and Volla, that these two words are usually

taken the one for the other, therefore the popish distinction,

that the first signifies "the religious worship due only to God,"

and the second, "that which is given to angels, saints, and men,"

is unlearned and false.-See Leigh's Crit. Sacra.

Verse 2. And be not conformed to this world] By this world,

αιωνιτουτω, may be understood that present state of things both

among the Jews and Gentiles; the customs and fashions of the

people who then lived, the Gentiles particularly, who had neither

the power nor the form of godliness; though some think that the

Jewish economy, frequently termed olam hazzeh, this

world, this peculiar state of things, is alone intended. And the

apostle warns them against reviving usages that Christ had

abolished: this exhortation still continues in full force. The

world that now is-THIS present state of things, is as much opposed

to the spirit of genuine Christianity as the world then was.

Pride, luxury, vanity, extravagance in dress, and riotous living,

prevail now, as they did then, and are as unworthy of a

Christian's pursuit as they are injurious to his soul, and hateful

in the sight of God.

Be ye transformed] μεταμορφουσθε, Be ye metamorphosed,

transfigured, appear as new persons, and with new habits, as God

has given you a new form of worship, so that ye serve in the

newness of the spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter. The

word implies a radical, thorough, and universal change, both

outward and inward. SENECA, Epis. vi, shows us the force of this

word when used in a moral sense. Sentio, says he, non EMENDARI me

tantum, sed TRANSFIGURARI; "I perceive myself not to be amended

merely, but to be transformed:" i. e entirely renewed.

By the renewing of your mind] Let the inward change produce the

outward. Where the spirit, the temper, and disposition of the

mind, Eph 4:23,

are not renewed, an outward change is of but little worth, and but

of short standing.

That ye may prove] ειςτοδοκιμαζειν, That ye may have

practical proof and experimental knowledge of, the will of God-of

his purpose and determination, which is good in itself; infinitely

so. Acceptable, ευαπεστον, well pleasing to and well received

by every mind that is renewed and transformed.

And perfect] τελειον, Finished and complete: when the mind is

renewed, and the whole life changed, then the will of God is

perfectly fulfilled; for this is its grand design in reference to

every human being.

These words are supposed by Schoettgen to refer entirely to the

Jewish law. The Christians were to renounce this world-the Jewish

state of things; to be transformed, by having their minds

enlightened in the pure and simple Christian worship, that they

might prove the grand characteristic difference between the two

covenants: the latter being good in opposition to the statutes

which were not good, Eze 20:25;

acceptable, in opposition to those sacrifices and offerings which

God would not accept, as it is written, Ps 40:6-8; and perfect,

in opposition to that system which was imperfect, and which made

nothing perfect, and was only the shadow of good things to come.

There are both ingenuity and probability in this view of the

subject.

Verse 3. Through the grace given unto me] By the grace given

St. Paul most certainly means his apostolical office, by which he

had the authority, not only to preach the Gospel, but also to rule

the Church of Christ. This is the meaning of the word, ηχαρις,

in Eph 3:8:

Unto me who am less than the least of all saints is this grace

given-is conceded this office or employment immediately by God

himself; that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable

riches of Christ.

Not to think-more highly] μηυπερφρονειν, Not to act proudly;

to arrogate nothing to himself on account of any grace he had

received, or of any office committed to him.

But to think soberly] αλλαφρονεινειςτοσωφρονειν. The

reader will perceive here a sort of paronomasia, or play upon

words: φρονειν, from φρην, the mind, signifies to think, mind,

relish, to be of opinion, &c.; and σωφρονειν from σοος, sound,

and φρην, the mind, signifies to be of a sound mind; to think

discreetly, modestly, humbly. Let no man think himself more or

greater than God has made him; and let him know that what ever he

is or has of good or excellence, he has it from God; and that the

glory belongs to the giver, and not to him who has received the

gift.

Measure of faith.] μετρονπιστεως. It is very likely, as Dr.

Moore has conjectured, that the πιστις, faith, here used, means

the Christian religion; and the measure, the degree of knowledge

and experience which each had received in it, and the power this

gave him of being useful in the Church of God. See Ro 12:6.

Verse 4. For as we have many members] As the human body

consists of many parts, each having its respective office, and all

contributing to the perfection and support of the whole; each

being indispensably necessary in the place which it occupies, and

each equally useful though performing a different function;

Verse 5. So we, being many] We who are members of the Church

of Christ, which is considered the body of which he is the head,

have various offices assigned to us, according to the measure of

grace, faith and religious knowledge which we possess; and

although each has a different office, and qualifications suitable

to that office, yet all belong to the same body; and each has as

much need of the help of another as that other has of his;

therefore, let there be neither pride on the one hand, nor envy on

the other. The same metaphor, in nearly the same words, is used

in Synopsis Sohar, page 13. "As man is divided into various

members and joints, united among themselves, and raised by

gradations above each other, and collectively compose one body; so

all created things are members orderly disposed, and altogether

constitute one body. In like manner the law, distributed into

various articulations, constitutes but one body." See Schoettgen.

Verse 6. Having then gifts differing, &c.] As the goodness of

God, with this view of our mutual subserviency and usefulness, has

endowed us with different gifts and qualifications, let each apply

himself to the diligent improvement of his particular office and

talent, and modestly keep within the bounds of it, not exalting

himself or despising others.

Whether prophecy] That prophecy, in the New Testament, often

means the gift of exhorting, preaching, or of expounding the

Scriptures, is evident from many places in the Gospels, Acts, and

St. Paul's Epistles, see 1Co 11:4, 5; and especially 1Co 14:3:

He that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and

exhortation, and comfort. This was the proper office of a

preacher; and it is to the exercise of this office that the

apostle refers in the whole of the chapter from which the above

quotations are made. See also Lu 1:76; 7:28; Ac 15:32;

1Co 14:29. I think the apostle uses the term in the same sense

here-Let every man who has the gift of preaching and interpreting

the Scriptures do it in proportion to the grace and light he has

received from God, and in no case arrogate to himself knowledge

which he has not received; let him not esteem himself more highly

on account of this gift, or affect to be wise above what is

written, or indulge himself in fanciful interpretations of the

word of God.

Dr. Taylor observes that the measure of faith, Ro 12:3, and

the proportion of faith, Ro 12:6, seem not to relate to the

degree of any gift considered in itself, but rather in the

relation and proportion which it bore to the gifts of others; for

it is plain that he is here exhorting every man to keep soberly

within his own sphere. It is natural to suppose that the new

converts might be puffed up with the several gifts that were

bestowed upon them; and every one might be forward to magnify his

own to the disparagement of others: therefore the apostle advises

them to keep each within his proper sphere; to know and observe

the just measure and proportion of the gift intrusted to him, not

to gratify his pride but to edify the Church.

The αναλογιατηςπιστεως, which we here translate the

proportion of faith, and which some render the analogy of faith,

signifies in grammar "the similar declension of similar words;"

but in Scriptural matters it has been understood to mean the

general and consistent plan or scheme of doctrines delivered in

the Scriptures; where every thing bears its due relation and

proportion to another. Thus the death of Christ is commensurate

in its merits to the evils produced by the fall of Adam. The

doctrine of justification by faith bears the strictest analogy or

proportion to the grace of Christ and the helpless, guilty,

condemned state of man: whereas the doctrine of justification by

WORKS is out of all analogy to the demerit of sin, the perfection

of the law, the holiness of God, and the miserable, helpless state

of man. This may be a good general view of the subject; but when

we come to inquire what those mean by the analogy of faith who are

most frequent in the use of the term, we shall find that it means

neither more nor less than their own creed; and though they tell

you that their doctrines are to be examined by the Scriptures, yet

they give you roundly to know that you are to understand these

Scriptures in precisely the same way as they have interpreted

them. "To the law and to the testimony," says Dr. Campbell, "is

the common cry; only every one, the better to secure the decision

on the side he has espoused, would have you previously resolve to

put no sense whatever on the law and the testimony but what his

favourite doctrine will admit. Thus they run on in a shuffling,

circular sort of argument, which, though they studiously avoid

exposing, is, when dragged into the open light, neither more nor

less than this; 'you are to try our doctrine by the Scriptures

only; but then you are to be very careful that you explain the

Scripture solely by our doctrine.' A wonderful plan of trial,

which begins with giving judgment, and ends with examining the

proof, wherein the whole skill and ingenuity of the judges are to

be exerted in wresting the evidence so as to give it the

appearance of supporting the sentence pronounced before hand."

See Dr. Campbell's Dissertations on the Gospels, Diss. iv. sect.

14, vol. i, page 146, 8vo. edit., where several other sensible

remarks may be found.

Verse 7. Or ministry] διακονια simply means the office of a

deacon; and what this office was, see in Clarke's note on "Ac 6:4",

where the subject is largely discussed.

Or he that teacheth] The teacher, διδασκαλος, was a person

whose office it was to instruct others, who thereby catechizing,

or simply explaining the grand truths of Christianity.

Verse 8. Or he that exhorteth] οπαρακαλων, The person who

admonished and reprehended the unruly or disorderly; and who

supported the weak and comforted the penitents, and those who were

under heaviness through manifold temptations.

He that giveth] He who distributeth the alms of the Church,

with simplicity-being influenced by no partiality, but dividing to

each according to the necessity of his case.

He that ruleth] οπροισταμενος, He that presides over a

particular business; but as the verb προισταμαι also signifies to

defend or patronize, it is probably used here to signify receiving

and providing for strangers, and especially the persecuted who

were obliged to leave their own homes, and were destitute,

afflicted, and tormented. It might also imply the persons whose

business it was to receive and entertain the apostolical teachers

who travelled from place to place, establishing and confirming the

Churches. In this sense the word προστατις is applied to Phoebe,

Ro 16:2:

She hath been a SUCCOURER of many, and of myself also. The

apostle directs that this office should be executed with diligence,

that such destitute persons should have their necessities as

promptly and as amply supplied as possible.

He that showeth mercy] Let the person who is called to perform

any act of compassion or mercy to the wretched do it, not

grudgingly nor of necessity, but from a spirit of pure benevolence

and sympathy. The poor are often both wicked and worthless: and,

if those who are called to minister to them as stewards,

overseers, &c., do not take care, they will get their hearts

hardened with the frequent proofs they will have of deception,

lying, idleness, &c. And on this account it is that so many of

those who have been called to minister to the poor in parishes,

workhouses, and religious societies, when they come to relinquish

their employment find that many of their moral feelings have been

considerably blunted; and perhaps the only reward they get for

their services is the character of being hard-hearted. If

whatever is done in this way be not done unto the Lord, it can

never be done with cheerfulness.

Verse 9. Let love be without dissimulation.] ηαγαπη

ανυποκριτος. Have no hypocritical love; let not your love wear a

mask; make no empty professions. Love God and your neighbour;

and, by obedience to the one and acts of benevolence to the other,

show that your love is sincere.

Abhor that which is evil] αποστυγουντεςτοπονηρον. Hate sin

as you would hate that hell to which it leads. στυγεω signifies

to hate or detest with horror; the preposition απο greatly

strengthens the meaning. στυξ, Styx, was a feigned river in hell

by which the gods were wont to swear, and if any of them falsified

this oath he was deprived of his nectar and ambrosia for a hundred

years; hence the river was reputed to be hateful, and στυγεω

signified to be as hateful as hell. Two MSS. read μισουντες,

which signifies hating in the lowest sense of the term. The word

in the text is abundantly more expressive, and our translation is

both nervous and appropriate.

Cleave to that which is good.] κολλωμενοιτωαγαθω. Be

CEMENTED or GLUED to that which is good; so the word literally

signifies. Have an unalterable attachment to whatever leads to

God, and contributes to the welfare of your fellow creatures.

Verse 10. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly

love] It is difficult to give a simple translation of the

original: τηφιλαδελφιαειςαλληλουςφιλοστοργοι. The word

φιλαδελφια signifies that affectionate regard which every

Christian should feel for another, as being members of the same

mystical body: hence it is emphatically termed the love of the

brethren. When William Penn, of deservedly famous memory, made a

treaty with the Indians in North America, and purchased from them

a large woody tract, which, after its own nature and his name, he

called Pennsylvania, he built a city on it, and peopled it with

Christians of his own denomination, and called the city from the

word in the text, φιλαδελφια, PHILADELPHIA; an appellation which

it then bore with strict propriety: and still it bears the name.

The word φιλοστοργος, which we translate kindly affectioned,

from φιλος and στοργη, signifies that tender and indescribable

affection which a mother bears to her child, and which almost all

creatures manifest towards their young; and the word φιλος, or

φιλεω, joined to it, signifies a delight in it. Feel the

tenderest affection towards each other, and delight to feel it.

"Love a brother Christian with the affection of a natural

brother."

In honour preferring one another] The meaning appears to be

this: Consider all your brethren as more worthy than yourself; and

let neither grief nor envy affect your mind at seeing another

honoured and yourself neglected. This is a hard lesson, and very

few persons learn it thoroughly. If we wish to see our brethren

honoured, still it is with the secret condition in our own minds

that we be honoured more than they. We have no objection to the

elevation of others, providing we may be at the head. But who can

bear even to be what he calls neglected? I once heard the

following conversation between two persons, which the reader will

pardon my relating in this place, as it appears to be rather in

point, and is worthy of regard. "I know not," said one, "that I

neglect to do any thing in my power to promote the interest of

true religion in this place, and yet I seem to be held in very

little repute, scarcely any person even noticing me." To which

the other replied: "My good friend, set yourself down for nothing,

and if any person takes you for something it will be all clear

gain." I thought this a queer saying: but how full of meaning and

common sense! Whether the object of this good counsel was

profited by it I cannot tell; but I looked on it and received

instruction.

Verse 11. Not slothful in business] That God, who forbade

working on the seventh day, has, by the same authority, enjoined

it on the other six days. He who neglects to labour during the

week is as culpable as he is who works on the Sabbath. An idle,

slothful person can never be a Christian.

Fervent in spirit] τωπνευματιζεοντεςυ Do nothing at any

time but what is to tho glory of God, and do every thing as unto

him; and in every thing let your hearts be engaged. Be always in

earnest, and let your heart ever accompany your hand.

Serving the Lord] Ever considering that his eye is upon you,

and that you are accountable to him for all that you do, and that

you should do every thing so as to please him. In order to this

there must be simplicity in the INTENTION, and purity in the

AFFECTIONS.

Instead of τωκυριωδουλευοντες, serving the Lord, several

MSS., as DFG, and many editions, have καιρωδουλευοντες, serving

the time-embracing the opportunity. This reading Griesbach has

received into the text, and most critics contend for its

authenticity. Except the Codes Claromontanus, the Codex

Augiensis, and the Codex Boernerianus, the first a MS. of the

seventh or eighth century, the others of the ninth or tenth,

marked in Griesbach by the letters DFG, all the other MSS. of this

epistle have κυριω, the Lord; a reading in which all the versions

concur. καιρω, the time, is not found in the two original

editions; that of Complutum, in 1514, which is the first edition

of the Greek Testament ever printed; and that of Erasmus, in 1516,

which is the first edition published; the former having been

suppressed for several years after it was finished at the press.

As in the ancient MSS. the word κυριω is written contractedly,

κω, some appear to have read it καιρω instead of κυριω; but I

confess I do not see sufficient reason after all that the critics

have said, to depart from the common reading.

Verse 12. Rejoicing in hope] Of that glory of God that to

each faithful follower of Christ shall shortly be revealed.

Patient in tribulation] Remembering that what you suffer as

Christians you suffer for Christ's sake; and it is to his honour,

and the honour of your Christian profession, that you suffer it

with an even mind.

Continuing instant in prayer] ηροσκαρτερουντες. Making the

most fervent and intense application to the throne of grace for

the light and power of the Holy Spirit; without which you can

neither abhor evil, do good, love the brethren, entertain a

comfortable hope, nor bear up patiently under the tribulations and

ills of life.

Verse 13. Distributing to the necessity of saints] Relieve

your poor brethren according to the power which God has given you.

Do good unto all men, but especially to them which are of the

household of faith. Instead of χρειαις, necessities, some ancient

MSS. have μνειαις, memorials; distributing to the memorials of the

saints, which some interpret as referring to saints that were

absent; as if he had said: Do not forget those in other Churches

who have a claim on your bounty. But I really cannot see any good

sense which this various reading can make in the text; I therefore

follow the common reading.

Given to hospitality.] τηνφιλοξενιανδιωκοντες, pursuing

hospitality, or the duty of entertaining strangers. A very

necessary virtue in ancient times, when houses of public

accommodation were exceedingly scarce. This exhortation might

have for its object the apostles, who were all itinerants; and in

many cases the Christians, flying before the face of persecution.

This virtue is highly becoming in all Christians, and especially

in all Christian ministers, who have the means of relieving a

brother in distress, or of succouring the poor wherever he may

find them. But providing for strangers in distress is the proper

meaning of the term; and to be forward to do this is the spirit of

the duty.

Verse 14. Bless them which persecute you] ευλογειτε, Give

good words, or pray for them that give you bad words,

καταρασθε, who make dire imprecations against you. Bless them,

pray for them, and on no account curse them, whatever the

provocation may be. Have the loving, forgiving mind that was in

your Lord.

Verse 15. Rejoice with them that do rejoice] Take a lively

interest in the prosperity of others. Let it be a matter of

rejoicing to you when you hear of the health, prosperity, or

happiness of any brother.

Weep with them that weep.] Labour after a compassionate or

sympathizing mind. Let your heart feel for the distressed; enter

into their sorrows, and bear a part of their burdens. It is a

fact, attested by universal experience, that by sympathy a man may

receive into his own affectionate feelings a measure of the

distress of his friend, and that his friend does find himself

relieved in the same proportion as the other has entered into his

griefs. "But how do you account for this?" I do not account for

it at all, it depends upon certain laws of nature, the principles

of which have not been as yet duly developed.

Verse 16. Be of the same mind] Live in a state of continual

harmony and concord, and pray for the same good for all which you

desire for yourselves.

Mind not high things] Be not ambitious; affect nothing above

your station; do not court the rich nor the powerful; do not pass

by the poor man to pay your court to the great man; do not affect

titles or worldly distinctions; much less sacrifice your

conscience for them. The attachment to high things and high men

is the vice of little, shallow minds. However, it argues one

important fact, that such persons are conscious that they are of

no worth and of no consequence in THEMSELVES, and they seek to

render themselves observable and to gain a little credit by their

endeavours to associate themselves with men of rank and fortune,

and if possible to get into honourable employments; and, if this

cannot be attained, they affect honourable TITLES.

But condescend to men of low estate.] Be a companion of the

humble, and pass through life with as little noise and show as

possible. Let the poor, godly man be your chief companion; and

learn from his humility and piety to be humble and godly. The

term συναπαγομενοι, which we translate condescend, from συν,

together, and απαγω, to lead, signifies to be led, carried,

or dragged away to prison with another; and points out the state

in which the primitive Christians were despised and rejected of

men, and often led forth to prison and death. False or

man-pleasing professors would endeavour to escape all this

disgrace and danger by getting into the favour of the great, the

worldly, and the irreligious. There have not been wanting, in all

ages of the Church, persons who, losing the savour of Divine

things from their own souls by drinking into a worldly spirit,

have endeavoured to shun the reproach of the cross by renouncing

the company of the godly, speaking evil of the way of life, and

perhaps sitting down in the chair of the scorner with apostates

like themselves. And yet, strange to tell, these men will keep up

a form of godliness! for a decent outside is often necessary to

enable them to secure the ends of their ambition.

Be not wise in your own conceits.] Be not puffed up with an

opinion of your own consequence; for this will prove that the

consequence itself is imaginary. Be not wise, παρεαυτοις, by

yourselves-do not suppose that wisdom and discernment dwell alone

with you. Believe that you stand in need both of help and

instruction from others.

Verse 17. Recompense, &c.] Do not take notice of every little

injury you may sustain. Do not be litigious. Beware of too nice

a sense of your own honour; intolerable pride is at the bottom of

this. The motto of the royal arms of Scotland is in direct

opposition to this Divine direction-Nemo me impune lacesset, of

which "I render evil for evil to every man," is a pretty literal

translation. This is both antichristian and abominable, whether

in a state or in an individual.

Provide things honest] Be prudent, be cautious, neither eat,

drink, nor wear, but as you pay for every thing. "Live not on

trust, for that is the way to pay double;" and by this means the

poor are still kept poor. He who takes credit, even for food or

raiment, when he has no probable means of defraying the debt, is a

dishonest man. It is no sin to die through lack of the

necessaries of life when the providence of God has denied the

means of support; but it is a sin to take up goods without the

probability of being able to pay for them. Poor man! suffer

poverty a little; perhaps God is only trying thee for a time; and

who can tell if he will not turn again thy captivity. Labour hard

to live honestly; if God still appear to withhold his providential

blessing, do not despair; leave it all to him; do not make a

sinful choice; he cannot err. He will bless thy poverty, while he

curses the ungodly man's blessings.

Verse 18. If it be possible] To live in a state of peace with

one's neighbours, friends, and even family, is often very

difficult. But the man who loves God must labour after this, for

it is indispensably necessary even for his own sake. A man cannot

have broils and misunderstandings with others, without having his

own peace very materially disturbed: he must, to be happy, be at

peace with all men, whether they will be at peace with him or not.

The apostle knew that it would be difficult to get into and

maintain such a state of peace, and this his own words amply

prove: And if it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live

peaceably. Though it be but barely possible, labour after it.

Verse 19. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves] Ye are the

children of God, and he loves you; and because he loves you he

will permit nothing to be done to you that he will not turn to

your advantage. Never take the execution of the law into your own

hands; rather suffer injuries. The Son of man is come, not to

destroy men's lives, but to save: be of the same spirit. When he

was reviled, he reviled not again. It is the part of a noble mind

to bear up under unmerited disgrace; little minds are litigious

and quarrelsome.

Give place unto wrath] δοτετοποντηοργη. Leave room for the

civil magistrate to do his duty, he holds the sword for this

purpose; and if he be unfaithful to the trust reposed in him by

the state, leave the matter to God, who is the righteous judge:

for by avenging yourselves you take your cause both out of the

hands of the civil magistrate and out of the hands of God. I

believe this to be the meaning of give place to wrath, οργη,

punishment; the penalty which the law, properly executed, will

inflict. This is well expressed by the author of the book of

Ecclesiasticus, Eccl. 19:17:

Admonish thy neighbour before thou threaten him, and, not being,

angry, GIVE PLACE TO THE LAW OF THE MOST HIGH.

Vengeance is mine] This fixes the meaning of the apostle, and

at once shows that the exhortation, Rather give place to wrath or

punishment, means, Leave the matter to the judgment of God; it is

his law that in this case is broken; and to him the infliction of

deserved punishment belongs. Some think it means, "Yield a little

to a man when in a violent passion, for the sake of peace, until

he grow cooler."

I will repay] In my own time and in my own way. But he gives

the sinner space to repent, and this longsuffering leads to

salvation. Dr. Taylor, after Dr. Benson, conjectures that the

apostle in these directions had his eye upon the indignities which

the Jews, and probably the Christians too, (for they were often

confounded by the heathen,) suffered by the edict of Claudius,

mentioned Ac 18:2, which "commanded all Jews to depart from

Rome." Upon this occasion Aquila and Priscilla removed to

Corinth, where Paul found them, and dwelt with them a considerable

time. No doubt they gave him a full account of the state of the

Christian Church at Rome, and of every thing relating to the late

persecution under Claudius. That emperor's edict probably died

with him, if it were not repealed before, and then the Jews and

Christians (if the Christians were also expelled) returned again

to Rome; for Aquila and Priscilla were there when Paul wrote this

epistle, Ro 16:3,

which was in the fourth year of Nero, successor to Claudius.

Verse 20. If thine enemy hunger, feed him] Do not withhold

from any man the offices of mercy and kindness; you have been

God's enemy, and yet God fed, clothed, and preserved you alive: do

to your enemy as God has done to you. If your enemy be hungry,

feed him; if he be thirsty, give him drink: so has God dealt with

you. And has not a sense of his goodness and long-suffering

towards you been a means of melting down your heart into

penitential compunction, gratitude, and love towards him? How

know you that a similar conduct towards your enemy may not have

the same gracious influence on him towards you? Your kindness may

be the means of begetting in him a sense of his guilt; and, from

being your fell enemy, he may become your real friend! This I

believe to be the sense of this passage, which many have

encumbered with difficulties of their own creating. The whole is

a quotation from Pr 25:21, 22, in the precise words of the

Septuagint; and it is very likely that the latter clause of this

verse, Thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, is a metaphor

taken from smelting metals. The ore is put into the furnace, and

fire put both under and over, that the metal may be liquefied,

and, leaving the scoriae and dross, may fall down pure to the

bottom of the furnace. This is beautifully expressed by one of

our own poets, in reference to this explanation of this passage:-

"So artists melt the sullen ore of lead,

By heaping coals of fire upon its head.

In the kind warmth the metal learns to glow,

And pure from dross the silver runs below."

It is most evident, from the whole connection of the place and

the apostle's use of it, that the heaping of the coals of fire

upon the head of the enemy is intended to produce not an evil, but

the most beneficial effect; and the following verse is an additional

proof of this.

Verse 21. Be not overcome of evil] Do not, by giving place to

evil, become precisely the same character which thou condemnest in

another. Overcome evil with good-however frequently he may grieve

and injure thee, always repay him with kindness; thy good-will, in

the end, may overcome his evil.

1. THOMAS AQUINAS has properly said: Vincitur a malo qui vult

peccare in alium, quia ille peccavit in ipsum. "He is overcome of

evil who sins against another, because he sins against him." A

moral enemy is more easily overcome by kindness than by hostility.

Against the latter he arms himself; and all the evil passions of

his heart concentrate themselves in opposition to him who is

striving to retaliate, by violence, the injurious acts which he

has received from him. But where the injured man is labouring to

do him good for his evil-to repay his curses with blessings

and prayers, his evil passions have no longer any motive, any

incentive; his mind relaxes; the turbulence of his passions is

calmed; reason and conscience are permitted to speak; he is

disarmed, or, in other words, he finds that he has no use for his

weapons; he beholds in the injured man a magnanimous friend whose

mind is superior to all the insults and injuries which he has

received, and who is determined never to permit the heavenly

principle that influences his soul to bow itself before the

miserable, mean, and wretched spirit of revenge. This amiable man

views in his enemy a spirit which he beholds with horror, and he

cannot consent to receive into his own bosom a disposition which

he sees to be so destructive to another; and he knows that as soon

as he begins to avenge himself, he places himself on a par with

the unprincipled man whose conduct he has so much reason to blame,

and whose spirit he has so much cause to abominate. He who

avenges himself receives into his own heart all the evil and

disgraceful passions by which his enemy is rendered both wretched

and contemptible. There is the voice of eternal reason in "Avenge

not yourselves:-overcome evil with good;" as well as the high

authority and command of the living God.

2. The reader will, no doubt, have observed with pleasure the

skill and address, as well as the Divine wisdom, with which the

apostle has handled the important subjects which he has brought

forth to view in the preceding chapters. Nothing can be more

regular or judicious than his plan of proceeding. He first shows

the miserable, wretched, fallen, degraded state of man; next, the

merciful provision which God has made for his salvation, and

lastly, the use which man should make of the mercies of his God.

He shows us, in a most pointed manner, the connection that

subsists between the doctrines of the Gospel and practical piety.

From the beginning of the first to the end of the eleventh chapter

he states and defends the grand truths of Christianity, and from

the beginning of the twelfth to the end of the epistle he shows

the practical use of these doctrines. This is a point which is

rarely considered by professors; multitudes run to the Epistle to

the Romans for texts to prop up their peculiar system of doctrine,

but how few go to this sacred book for rules relative to holy

life! They abound in quotations from the doctrinal parts, but

seldom make that use of them which the apostle makes in this

chapter. "I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of

God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy,

acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service, and be not

conformed to this world, &c." Now we learn from the use which the

apostle makes of his doctrines, that whatsoever teaching comes

from God leads to a holy and useful life. And if we hold any

doctrine that does not excite us to labour after the strictest

conformity to the will of God in all our tempers, spirit, and

actions, we may rest assured that either that doctrine is not of

God, or we make an improper use of it. He that knows God best,

loves and resembles him most.

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