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Romans 5:3-5

3. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;

3. Neque id modo, sed gloriamur 154154     Gloriamur — καυχώμεθα. The same as in the preceding verse, and rendered “boast” by Macknight, and in the former verse by Doddridge and here, “glory.” “Boast” is certainly not a proper word, for it is commonly used in a bad sense. “Rejoice” is too feeble, for it means exultation and triumph. — Ed. etiam in afflictionibus; scientes quod tribulatio patientiam efficiat;

4. And patience, experience; and experience, hope:

4. Patientia vero probationem; probatio autem spem:

5. And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.

5. Porro spes non pudefacit, quoniam dilectio Dei diffusa est in cordibus nostris per Spiritum santum, qui datus est nobis.

3. Not only so, etc. That no one might scoffingly object and say, that Christians, with all their glorying, are yet strangely harassed and distressed in this life, which condition is far from being a happy one, — he meets this objection, and declares, not only that the godly are prevented by these calamities from being blessed, but also that their glorying is thereby promoted. To prove this he takes his argument from the effects, and adopts a remarkable gradation, and at last concludes, that all the sorrows we endure contribute to our salvation and final good.

By saying that the saints glory in tribulations, he is not to be understood, as though they dreaded not, nor avoided adversities, or were not distressed with their bitterness when they happened, (for there is no patience when there is no feeling of bitterness;) but as in their grief and sorrow they are not without great consolation, because they regard that whatever they bear is dispensed to them for good by the hand of a most indulgent Father, they are justly said to glory: for whenever salvation is promoted, there is not wanting a reason for glorying.

We are then taught here what is the design of our tribulations, if indeed we would prove ourselves to be the children of God. They ought to habituate us to patience; and if they do not answer this end, the work of the Lord is rendered void and of none effect through our corruption: for how does he prove that adversities do not hinder the glorying of the faithful, except that by their patience in enduring them, they feel the help of God, which nourishes and confirms their hope? They then who do not learn patience, do not, it is certain, make good progress. Nor is it any objection, that there are recorded in Scripture some complaints full of despondency, which the saints had made: for the Lord sometimes so depresses and straitens for a time his people, that they can hardly breathe, and can hardly remember any source of consolation; but in a moment he brings to life those whom he had nearly sunk in the darkness of death. So that what Paul says is always accomplished in them —

“We are in every way oppressed, but not made anxious; we are in danger, but we are not in despair; we suffer persecution, but we are not forsaken; we are cast down but we are not destroyed.”
(2 Corinthians 4:8.)

Tribulation produces (efficiat) patience, etc. This is not the natural effect of tribulation; for we see that a great portion of mankind are thereby instigated to murmur against God, and even to curse his name. But when that inward meekness, which is infused by the Spirit of God, and the consolation, which is conveyed by the same Spirit, succeed in the place of our stubbornness, then tribulations become the means of generating patience; yea, those tribulations, which in the obstinate can produce nothing but indignation and clamorous discontent.

4. Patience, probation, etc. James, adopting a similar gradation, seems to follow a different order; for he says, that patience proceeds from probation: but the different meaning of the word is what will reconcile both. Paul takes probation for the experience which the faithful have of the sure protection of God, when by relying on his aid they overcome all difficulties, even when they experience, whilst in patiently enduring they stand firm, how much avails the power of the Lord, which he has promised to be always present with his people. James takes the same word for tribulation itself, according to the common usage of Scripture; for by these God proves and tries his servants: and they are often called trials. 155155     The word in James is δοκίμιον while here it is δοκιμὴ. The first means a test, or the act of testing — trial; and the second, the result of testing — experience, and is rendered in our version “proof,” 2 Corinthians 2:9, — “experiment,” 2 Corinthians 9:13, — and in 2 Corinthians 8:2, “trial,” which ought to be experience. Beza says, that the first bears to the second a similar relation as cause bears to effect: the one thing is testing or probation, and the other is the experience that is thereby gained.
   The word is rendered here, not very intelligibly, “approbation,” both by Macknight and Stuart; but more correctly, “experience,” by Beza and Doddridge. — Ed.

According then to the present passage, we then only make advances in patience as we ought, when we regard it as having been continued to us by God’s power, and thus entertain hope as to the future, that God’s favor, which has ever succored us in our necessities, will never be wanting to us. Hence he subjoins, that from probation arises hope; for ungrateful we should be for benefits received, except the recollection of them confirms our hope as to what is to come.

5. Hope maketh not ashamed, etc.; 156156     Chalmers observes, that there are two hopes mentioned in this passage, — the hope of faith in the second verse, and the hope of experience in this. “The hope of the fourth verse,” he says, “is distinct from and posterior to the hope of the second; and it also appears to be derived from another source. The first hope is hope in believing, a hope which hangs direct on the testimony of God...The second hope is grounded on distinct considerations — not upon what the believer sees to be in the testimony of God, but upon what he finds to be in himself. — It is the fruit not of faith, but of experience; and is gathered not from the word that is without, but from the feeling of what passes within.” — Ed. that is, it regards salvation as most certain. It hence appears, that the Lord tries us by adversities for this end, — that our salvation may thereby be gradually advanced. Those evils then cannot render us miserable, which do in a manner promote our happiness. And thus is proved what he had said, that the godly have reasons for glorying in the midst of their afflictions.

For the love of God, etc. I do not refer this only to the last sentence, but to the whole of the preceding passage. I therefore would say, — that by tribulations we are stimulated to patience, and that patience finds an experiment of divine help, by which we are more encouraged to entertain hope; for however we may be pressed and seem to be nearly consumed, we do not yet cease to feel God’s favor towards us, which affords the richest consolation, and much more abundant than when all things happen prosperously. For as that happiness, which is so in appearance, is misery itself, when God is adverse to and displeased with us; so when he is propitious, even calamities themselves will surely be turned to a prosperous and a joyful issue. Seeing all things must serve the will of the Creator, who, according to his paternal favor towards us, (as Paul declares in the eighth chapter,) overrules all the trials of the cross for our salvation, this knowledge of divine love towards us is instilled into our hearts to the Spirit of God; for the good things which God has prepared for his servants are hid from the ears and the eyes and the minds of men, and the Spirit alone is he who can reveal them. And the word diffused, is very emphatical; for it means that the revelation of divine love towards us is so abounding that it fills our hearts; and being thus spread through every part of them, it not only mitigates sorrow in adversities, but also, like a sweet seasoning, it renders tribulations to be loved by us. 157157     “The love of God” in this passage may mean either the love of which God is the object — love to God, or the love which he possesses — God’s love to us: the usus loquendi would admit either of these meanings; and hence commentators have differed on the point. The expression, τὴν ἀγάπην τοῦ Θεοῦ, in Luke 12:42, John 5:42, and in other places, means “love to God;” ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ Θεοῦ, in 1 John 4:9, signifies clearly the love of God to us. The meaning then can alone be ascertained by the context and by the wording of the sentence. It stands connected with Christian graces, patience and hope; and this favors the first view, that it is love to God produced within by the Spirit. Then the verb, ἐκκέχυται — is poured out or poured forth, seems more suitable to the idea of love being communicated as a gift, or as a holy feeling within. It is further what prevents hope from being disappointed; it is some good or enjoyment that now strengthens and satisfies hope; and to love God who first loved us is to realize in a measure what hope expects; and when it is said that it is diffused by the Spirit, we are reminded of what Paul says in (Galatians 5:22, that “love” is one of the fruits of the Spirit. But it may, on the other hand, be alleged, that the verse stands connected with what follows, as the next verse begins with “for,” and that the subsequent context most clearly refers to the love of God to us; and this evidently decides the question.
   The first view, our love to God, has been adopted by Augustine, Mede, Doddridge, Scott, and Stuart; and the other, God’s love to us, by Chrysostom, Beza, Pareus, Grotius, Hodge, and Chalmers, and also by Schleusner who gives this paraphrase, “Amor Dei abunde nobis declaratus est — the love of God is abundantly declared to us.” — Ed.

He says further, that the Spirit is given, that is, bestowed through the gratuitous goodness of God, and not conferred for our merits; according to what Augustine has well observed, who, though he is mistaken in his view of the love of God, gives this explanation, — that we courageously bear adversities, and are thus confirmed in our hope, because we, having been regenerated by the Spirit, do love God. It is indeed a pious sentiment, but not what Paul means: for love is not to be taken here in an active but a passive sense. And certain it is, that no other thing is taught by Paul than that the true fountain of all love is, when the faithful are convinced that they are loved by God, and that they are not slightly touched with this conviction, but have their souls thoroughly imbued with it.


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