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Romans 2:3-10

3. And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?

3. Existimas autem, O homo, qui judicas eos qui talia faciunt, et eadem facis, quod ipse effugies judicium Dei?

4. Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and long-suffering; 6464     Lenitatis — μακροθυμίας, tarditatis ad iram. “Long-suffering” expresses the meaning very exactly. There is here a gradation — “goodness” — χρηστότης, benevolence, kindness, bounty; — “forbearance” — ἀνοχὴ, withholding, i.e., of wrath; — then “long-suffering,” that is, bearing long with the sins of men. “Riches” mean abundance; the same as though the expression was, “the abounding goodness,” etc. — Ed. not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?

4. An divitias bonitatis ipsius tolerantiæque, ac lenitatis contemnis; ignorans quod bonitas Dei te ad pœnitentiam deducit?

5. But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God;

5. Sed, juxta duritiam tuam, et cor pœnitere nescium, thesaurizas tibi iram in diem irae et revelations justi judicii Dei;

6. Who will render to every man according to his deeds:

6. Qui redditurus est unicuique secundam ipsius opera:

7. To them who by patient continuance in well-doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life;

7. Iis quidem, qui per boni operis perseverantiam, gloriam et honorem et immortalitatem quærunt, vitam æternam;

8. But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath,

8. Iis vero qui sunt contentiosi, ac veritati immorigeri, injustitiæ autem obtemperant, excandescentia, ira, tribulatio,

9. Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile;

9. Et anxietas in omnem animam hominis perpetrantis malum, Iudæi primum simul et Græci:

10. But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile:

10. At gloria et honor et pax omni operanti bonum, Iudæo primum simul et Græco.

3. And thinkest thou, O man, etc. As rhetoricians teach us, that we ought not to proceed to give strong reproof before the crime be proved, Paul may seem to some to have acted unwisely here for having passed so severe a censure, when he had not yet proved the accusation which he had brought forward. But the fact is otherwise; for he adduced not his accusation before men, but appealed to the judgment of conscience; and thus he deemed that proved which he had in view — that they could not deny their iniquity, if they examined themselves and submitted to the scrutiny of God’s tribunal. And it was not without urgent necessity, that he with so much sharpness and severity rebuked their fictitious sanctity; for men of this class will with astonishing security trust in themselves, except their vain confidence be forcibly shaken from them. Let us then remember, that this is the best mode of dealing with hypocrisy, in order to awaken it from its inebriety, that is, to draw it forth to the light of God’s judgment.

That thou shalt escape, etc. This argument is drawn from the less; for since our sins are subject to the judgment of men, much more are they to that of God, who is the only true Judge of all. Men are indeed led by a divine instinct to condemn evil deeds; but this is only an obscure and faint resemblance of the divine judgment. They are then extremely besotted, who think that they can escape the judgment of God, though they allow not others to escape their own judgment. It is not without an emphatical meaning that he repeats the word man; it is for the purpose of presenting a comparison between man and God.

4. Dost thou despise the riches? etc. It does not seem to me, as some think, that there is here an argument, conclusive on two grounds, (dilemma,) but an anticipation of an objection: for as hypocrites are commonly transported with prosperity, as though they had merited the Lord’s kindness by their good deeds, and become thus more hardened in their contempt of God, the Apostle anticipates their arrogance, and proves, by an argument taken from a reason of an opposite kind, that there is no ground for them to think that God, on account of their outward prosperity, is propitious to them, since the design of his benevolence is far different, and that is, to convert sinners to himself. Where then the fear of God does not rule, confidence, on account of prosperity, is a contempt and a mockery of his great goodness. It hence follows, that a heavier punishment will be inflicted on those whom God has in this life favored; because, in addition to their other wickedness, they have rejected the fatherly invitation of God. And though all the gifts of God are so many evidences of his paternal goodness, yet as he often has a different object in view, the ungodly absurdly congratulate themselves on their prosperity, as though they were dear to him, while he kindly and bountifully supports them.

Not knowing that the goodness of God, etc. For the Lord by his kindness shows to us, that it is he to whom we ought turn, if we desire to secure our wellbeing, and at the same time he strengthens our confidence in expecting mercy. If we use not God’s bounty for this end, we abuse it. But yet it is not to be viewed always in the same light; for when the Lord deals favorably with his servants and gives them earthly blessings, he makes known to them by symbols of this kind his own benevolence, and trains them up at the same time to seek the sum and substance of all good things in himself alone: when he treats the transgressors of his law with the same indulgence, his object is to soften by his kindness their perverseness; he yet does not testify that he is already propitious to them, but, on the contrary, invites them to repentance. But if any one brings this objection — that the Lord sings to the deaf as long as he does not touch inwardly their hearts; we must answer — that no fault can be found in this case except with our own depravity. But I prefer rendering the word which Paul here uses, leads, rather than invites, for it is more significant; I do not, however, take it in the sense of driving, but of leading as it were by the hand.

5. But according to thy hardness, etc. When we become hardened against the admonitions of the Lord, impenitence follows; and they who are not anxious about repentance openly provoke the Lord. 6565     What follows in the text, according to Calvin, is this, “et Corinthians pœni tere nescium — and a heart that knoweth not to repent;” καὶ ἀμετανοητον καρδίαν, which Schleusner renders thus, “animus, qui omnem emendationem respuit — a mind which rejects every improvement.” It is an impenitable rather than “an impenitent heart,” that is, a heart incapable of repenting. See Ephesians 4:19. — Ed.

This is a remarkable passage: we may hence learn what I have already referred to — that the ungodly not only accumulate for themselves daily a heavier weight of God’s judgments, as long as they live here, but that the gifts of God also, which they continually enjoy, shall increase their condemnation; for an account of them all will be required: and it will then be found, that it will be justly imputed to them as an extreme wickedness, that they had been made worse through God’s bounty, by which they ought surely to have been improved. Let us then take heed, lest by unlawful use of blessings we lay up for ourselves this cursed treasure.

For the day, etc.; literally, in the day; but it is put for εἰς ἡμέραν, for the day. The ungodly gather now the indignation of God against themselves, the stream of which shall then be poured on their heads: they accumulate hidden destruction, which then shall be drawn out from the treasures of God. The day of the last judgment is called the day of wrath, when a reference is made to the ungodly; but it will be a day of redemption to the faithful. And thus all other visitations of God are ever described as dreadful and full of terror to the ungodly; and on the contrary, as pleasant and joyful to the godly. Hence whenever the Scripture mentions the approach of the Lord, it bids the godly to exult with joy; but when it turns to the reprobate, it proclaims nothing but dread and terror.

“A day of wrath,” saith Zephaniah, “shall be that day, a day of tribulation and distress, a day of calamity and wretchedness, a day of darkness and of thick darkness, a day of mist and of whirlwind.” (Zephaniah 1:15.)

You have a similar description in Joel 2:2, etc. And Amos exclaims,

“Woe To You Who Desire The Day Of The Lord! What Will It Be To You? The Day Of The Lord Will Be Darkness, And Not Light.” (Amos 5:18.)

Farther, by adding the word revelation, Paul intimates what this day of wrath is to be, — that the Lord will then manifest his judgment: though he gives daily some indications of it, he yet suspends and holds back, till that day, the clear and full manifestation of it; for the books shall then be opened; the sheep shall then be separated the goats, and the wheat shall be cleansed from the tares.

6. Who will render to every one, etc. As he had to do with blind saintlings, who thought that the wickedness of their hearts was well covered, provided it was spread over with some disguises, I know not what, of empty works, he pointed out the true character of the righteousness of works, even that which is of account before God; and he did this, lest they should feel confident that it was enough to pacify him, if they brought words and trifles, or leaves only. But there is not so much difficulty in this verse, as it is commonly thought. For the Lord, by visiting the wickedness of the reprobate with just vengeance, will recompense them with what they have deserved: and as he sanctifies those whom he has previously resolved to glorify, he will also crown their good works, but not on account of any merit: nor can this be proved from this verse; for though it declares what reward good works are to have, it does yet by no means show what they are worth, or what price is due to them. And it is an absurd inference, to deduce merit from reward.

7. To them indeed, who by perseverance, etc.; literally, patience; by which word something more is expressed. For it is perseverance, when one is not wearied in constantly doing good; but patience also is required in the saints, by which they may continue firm, though oppressed with various trials. For Satan suffers them not by a free course to come to the Lord; but he strives by numberless hinderances to impede them, and to turn them aside from the right way. And when he says, that the faithful, by continuing in good works, seek glory and honour, he does not mean that they aspire after any thing else but the favor of God, or that they strive to attain any thing higher, or more excellent: but they can not seek him, without striving, at the same time, for the blessedness of his kingdom, the description of which is contained in the paraphrase given in these words. The meaning then is, — that the Lord will give eternal life to those who, by attention to good works, strive to attain immortality. 6666     It has appeared to some difficult to reconcile this language with the free salvation which the gospel offers, and to obviate the conclusion which many are disposed to draw from this passage — that salvation is by works as well as by faith.
   To this objection Pareus answers, that the Apostle speaks here of salvation by the works of the law, not indeed as a thing possible, which he subsequently denies, but as a declaration of what it is, that he might thereby show the necessity of a gratuitous salvation which is by faith only. And this is the view which Mr. Haldane takes.

   But there is no need of having recourse to this hypothesis: for whenever judgment is spoken of even in the New Testament, it is ever represented in the same way, as being regulated in righteousness, according to the works of every individual. See Acts 17:31; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Colossians 3:24, 25; Revelation 20:12; Revelation 22:12.

   It will be a judgment, conducted according to the perfect rule of justice, with no respect of persons, with no regard to individuals as such, whether high or low, much or little favored as to outward privileges, but according to what their conduct has been, under the circumstances of their case. The rule, if heathens, will be the law of nature; if Jews, the law which had been given them. Judgment, as to its character, will be still the same to those under the gospel; it will be according to what the gospel requires. — Ed.

8. But to those who are contentious, etc. There is some irregularity in the passage; first, on account of its tenor being interrupted, for the thread of the discourse required, that the second clause of the contrast should be thus connected, — “The Lord will render to them, who by perseverance in good works, seek glory, and honor, and immortality, eternal life; but to the contentious and the disobedient, eternal death.” Then the conclusion might be joined, — “That for the former are prepared glory, and honor, and incorruption; and that for the latter are laid up wrath and misery.” There is another thing, — These words, indignation, wrath, tribulation, and anguish, are joined to two clauses in the context. However, the meaning of the passage is by no means obscure; and with this we must be satisfied in the Apostolic writings. From other writings must eloquence be learnt: here spiritual wisdom is to be sought, conveyed in a plain and simple style. 6767     With regard to the construction of this passage, 6-10, it may be observed, that it is formed according to the mode of Hebrew parallelism, many instances of which we meet with even in the prose writings of the New Testament. None of the ancients, nor any of the moderns, before the time of Bishop Lowth, understood much of the peculiar character of the Hebrew style. All the anomalies, noticed by Calvin, instantly vanish, when the passage is so arranged, as to exhibit the correspondence of its different parts. It consists of two general portions; the first includes three verses, Romans 2:6, 7, and 8; the other, the remaining three verses. The same things are mainly included in both portions, only in the latter there are some things additional, and explanatory, and the order is reversed, so that the passage ends with what corresponds with its beginning. To see the whole in a connected form, it is necessary to set it down in lines, in the following manner —
   6. Who will render to each according to his works, —

   7. To those indeed, who, by perseverance in well — doing, Seek glory and honor and immortality, — Eternal life

   8. But there shall be to them who are contentious And obey not the truth, but obey iniquity, —Indignation and wrath:

    Then follow the same things, the order being reversed —

   9. Distress and anguish shall be on every soul of man that worketh evil, — On the Jew first, and then on the Greek;

   10. But glory and honor and peace, To every one who worketh good, — To the Jew first and then to the Greek;

   11. For there is no respect of persons with God.

   The idea in the last and the first line is essentially the same. This repetition is for the sake of producing an impression. The character of the righteous, in the first part, is, that by persevering in doing good they seek glory, honor, and immortality, and their reward is to be eternal life: the character of the wicked is that of being contentious, disobedient to the truth, and obedient to unrighteousness, and their reward is to be indignation and wrath. The character of the first, in the second part, is, that they work good; and of the other, that they work evil: and the reward of the first is glory, honor, and peace, and the reward of the other, distress and anguish; which are the effects of indignation and wrath, as glory honor, and peace are the fruits or the constituent parts of eternal life. It is to be observed that priority in happiness, as well as priority in misery, is ascribed to the Jew. — Ed.

Contention is mentioned here for rebellion and stubbornness; for Paul was contending with hypocrites who, by their gross and supine self-indulgence, trifled with God. By the word truth, is simply meant the revealed will of God, which alone is the light of truth: for it is what belongs to all the ungodly, that they ever prefer to be in bondage to iniquity, rather than to receive the yoke of God; and whatever obedience they may pretend, yet they never cease perversely to clamor and struggle against God’s word. For as they who are openly wicked scoff at the truth, so hypocrites fear not to set up in opposition to it their artificial modes of worship. The Apostle further adds, that such disobedient persons obey or serve iniquity; for there is no middle course, which those who are unwilling to be in subjection to the law of the Lord can take, so as to be kept from falling immediately into the service of sin. And it is the just reward of outrageous licentiousness, that those become the bondslaves of sin who cannot endure the service of God. Indignation and wrath, so the character of the words induces me to render them; for θυμος in Greek means what the Latins call excandescentia — indignation, as Cicero teaches us, (Tusc. 4,) even a sudden burning of anger. As to the other words I follow Erasmus. But observe, that of the four which are mentioned, the two last are, as it were, the effects of the two first; for they who perceive that God is displeased and angry with them are immediately filled with confusion.

We may add, that though he might have briefly described, even in two words, the blessedness of the godly and also the misery of the reprobate, he yet enlarges on both subjects, and for this end — that he might more effectually strike men with the fear of God’s wrath, and sharpen their desire for obtaining grace through Christ: for we never fear God’s judgment as we ought, except it be set as it were by a lively description before our eyes; nor do we really burn with desire for future life, except when roused by strong incentives, (multis flabellis incitati — incited by many fans.)

9. To the Jew first, etc. He simply places, I have no doubt, the Jew in opposition to the Gentile; for those whom he calls Greeks he will presently call Gentiles. But the Jews take the precedence in this case, for they had, in preference to others, both the promises and the threatenings of the law; as though he had said, “This is the universal rule of the divine judgment; it shall begin with the Jews, and it shall include the whole world.”


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