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Romans 10:14-17

14. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?

14. Quomodo ergo invocabunt eum in quem non crediderint? quomodo vero in eum credent de quo non audiverint? quomodo autem audient absque praedicante?

15. And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!

15. Quomodo autem praedicabunt nisi mittantur? Quemadmodum scriptum est, Quam pulchri pedes annuntiantium pacem, annuntiantium bona!

16. But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?

16. Sed non omnes obedierunt evangelio; Iesaias enim dicit, Domine, quis credidit sermoni nostro?

17. So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

17. Ergo fides ex auditu, auditus autem per verbum Dei.

I shall not engage the reader long in reciting and disproving the opinions of others. Let every one have his own view; and let me be allowed to bring forward what I think. That you may then understand the design of this gradation, bear in mind first, that there was a mutual connection between the calling of the Gentiles and the ministry of Paul, which he exercised among them; so that on the evidence for the one depended the evidence for the other. It was now necessary for Paul to prove, beyond a doubt, the calling of the Gentiles, and, at the same time, to give a reason for his own ministry, lest he should seem to extend the favor of God without authority, to withhold from the children the bread intended for them by God, and to bestow it on dogs. But these things he therefore clears up at the same time.

But how he connects the thread of his discourse, will not be fully understood, until every part be in order explained. The import of what he advances is the same as though he had said, “Both Jews and Gentiles, by calling on the name of God, do thereby declare that they believe on him; for a true calling on God’s name cannot be except a right knowledge of him were first had. Moreover, faith is produced by the word of God, but the word of God is nowhere preached, except through God’s special providence and appointment. Where then there is a calling on God, there is faith; and where faith is, the seed of the word has preceded; where there is preaching there is the calling of God. Now where his calling is thus efficacious and fruitful, there is there a clear and indubitable proof of the divine goodness. It will hence at last appear, that the Gentiles are not to be excluded from the kingdom of God, for God has admitted them into a participation of his salvation. For as the cause of faith among them is the preaching of the gospel, so the cause of preaching is the mission of God, by which it had pleased him in this manner to provide for their salvation.” We shall now consider each portion by itself.

14. How shall they call? etc. Paul intends here to connect prayer with faith, as they are indeed things most closely connected, for he who calls on God betakes himself, as it were, to the only true haven of salvation, and to a most secure refuge; he acts like the son, who commits himself into the bosom of the best and the most loving of fathers, that he may be protected by his care, cherished by his kindness and love, relieved by his bounty, and supported by his power. This is what no man can do who has not previously entertained in his mind such a persuasion of God’s paternal kindness towards him, that he dares to expect everything from him.

He then who calls on God necessarily feels assured that there is protection laid up for him; for Paul speaks here of that calling which is approved by God. Hypocrites also pray, but not unto salvation; for it is with no conviction of faith. It hence appears how completely ignorant are all the schoolmen, who doubtingly present themselves before God, being sustained by no confidence. Paul thought far otherwise; for he assumes this as an acknowledged axiom, that we cannot rightly pray unless we are surely persuaded of success. For he does not refer here to hesitating faith, but to that certainty which our minds entertain respecting his paternal kindness, when by the gospel he reconciles us to himself, and adopts us for his children. By this confidence only we have access to him, as we are also taught in Ephesians 3:12.

But, on the other hand, learn that true faith is only that which brings forth prayer to God; for it cannot be but that he who has tasted the goodness of God will ever by prayer seek the enjoyment of it.

How shall they believe on him? etc. The meaning is, that we are in a manner mute until God’s promise opens our mouth to pray, and this is the order which he points out by the Prophet, when he says, “I will say to them, my people are ye;” and they shall say to me, “Thou art our God.” (Zechariah 13:9.) It belongs not indeed to us to imagine a God according to what we may fancy; we ought to possess a right knowledge of him, such as is set forth in his word. And when any one forms an idea of God as good, according to his own understanding, it is not a sure nor a solid faith which he has, but an uncertain and evanescent imagination; it is therefore necessary to have the word, that we may have a right knowledge of God. No other word has he mentioned here but that which is preached, because it is the ordinary mode which the Lord has appointed for conveying his word. But were any on this account to contend that God cannot transfer to men the knowledge of himself, except by the instrumentality of preaching, we deny that to teach this was the Apostle’s intention; for he had only in view the ordinary dispensation of God, and did not intend to prescribe a law for the distribution of his grace.

15. How shall they preach except they be sent? etc. He intimates that it is a proof and a pledge of divine love when any nation is favored with the preaching of the gospel; and that no one is a preacher of it, but he whom God has raised up in his special providence, and that hence there is no doubt but that he visits that nation to whom the gospel is proclaimed. But as Paul does not treat here of the lawful call of any one, it would be superfluous to speak at large on the subject. It is enough for us to bear this only in mind, that the gospel does not fall like rain from the clouds, but is brought by the hands of men wherever it is sent from above.

As it is written, How beautiful, etc. We are to apply this testimony to our present subject in this manner, The Lord, when he gave hope of deliverance to his people, commended the advent of those who brought the glad tidings of peace, by a remarkable eulogy; by this very circumstance he has made it evident that the apostolic ministry was to be held in no less esteem, by which the message of eternal life is brought to us. And it hence follows, that it is from God, since there is nothing in the world that is an object of desire and worthy of praise, which does not proceed from his hand. 331331     “This prophecy,” say Gomarus, “has not two meanings — the proper and the allegorical, as the Papists foolishly assert, but two fulfillments; the first when heralds announced the return of the people from Babylon to their own country; and the second, (shadowed forth by the first as its destined type,) when the heralds of the gospel announced and proclaimed its tidings to the world.” — Ed.

But hence we also learn how much ought all good men to desire, and how much they ought to value the preaching of the gospel, which is thus commended to us by the mouth of the Lord himself. Nor is there indeed a doubt, but that God has thus highly spoken of the incomparable value of this treasure, for the purpose of awakening the minds of all, so that they may anxiously desire it. Take feet, by metonymy, for coming. 332332     This passage is taken from Isaiah 52:7. This is a striking instance that the Apostle quotes not from the Septuagint, when that version materially departs from the Hebrew, as is the case here. Though it appears to be a version of his own, he yet gives not the original literally, but accommodates it to his own purpose: he leaves out “on the mountains,” and adopts the plural number instead of the singular, both as to the participle “announcing” or evangelizing, and as to the word “good.” The words peace, good, and salvation, in Hebrew, seem to refer to the same thing, according to the usual style of the Prophets.
   The words of Paul, as rendered by Calvin, coincide more with the Hebrew, than as they are rendered in our common version. The verb εὐαγγελίζω, is often used simply in the sense of announcing, publishing, declaring or preaching, as in Luke 3:18; 4:43; Acts 5:42, etc.; and in this sense it exactly corresponds with בשר, which means the same, though the other idea of the Greek verb, that of evangelizing, has been wrongly given to it; for it is applied to the announcing of bad as well as of good news. — Ed.

16. But all have not obeyed the gospel, etc. This belongs not to the argument, which Paul designed to follow in the gradation he lays down; nor does he refer to it in the conclusion which immediately follows. It was yet expedient for Paul to introduce the sentence here, in order to anticipate an objection, lest any one should build an argument on what he had said, — that the word in order always precedes faith, as the seed the corn, — and draw this inference, that faith everywhere follows the word: for Israel, who had never been without the word, might have made a boast of this kind. It was therefore necessary, that, in passing, he should give them this intimation, — that many are called, who are yet not chosen.

He also quotes a passage from Isaiah 53:1; where the Prophet, before he proceeds to announce a remarkable prediction respecting the death and the kingdom of Christ, speaks with astonishment of the few number of believers, who appeared to him in the Spirit to be so few, that he was constrained to exclaim, “O Lord, who has believed our report?” that is, the word which we preach. For though in Hebrew the term שמועה, shimuoe, means passively a word, 333333     Or, what is heard; it being a noun from שמע, to hear, in its passive sense, it signifies a report, a message, or any tidings conveyed to the hearing of men. The Greek word ἀκοή is used in various senses, as signifying the act of hearing, Matthew 13:14, — the faculty of hearing, 1 Corinthians 12:17, — the organ of hearing, the ear, Mark 7:35, — and what is heard, a word, a report, as here and in John 12:38 Schleusner refers to instances in the classics in which the word is used in all these meanings. It is not necessary, nor is it in accordance with the usual manner of the Apostle, to give the word the same meaning in the next verse as in this. It is the practice of the Apostle to use the same words in different senses in the same passage. See Romans 4:18; Romans 8:24. Here it means what is heard, report; and in the following verse, the act, that is, hearing. — Ed. yet the Greeks have rendered it, ἀκοὴνhearing, and the Latins, auditumhearing; incorrectly indeed, but with no ambiguity in the meaning.

We now see why this exception was by the way introduced; it was, that no one might suppose that faith necessarily follows where there is preaching. He however does afterwards point out the reason, by saying, “To whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” by which he intimates that there is no benefit from the word, except when God shines in us by the light of his Spirit; and thus the inward calling, which alone is efficacious and peculiar to the elect, is distinguished from the outward voice of men. It is hence evident, how foolishly some maintain, that all are indiscriminately the elect, because the doctrine of salvation is universal, and because God invites all indiscriminately to himself. But the generality of the promises does not alone and by itself make salvation common to all: on the contrary, the peculiar revelation, mentioned by the Prophet, confines it to the elect.

17. Faith then is by hearing, etc. We see by this conclusion what Paul had in view by the gradation which he formed; it was to show, that wherever faith is, God has there already given an evidence of his election; and then, that he, by pouring his blessing on the ministration of the gospel, to illuminate the minds of men by faith, and thereby to lead them to call on his name, had thus testified, that the Gentiles were admitted by him into a participation of the eternal inheritance.

And this is a remarkable passage with regard to the efficacy of preaching; for he testifies, that by it faith is produced. He had indeed before declared, that of itself it is of no avail; but that when it pleases the Lord to work, it becomes the instrument of his power. And indeed the voice of man can by no means penetrate into the soul; and mortal man would be too much exalted, were he said to have the power to regenerate us; the light also of faith is something sublimer than what can be conveyed by man: but all these things are no hindrances, that God should not work effectually through the voice of man, so as to create faith in us through his ministry.

It must be further noticed, that faith is grounded on nothing else but the truth of God; for Paul does not teach us that faith springs from any other kind of doctrine, but he expressly restricts it to the word of God; and this restriction would have been improper if faith could rest on the decrees of men. Away then with all the devices of men when we speak of the certainty of faith. Hence also the Papal conceit respecting implicit faith falls to the ground, because it tears away faith from the word; and more detestable still is that blasphemy, that the truth of the word remains suspended until the authority of the Church establishes it.


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