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Romans 12:9-13

9. Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.

9. Dilectio sit non simulata; sitis aversantes malum, adherentes bono;

10. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;

10. Fraterna charitate ad vos mutuo amandos propensi, alii alios honore paevenientes;

11. Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;

11. Studio non pigri, spiritu ferventes, tempori servientes;

12. Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;

12. Spe gaudientes, in tribulatione patientes, in oratione perseverantes;

13. Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.

13. Necessitatibus sanctorum communicantes, hospitalitatem sectantes.

9. Let love be, etc. Proceeding now to speak of particular duties, he fitly begins with love, which is the bond of perfection. And respecting this he enjoins what is especially necessary, that all disguises are to be cast aside, and that love is to arise from pure sincerity of mind. It is indeed difficult to express how ingenious almost all men are to pretend a love which they really have not, for they not only deceive others, but impose also on themselves, while they persuade themselves that those are not loved amiss by them, whom they not only neglect, but really slight. Hence Paul declares here, that love is no other but that which is free from all dissimulation: and any one may easily be a witness to himself, whether he has anything in the recesses of his heart which is opposed to love. 390390     “Love,” says an old author, “is the sum and substance of all virtues. Philosophers make justice the queen of virtues; but love is the mother of justice, for it renders to God and to our neighbor what is justly due to them.” — Ed. The words good and evil, which immediately follow in the context, have not here a general meaning; but evil is to be taken for that malicious wickedness by which an injury is done to men; and good for that kindness, by which help is rendered to them; and there is here an antithesis usual in Scripture, when vices are first forbidden and then virtues enjoined.

As to the participle, ἀποστυγούντες, I have followed neither Erasmus nor the old translators, who have rendered it “hating, (odio habentes;) for in my judgment Paul intended to express something more; and the meaning of the term “turning away,” corresponds better with the opposite clause; for he not only bids us to exercise kindness, but even to cleave to it.

10. With brotherly love, etc. By no words could he satisfy himself in setting forth the ardor of that love, with which we ought to embrace one another: for he calls it brotherly, and its emotion στοργὴν, affection, which, among the Latins, is the mutual affection which exists between relatives; and truly such ought to be that which we should have towards the children of God. 391391     It is difficult to render this clause: Calvin’s words are, “Fraterna charitate ad vos mutuo amandos propensi;” so Beza. The Apostle joins two things — mutual love of brethren, with the natural love of parents and children, as though he said, “Let your brotherly love have in it the affectionate feelings which exists between parents and children.” “In brotherly love, be mutually full of tender affection,” Doddridge. “In brotherly love, be kindly disposed toward each other,” Macknight. It may be thus rendered, “In brotherly love, be tenderly affectionate to one another.”
   Calvin’s version of the next clause is, “Alii alios honore praevenientes;” so Erasmus; τὣ τιμὣ ἀλλήλους προηγούμενοι; “honore alii aliis praeuntes — in honor (that is, in conceding honor) going before one another,” Beza, Piscator, Macknight. It is thus explained by Mede, “Wait not for honor from others, but be the first to concede it.” The participle means to take the lead of, or outrunning, one another.” See Philippians 2:3Ed.
That this may be the case, he subjoins a precept very necessary for the preservation of benevolence, — that every one is to give honor to his brethren and not to himself; for there is no poison more effectual in alienating the minds of men than the thought, that one is despised. But if by honor you are disposed to understand every act of friendly kindness, I do not much object: I however approve more of the former interpretation. For as there is nothing more opposed to brotherly concord than contempt, arising from haughtiness, when each one, neglecting others, advances himself; so the best fomenter of love is humility, when every one honors others.

11. Not slothful in business, etc. This precept is given to us, not only because a Christian life ought to be an active life; but because it often becomes us to overlook our own benefit, and to spend our labors in behalf of our brethren. In a word, we ought in many things to forget ourselves; for except we be in earnest, and diligently strive to shake off all sloth, we shall never be rightly prepared for the service of Christ. 392392     “Studio non pigri,” τὣ σπουδὣ μὴ ὀκνηροι; “Be not slothful in haste,” that is, in a matter requiring haste. “We must strive,” says Theophylact, “to assist with promptness those whose circumstances require immediate help and relief.” — Ed

By adding fervent in spirit, he shows how we are to attain the former; for our flesh, like the ass, is always torpid, and has therefore need of goals; and it is only the fervency of the Spirit that can correct our slothfulness. Hence diligence in doing good requires that zeal which the Spirit of God kindles in our hearts. Why then, some one may say, does Paul exhort us to cultivate this fervency? To this I answer, — that though it be the gift of God, it is yet a duty enjoined the faithful to shake off sloth, and to cherish the flame kindled by heaven, as it for the most part happens, that the Spirit is suppressed and extinguished through our fault.

To the same purpose is the third particular, serving the time: for as the course of our life is short, the opportunity of doing good soon passes away; it hence becomes us to show more alacrity in the performance of our duty. So Paul bids us in another place to redeem the time, because the days are evil. The meaning may also be, that we ought to know how to accommodate ourselves to the time, which is a matter of great importance. But Paul seems to me to set in opposition to idleness what he commands as to the serving of time. But as κυρίῳ, the Lord, is read in many old copies, though it may seem at first sight foreign to this passage, I yet dare not wholly to reject this reading. And if it be approved, Paul, I have no doubt, meant to refer the duties to be performed towards brethren, and whatever served to cherish love, to a service done to God, that he might add greater encouragement to the faithful. 393393     The balance of evidence, according to Griesbach, is in favor, of τῷ καιρῷ, “time,” though there is much, too, which countenances the other reading. Luther, Erasmus, and Hammond prefer the former, while Beza, Piscator, Pareus, and most of the moderns, the latter. The most suitable to the context is the former. — Ed.

12. Rejoicing in hope, etc. Three things are here connected together, and seem in a manner to belong to the clause “serving the time;” for the person who accommodates himself best to the time, and avails himself of the opportunity of actively renewing his course, is he who derives his joy from the hope of future life, and patiently bears tribulations. However this may be, (for it matters not much whether you regard them as connected or separated,) he first; forbids us to acquiesce in present blessings, and to ground our joy on earth and on earthly things, as though our happiness were based on them; and he bids us to raise our minds up to heaven, that we may possess solid and full joy. If our joy is derived from the hope of future life, then patience will grow up in adversities; for no kind of sorrow will be able to overwhelm this joy. Hence these two things are closely connected together, that is, joy derived from hope, and patience in adversities. No man will indeed calmly and quietly submit to bear the cross, but he who has learnt to seek his happiness beyond this world, so as to mitigate and allay the bitterness of the cross with the consolation of hope.

But as both these things are far above our strength, we must be instant in prayer, and continually call on God, that he may not suffer our hearts to faint and to be pressed down, or to be broken by adverse events. But Paul not only stimulates us to prayer, but expressly requires perseverance; for we have a continual warfare, and new conflicts daily arise, to sustain which, even the strongest are not equal, unless they frequently gather new rigor. That we may not then be wearied, the best remedy is diligence in prayer.

13. Communicating to the necessities, 394394     There is here an instance of the depravation of the text by some of the fathers, such as Ambrose, Hilary, Pelagius, Optatus, etc., who substituted μνείας, monuments, for χρείας, necessities, or wants: but though there are a few copies which have this reading, yet it has been discarded by most; it is not found in the Vulgate, nor approved by Erasmus nor Grotius. The word was introduced evidently, as Whitby intimates, to countenance the superstition of the early Church respecting the monuments or sepulchres of martyrs and confessors. The fact, that there were no monuments of martyrs at this time in Rome, was wholly overlooked. — Ed. etc. He returns to the duties of love; the chief of which is to do good to those from whom we expect the least recompense. As then it commonly happens, that they are especially despised who are more than others pressed down with want and stand in need of help, (for the benefits conferred on them are regarded as lost,) God recommends them to us in an especial manner. It is indeed then only that we prove our love to be genuine, when we relieve needy brethren, for no other reason but that of exercising our benevolence. Now hospitality is not one of the least acts of love; that is, that kindness and liberality which are shown towards strangers, for they are for the most part destitute of all things, being far away from their friends: he therefore distinctly recommends this to us. We hence see, that the more neglected any one commonly is by men, the more attentive we ought to be to his wants.

Observe also the suitableness of the expression, when he says, that we are to communicate to the necessities of the saints; by which he implies, that we ought so to relieve the wants of the brethren, as though we were relieving our own selves. And he commands us to assist especially the saints: for though our love ought to extend itself to the whole race of man, yet it ought with peculiar feeling to embrace the household of faith, who are by a closer bond united to us.


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