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MANY of the writings of the New Testament are written in the form of epistles. Such are not only those of St. Paul, James, Peter, Jude, but also both the treatises of St. Luke, and all the writings of St. John. Nay, we have seven epistles herein which the Lord Jesus himself sent by the hand of John to the seven churches; yea, the whole Rev. is no other than an epistle from Him. Concerning the epistles of St. Paul, we may observe, he writes in a very different manner to those churches which he had planted himself, and to those who had not seen his face in the flesh. In his letters to the former, a loving or sharp familiarity appears, as their behaviour was more or less suitable to the gospel. To the latter, he proposes the pure, unmixed gospel, in a more general and abstract manner. As to the time wherein he wrote his epistles, it is probable he wrote about the year of Christ, according to the common reckoning, 48 From Corinth, The Epistle to the Thessalonians. 49 From Phrygia, To the Galatians. 52 From Ephesus, The First to the Corinthians. From Troas, The First Epistle to Timothy. From Macedonia,The Second to the Corinthians, and that to Titus. From Corinth, To the Romans. 57 From Rome, To the Philippians, to Philemon, the Ephesians, and Colossians. 53 From Italy, To the Hebrews. 66 From Rome, The Second to Timothy. As to the general epistles, it seems, St. James wrote a little before his death, which was A. D. 63. St. Peter, who was martyred in the year 67, wrote his latter epistle a little before his death, and not long after his former. St. Jude wrote after him, when the mystery of iniquity was gaining ground swiftly. St. John is believed to have wrote all his epistles a little before his departure. The Revelation he wrote A. D. 96. That St. Paul wrote this epistle from Corinth we may learn from his commending to the Roman Phebe, a servant of the church of Cenchrea, chap. xvi, 1, a port of Corinth; and from his mentioning the salutations of Caius and Erastus, chap. xvi, 23, who were both Corinthians. Those to whom he wrote seem to have been chiefly foreigners, both Jews and gentiles, whom business drew from other provinces; as appears, both by his writing in Greek, and by his salutations of several former acquaintance. His chief design herein is to show,

1, That neither the gentiles by the law of nature, nor the Jews by the law of Moses, could obtain justification before God; and that therefore it was necessary for both to seek it from the free mercy of God by faith.

2, That God has an absolute right to show mercy on what terms he pleases, and to withhold it from those who will not accept it on his own terms. This Epistle consists of five parts: -

I. The introduction, C.i.1-15

II. The proposition briefly proved,

1. Concerning faith and justification,

2. Concerning salvation,

3. Concerning the equality of believers, Jews or gentiles, 16-17 To these three parts, whereof The first is treated of, C.i.18-iv. The second, C.v-viii. The third, C.ix.-xi not only the treatise itself, but also the exhortation, answers in the same order.

III. The treatise,

1. Concerning justification, which is, (1.) Not by works, for C.i.18 The gentiles, C.ii.1-10 The Jews, and 11-29 Both together are under sin, C.iii.1-20 (2.) But by faith, 21-31 as appears by the example of Abraham, and the testimony of David, C.iv.1-25

2. Concerning salvation, C.v.-viii.

3. Concerning the equal privileges of Jewish and gentile believers, C.ix.-xi.

IV. The exhortation, C.xii.1-2

1. Concerning faith and its fruits, love and practical holiness, 3-21 C.xiii.1-10

2. Concerning salvation, 11-14

3. Of the conjunction of Jews and gentiles,. C.xiv.1-xv.13

V. The conclusion, 14-xvi.25 To express the design and contents of this epistle a little more at large: The apostle labours throughout to fix in those to whom he writes a deep sense of the excellency of the gospel, and to engage them to act suitably to it. For this purpose, after a general salutation, chap. i, 1-7, and profession of his affection for them, chap. i, 8-15, he declares he shall not be ashamed openly to maintain the gospel at Rome, seeing it is the powerful instrument of salvation, both to Jews and gentiles, by means of faith, chap. i, 16, 17. And, in order to demonstrate this, he shows,

1. That the world greatly needed such a dispensation, the gentiles being in a most abandoned state, chap. i, 18-32, and the Jews, though condemning others, being themselves no better, chap. ii, 1- 29; as, not withstanding some cavils, which he obviates, chap. iii, 1-8, their own scriptures testify, chap. iii, 9-19. So that all were under a necessity of seeking justification by this method, chap. iii, 20-31.

2. That Abraham and David themselves sought justification by faith, and not by works, chap. iv, 1-25.

3. That all who believe are brought into so happy a state, as turns the greatest afflictions into a matter of joy, chap. v, 1-11.

4. That the evils brought on mankind by Adam are abundantly recompensed to all that believe in Christ, chap. v, 12-21.

5. That, far from dissolving the obligations to practical holiness, the gospel increases them by peculiar obligations, chap. vi, 1-23. In order to convince them of these things the more deeply, and to remove their fondness for the Mosaic law, now they were married to Christ by faith in him, chap. vii, 1-6, he shows how unable the motives of the law were to produce that holiness which believers obtain by a living faith in the gospel, chap. vii, 7-25, viii, 1, 2, and then gives a more particular view of those things which rendered the gospel effectual to this great end, chap. viii, 3-39. That even the gentiles, if they believed, should have a share in these blessings, and that the Jews, if they believed not, should be excluded from them, being a point of great importance, the apostle bestows the ninth, tenth, and eleventh chapters in settling it. He begins the ninth chapter by expressing his tender love and high esteem for the Jewish nation, chap. ix, 1-5, and then shows,

1. That God's rejecting great part of the seed of Abraham, yea, and of Isaac too, was undeniable fact, chap. ix, 6-13.

2. That God had not chosen them to such peculiar privileges for any kind of goodness either in them or their fathers, chap. ix, 14- 24.

3. That his accepting the gentiles, and rejecting many of the Jews, had been foretold both by Hosea and Isaiah, chap. ix, 25-33.

4. That God had offered salvation to Jews and gentiles on the same terms, though the Jews had rejected it, chap. x, 1-21.

5. That though the rejection of Israel for their obstinacy was general, yet it was not total; there being still a remnant among them who did embrace the gospel, chap. xi, 1-10.

6. That the rejection of the rest was not final, but in the end all Israel should be saved, chap. xi, 11-31.

7. That, meantime, even their obstinacy and rejection served to display the unsearchable wisdom and love of God, chap. xi, 32- 36. The rest of the epistle contains practical instructions and exhortations. He particularly urges,

1. An entire consecration of themselves to God, and a care to glorify Him by a faithful improvement of their several talents, chap. vii, 1-11.

2. Devotion, patience, hospitality, mutual sympathy, humility, peace, and meekness, chap. vii, 12-21.

3. Obedience to magistrates, justice in all its branches, love the fulfilling of the law, and universal holiness, chap. viii, 1-14.

4. Mutual candour between those who differed in judgment, touching the observance of the Mosaic law, chap. xiv, 1-23, xv, 1- 17; in enforcing which he is led to mention the extent of his own labours, and his purpose of visiting the Romans; in the mean time recommending himself to their prayers, chap. xv, 18-33. And, after many salutations, chap. xvi, 1-16, and a caution against those who caused divisions, he concludes with a suitable blessing and doxology, chap. xvi, 17-27.


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