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2I can testify that they have a zeal for God, but it is not enlightened.

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1. We here see with what solicitude the holy man obviated offenses; for in order to soften whatever sharpness there may have been in his manner of explaining the rejection of the Jews, he still testifies, as before, his goodwill towards them, and proves it by the effect; for their salvation was an object of concern to him before the Lord, and such a feeling arises only from genuine love. It may be at the same time that he was also induced by another reason to testify his love towards the nation from which he had sprung; for his doctrine would have never been received by the Jews had they thought that he was avowedly inimical to them; and his defection would have been also suspected by the Gentiles, for they would have thought, as we have said in the last chapter, that he became an apostate from the law through his hatred of men. 319319     Calvin’s Latin for this verse is: “Fratres, benevolentia certe cordis mei et deprecatio ad Deum super Israel est in salutem — Brethren, the goodwill indeed of my heart and prayer to God for Israel is for their salvation.” The word for “goodwill,” εὐδοκία, means a kind disposition towards another, it means here a benevolent or a sincere desire, or, according to Theophylact, an earnest desire. Doddridge renders it “affectionate desire;” Beza, “propensa voluntas — propense wish;” and Stuart, “kind desire.”
   At the beginning of the last chapter the Apostle expressed his great grief for his brethren the Jews, he now expresses his great love towards them, and his strong desire for their highest good — their salvation. — Ed.

2. For I bear to them a testimony, etc. This was intended to secure credit to his love. There was indeed a just cause why he should regard them with compassion rather than hatred, since he perceived that they had fallen only through ignorance, and not through malignancy of mind, and especially as he saw that they were not led except by some regard for God to persecute the kingdom of Christ. Let us hence learn where our good intentions may guide us, if we yield to them. It is commonly thought a good and a very fit excuse, when he who is reproved pretends that he meant no harm. And this pretext is held good by many at this day, so that they apply not their minds to find out the truth of God, because they think that whatever they do amiss through ignorance, without any designed maliciousness, but with good intention, is excusable. But no one of us would excuse the Jews for having crucified Christ, for having cruelly raged against the Apostles, and for having attempted to destroy and extinguish the gospel; and yet they had the same defense as that in which we confidently glory. Away then with these vain evasions as to good intention; if we seek God sincerely, let us follow the way by which alone we can come to him. For it is better, as Augustine says, even to go limping in the right way than to run with all our might out of the way. If we would be really religious, let us remember that what Lactantius teaches is true, that true religion is alone that which is connected with the word of God. 320320     “A zeal of God,” ζήλον Θεοῦ, is a zeal for God, a genitive case of the object. Some regard “God” here as meaning something great, as it is sometimes used in Hebrew, and render the phrase, as Macknight does, “a great zeal;” but this is not required by the context. The Jews had professedly “a zeal for God,” but not accompanied with knowledge. The necessity of knowledge as the guide of zeal is noted by Turrettin in four particulars: 1. That we may distinguish truth from falsehood, as there may be zeal for error and false doctrine as well as for that which is true; 2. That we may understand the comparative importance of things, so as not to make much of what is little, and make little account of what is great; 3. That we may prosecute and defend the truth in the right way, with prudence, firmness, fidelity, and meekness; 4. That our zeal may have the right object, not our own interest and reputation, but the glory of God and the salvation of men. — Ed.

And further, since we see that they perish, who with good intention wander in darkness, let us bear in mind, that we are worthy of thousand deaths, if after having been illuminated by God, we wander knowingly and willfully from the right way.