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19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.

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19. Now we know, etc. Leaving the Gentiles, he distinctly addresses his words to the Jews; for he had a much more difficult work in subduing them, because they, though no less destitute of true righteousness than the Gentiles, yet covered themselves with the cloak of God’s covenant, as though it was a sufficient holiness to them to have been separated from the rest of the world by the election of God. And he indeed mentions those evasions which he well understood the Jews were ready to bring forward; for whatever was said in the law unfavorably of mankind, they usually applied to the Gentiles, as though they were exempt from the common condition of men, and no doubt they would have been so, had they not fallen from their own dignity. Hence, that no false conceit as to their own worthiness should be a hinderance to them, and that they might not confine to the Gentiles alone what applied to them in common with others, Paul here anticipates them, and shows, from what Scripture declares, that they were not only blended with the multitude, but that condemnation was peculiarly denounced on them. And we indeed see the discretion of the Apostle in undertaking to refute these objections; for to whom but to the Jews had the law been given, and to whose instruction but theirs ought it to have served? What then it states respecting others is as it were accidental; or as they say, παρεργον, an appendage; but it applies its teaching mainly to its own disciples.

Under the law He says that the Jews were those to whom the law was destined, it hence follows, that it especially regards them; and under the word law he includes also the Prophets, and so the whole of the Old Testament — That every mouth may be stopped, etc.; that is, that every evasion may be cut off, and every occasion for excuse. It is a metaphor taken from courts of law, where the accused, if he has anything to plead as a lawful defense, demands leave to speak, that he might clear himself from the things laid to his charge; but if he is convicted by his own conscience, he is silent, and without saying a word waits for his condemnation, being even already by his own silence condemned. Of the same meaning is this saying in Job 40:4, “I will lay my hand on my mouth.” He indeed says, that though he was not altogether without some kind of excuse, he would yet cease to justify himself, and submit to the sentence of God. The next clause contains the explanation; for his mouth is stopped, who is so fast held by the sentence of condemnation, that he can by no means escape. According to another sense, to be silent before the Lord is to tremble at his majesty, and to stand mute, being astonished at his brightness. 105105     To see the force and meaning of this verse, we must bear in mind that the former part was said to prevent the Jews from evading the application of the preceding testimonies; and then the words “that every mouth,” etc., and “that all the world,” etc., were added, not so much to include the Gentiles, as to include the Jews, who thought themselves exempted. No doubt the Gentiles are included, but the special object of the Apostle evidently seems to prevent the Jews from supposing that they were not included. In no other way can the connection between the two parts of the verse be understood. — Ed.