14. For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:
14. Quum enim Gentes, quæ Legem non habent, natura quæ Legis sunt faciant, ipsæ, Legem non habentes, sibi ipsæ sunt Lex:
15. Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;
15. Quæ ostendunt opus Legis scriptum in cordibus suis, simul attestante ipsorum conscientia et cogitationibus inter se accusantibus aut etiam excusantibus,
16. In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.
16. In die qua judicabit Deus occulta hominum, secundum Evangelium meum, per Iesum Christum.
Without reason then is the power of the will deduced from this passage, as though Paul had said, that the keeping of the law is within our power; for he speaks not of the power to fulfill the law, but of the knowledge of it. Nor is the word
"The Lord hath not given thee a heart to understand;"
and in Luke 24:25,
"O foolish men, and slow in heart to believe."
Nor can we conclude from this passage, that there is in men a full knowledge of the law, but that there are only some seeds of what is right implanted in their nature, evidenced by such acts as these -- All the Gentiles alike instituted religious rites, they made laws to punish adultery, and theft, and murder, they commended good faith in bargains and contracts. They have thus indeed proved, that God ought to be worshipped, that adultery, and theft, and murder are evils, that honesty is commendable. It is not to our purpose to inquire what sort of God they imagined him to be, or how many gods they devised; it is enough to know, that they thought that there is a God, and that honor and worship are due to him. It matters not whether they permitted the coveting of another man's wife, or of his possessions, or of any thing which was his, -- whether they connived at wrath and hatred; inasmuch as it was not right for them to covet what they knew to be evil when done.
But observe how intelligently he defines conscience: he says, that reasons come to our minds, by which we defend what is rightly done, and that there are those which accuse and reprove us for our vices; 3 and he refers this process of accusation and defense to the day of the Lord; not that it will then first commence, for it is now continually carried on, but that it will then also be in operation; and he says this, that no one should disregard this process, as though it were vain and evanescent. And he has put,
1 As to the phrase, "these are a law unto themselves," Venema adduces classical examples --
The heathens themselves acknowledged a law of nature. Turrettin quotes a passage from a lost work of Cicero, retained by Lactantius, which remarkably coincides with the language of Paul here -- Ed.
2 By the work of the law,
3 Calvin seems to consider that the latter part of the verse is only a expansion or an exposition of the preceding clause respecting "conscience:" but it seems to contain a distinct idea. The testimony of conscience is one thing, which is instantaneous, without reflection: and the thoughts or the reasonings --
Another view of the latter clause is given by Doddridge, Macknight, Haldane, and Chalmers. The last gives this paraphrase of the whole verse, -- "For they show that the matter of the law is written in their hearts -- both from their conscience testifying what is right and wrong in their own conduct, and from their reasonings in which they either accuse or vindicate one another."
But to regard the two clauses as referring to conscience and the inward workings of the mind, appears more consistent with the context. The Gentiles are those spoken of: God gave them no outward law, but the law of nature which is inward. Hence in the following verse he speaks of God as judging "the secrets of men," as the inward law will be the rule of judgment to the Gentiles -- Ed.
4 In accordance with some of the fathers, Jerome, Chrysostom, Theophylact, and others, Calvin connects this with the immediately preceding verse: but almost all modern critics connect it with the 12th verse, and consider what intervenes as parenthetic. This is according to our version. In the Romans 2:12, both the Gentile and the Jew are spoken of, and that with reference to judgment. In this verse the time and the character of that judgment are referred to, and its character especially as to the Gentile, as his case is particularly delineated in the parenthesis. The Apostle then, in what follows, turns to the Jew. "According to my gospel" must be understood, not as though the gospel is to be the rule of judgment to the Gentile, but as to the fact, that Christ is appointed to be the Judge of all. See Acts 17:31. -- Ed.