19. Now we know, that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.
19. Scimus autem quod quæcunque Lex dicit, iis qui in Lege sunt loquitur; ut omne os obstruatur, et obnoxius fiat omnis mundus Deo. 1
20. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
20. Quoniam ex operibus Legis non justificabitur omnis caro coram ipso; per Legem enim agnitio peccati.
As to those things which have been adduced by learned men in defense of this opinion, they are weaker than they might have been. They think that by mentioning circumcision, an example is propounded, which belonged to ceremonies only: but why Paul mentioned circumcision, we have already explained; for none swell more with confidence in works than hypocrites, and we know that they glory only in external masks; and then circumcision, according to their view, was a sort of initiation into the righteousness of the law; and hence it seemed to them a work of primary excellence, and indeed the basis as it were of the righteousness of works. -- They also allege what is said in the Epistle to the Galatians, where Paul handles the same subject, and refers to ceremonies only; but that also is not sufficiently strong to support what they wish to defend. It is certain that Paul had a controversy with those who inspired the people with a false confidence in ceremonies; that he might cut of this confidence, he did not confine himself to ceremonies, nor did he speak specifically of what value they were; but he included the whole law, as it is evident from those passages which are derived from that source. Such also was the character of the disputation held at Jerusalem by the disciples.
But we contend, not without reason, that Paul speaks here of the whole law; for we are abundantly supported by the thread of reasoning which he has hitherto followed and continues to follow, and there are many other passages which will not allow us to think otherwise. It is therefore a truth, which deserves to be remembered as the first in importance, -- that by keeping the law no one can attain righteousness. He had before assigned the reason, and he will repeat it presently again, and that is, that all, being to a man guilty of transgression, are condemned for unrighteousness by the law. And these two things -- to be justified by works -- and to be guilty of transgressions, (as we shall show more at large as we proceed,) are wholly inconsistent the one with the other. -- The word
1 Obnoxius Deo --
2 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.
3 The original is "ut in priorem opinionem concederent:" but the context shows clearly that "priorem" is a misprint for "posteriorem. In addition to the authors mentioned here may be added Ambrose, Theodoret, Pelagius, Erasmus, and Grotius. And yet, notwithstanding all those authorities, the opinion referred to is wholly inconsistent with the reasoning of the Apostle here and throughout the whole Epistle. It has indeed been given up as untenable by modern authors of the same school, such as Locke, Whitby, and Macknight.
To disprove this notion it is sufficient to notice the sins which the Apostle had referred to; they are not those against the ceremonial but the moral law, and it is because the moral law is transgressed that it cannot justify.
"If there be any law which man has perfectly kept, he may doubtless be justified by it; and surely no man can be justified by a law which condemns him for breaking it. But there is no law of God which any man has kept; therefore no law by the deeds of which a man can be justified. The Gentile broke the law of his reason and conscience; the Jew broke the moral law; and even the attempt to justify himself by observing the ceremonial law, contradicted the very nature and intent of it." -- Scott.
4 The argument and the reasoning of the Apostle seem to require that
5 The expression is