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An Exposition Of the Epistles Of Saint Paul And Of The Catholic Epistles Volumes 1&2

Analysis

After premising with the usual Apostolical salutation (verses 1–7), the Apostle enters on the exordium of this Epistle, in which he displays consummate prudence, admirably calculated to render the Romans well affected towards him, and attentive to the instructions which he intends proposing to them (7–17). He next lays down the proposition or great subject of the Epistle, viz., that Justification is derived neither from the Law of Moses nor from the strength of nature, as the Jewish and Gentile converts at Rome respectively imagined, but from a source quite different, viz., from faith (17). With a view of showing how far their multiplied sins rendered the Gentiles deserving objects of the heavy anger of God, with which sinners are menaced in the Gospel (18), the Apostle, in the next place, draws a frightful picture of the abominable crimes into which those who were reputed the wisest among the Pagans, viz., their learned Philosophers, had fallen; he describes their abandonment of God, their idolatry, their unnatural lusts, and their other violations of the Natural Law; and leaves it to be inferred, that whereas these Philosophers were reputed the wisest and the most virtuous among the Gentiles, and the virtues which they practised made a subject of boasting among the people, the great mass of the Gentile world must, therefore, be sunk still deeper in vice and immorality; and, consequently, instead of having a claim to the Gospel on the ground of their exalted natural virtues, as the Gentile converts pretended, they were rather deserving of death and punishment.

Paraphrase

1. Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, by divine vocation, an apostle, by a special and singular choice of the Holy Ghost set apart to announce the glad tidings of Redemption contained in the Gospel of God,

2. A Gospel proposing nothing either false of novel; but long since promised by God through the oracles of the prophets contained in the inspired Scriptures.

3. This Gospel had reference to the Son of God, endowed with divine and human natures, who, according to his human nature, was born to Him in time of the Virgin Mary, being herself of the seed of David.

4. Who, regarded according to this same human nature, or, as terminating human nature, was predestinated from eternity to become, in time, the Son of God (by being united personally with the Second Person of the Adorable Trinity); and this he was shown to be, by the divine power, which he had, of working miracles, by the sending of the Holy Ghost upon the faithful; and particularly, by raising himself from the dead.

5. Through him, both as God and man, we have received the grace and office of Apostleship to be exercised in his name and behalf, throughout all nations, in order that they may be brought to submit their reason to faith and embrace the Gospel.

6. Among which nations given in charge to me, you, Romans, who by divine vocation are Christians, are to be reckoned; hence, it is in quality of Apostle, I address to you this Epistle.

7. (Salutes) all who are at Rome, the beloved of God called to a state and profession of sanctity. May you enjoy the abundance of all spiritual gifts, and the quiet, undisturbed possession of the same from their efficient cause, God the Father, and their meritorious cause, Jesus Christ, who is, in a special manner, our Lord, in right of Redemption.

8. And indeed, in the first place, I give thanks, on your account, to my God, through Jesus Christ, the source of all spiritual blessings, because your faith is a subject of universal celebrity throughout all parts of the known world.

9. For, I call God to witness, whom I worship and serve with all the ardour and energies of my mind in the cause of the Gospel of his Son, that I make continual commemoration of you (10) in my prayers, always entreating him, that by some means I may possibly obtain the fulfilment of my anxious wishes of paying you a visit, should God will it so.

11. For I eagerly long to visit you, not from worldly or selfish motives, but in order to impart to you some spiritual gift which will serve to confirm you in the faith you have already received.

12. Or, to speak more correctly, in order to derive together with you, consolation from the mutual communication of our common faith.

13. For, I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that I have often purposed visiting you (but certain obstacles intervened up to the present moment), in order to reap some fruit among you also, as I have done among other nations.

14. To the civilized and uncivilized nations, to the learned and unlearned, I am, in virtue of my office as Apostle, bound to preach the Gospel.

15. And hence (as far as in me lies, and in the absence of contrary obstacles), I am willing and ready to discharge this debt towards you at Rome, by announcing to you also the glad tidings of Redemption.

16. For, although the preaching of the Gospel of a crucified God be to the Jew a scandal, and to the Gentile folly; still, I am not ashamed to announce it even in the mighty city of Rome, for, it is the powerful instrument whereby is conferred salvation on every one who embraces it, by believing its doctrine, on the Jew first and on the Gentile.

17. For it stimulates men to seek true justice by revealing to us the source from which real justification is derived; and that source is,—neither the law of Moses nor the law of Nature, but—faith as the root, faith as the abiding, conservative principle of this justice. And this is no new doctrine, but a doctrine revealed to us of old by the prophet Habacuc (chap. 2) who tells us, the just man liveth by faith.

18. The Gospel of God is the powerful instrument of salvation on another ground; for, it serves to deter us from the commission of sin by clearly revealing the heavy anger of God, which will one day (on the day of judgment) be visited on those men from heaven, who by impiety have sinned against religion, and by injustice have injured their neighbour, unjustly concealing the truth of God, and not showing it forth in their conduct.

19. They unjustly concealed the knowledge of God. For, the Pagan philosophers to whom I refer, had a knowledge of whatever could be known concerning God, from the light of reason; for, God himself gave a clear, certain knowledge of himself to them, by the aid of natural reason.

20. For, since the creation of the world, his invisible attributes are clearly seen: not by the eyes of the body, but by the light of the understanding, inferring them from the visible effects of creation; and among these attributes the most prominently displayed in creatures, are his eternal omnipotence and divine essence—the first beginning and last end of all things. So that no excuse, on the ground of ignorance, was left them.

21. For, having known God, they did not exhibit the worship due to his Supreme Majesty, nor did they thank him, as the author of all blessings; but they vainly and foolishly confined themselves to idle disquisitions regarding Him, referring their knowledge to no practical useful conclusion; and in punishment of this abuse their senseless intellect was darkened, and … their will perverted.

22. While publicly boasting of, and arrogating to themselves the reputation of wisdom, they have fallen into the excess of folly.

23. Which folly they carried to such an extreme as to transfer the glory, due only to the incorruptible God, to the image representing corruptible man, and birds, and four-footed beasts, and even the veriest reptiles.

24. In punishment whereof, God left them to the tyrannical dominion of their corrupt passions, suffering them to commit deeds of uncleanliness, dishonouring each other’s bodies by shameful impurities.

25. Because they exchanged the true God for false and imaginary deities, to whom they transferred the supreme honour due to Him alone; and they worshipped in their heart and served exteriorly the creature rather than the Creator, to whom may due honour and praise be rendered for ever and ever.

26. On this account, God in his anger suffered them to fall into shameful and filthy sins of uncleanness; for, their women have changed their natural use into that use which is against nature.

27. And in like manner the men also leaving the natural use of the women, have burned in their lusts, one towards another, men with men, doing that which is filthy; and in being thus abandoned to their own corruption, they have met with the recompense, or rather punishment, due to their unnatural revolt from God, and to their idolatrous errors.

28. And because they valued not and disregarded the great blessing of having known God, they were delivered up by him to a perversity of mind and judgment, judging right to be wrong, and wrong right, so that they were plunged into an abyss of crime opposed to the dictates of justice and reason.

29. They became filled with all sorts of injustice towards God, their neighbour, and themselves, with malignity, impurity, rapacity, mischievous depravity, full of envy, homicide, strife, duplicity, or deceit; of a malicious disposition to misconstrue and regard everything in a bad light, by private whispering, sowers of discord amongst friends,

30. Open calumniators of the good, haters of God and hated by him, ferocious in inflicting injuries, proud of their supposed superior excellence, haughty and boastful in their demeanour, versed in the art of devising new means of doing injury, disobedient to parents,

31. Devoid of reason in their conduct, uncourteous and uncivil in their manners, devoid of natural affection, of fidelity in contracts, without humanity.

32. Who, although they knew God to be supremely just in punishing prevaricators, still did not wish practically to know that the perpetrators of the above mentioned crimes are worthy of death; and not only they, but those also who consent to, and approve of them in others. (And hence, the philosophers, even though, in particular instances, not guilty of these crimes; still, as they connived at, and approved of, their perpetration by others, are deserving of death for so doing).

Commentary

1. “Paul.” The original name of the Apostle was “Saul.” He assumed the name of “Paul,” according to St. Jerome, Baronius, and others, in compliment to his illustrious convert, Sergius Paulus, Proconsul of Cyprus (Acts, 13:12). Paul, being a Roman name, is employed by him, when addressing the Gentiles; Saul, when addressing the Jews. Others, with St. Thomas, say he had both names from his infancy. They say that, in consequence of Tharsis, his native place, being a free city of the Roman Empire, he received the Roman name “Paul” with the Jewish name Saul. Hence; in the Acts of the Apostles (13:9), he is called “Saul, otherwise Paul.” St. Augustine says, he assumed the name of Paul from a feeling of humility, and to express his diminutive stature. He prefixes his name in conformity with the usage of the time. In modern letter writing, it is needless to remark, the usage in this respect is the reverse of that which formerly prevailed.

“A servant of Jesus Christ.” He might be called the “servant of Jesus Christ,” on several titles, on account of his Creation, Redemption, call to the Faith, &c.; the word “servant” in this passage most likely regards his special engagement in the duty of preaching the Gospel, in quality of Apostle, as is more fully explained in the following words.

“Called.” The Greek word, κλητος, is a noun, and means “by vocation.” This the Apostle adds to show that he was not self-sent or self-commissioned, but that his authority was derived from a proper source. “He was called by God as was Aaron.”—(Hebrews, 4:4)

“An Apostle.” This word, according to strict etymology, means one sent; but, in Ecclesiastical usage, and as designating the first office in the Church, as described (Ephesians, 4:11), it means one sent to preach the Gospel, with power to found and establish churches. There were only twelve of this class, with whom were associated Paul and Barnabas.—(For a full exposition of this word, see Epistle to Galatians, chap. 1 verse 1—Commentary).

“Separated” expresses the singular and exalted choice made of him by the Holy Ghost, when he said, “Separate unto me Paul and Barnabas for the work whereunto I have taken them.”—(Acts, 13:2).

2. “Which he had promised,” &c. This the Apostle adds in order to show the Christians of Rome, both converted Jews and Gentiles, that the Gospel which he preached contained nothing false or novel, nothing opposed to Moses or the prophets (whom he was calumniously charged with undervaluing), since it was no more than a fulfilment of the prophecies of the Old Testament, all of which regarded Christ—the principal subject of the Gospel—as their term. The word “promised,” also conveys in limine, that this Gospel, and the justification through Christ, was given gratuitously as a matter of free promise, on the part of God, and independently of the merits of man, whether actual or foreseen. For the meaning of the word “prophet,” see 1 Cor. 11:5. Here, it refers to the sacred writers of the Old Testament.

3. The chief subject of this Gospel, as well as of the prophecies which ushered it in, was the Son of God, “who was made,” &c., who, even in his human nature, was of kingly descent, being born of the royal house of David. These words refer to the human nature of Christ.

4. The Greek of verses 3 and 4 runs thus:—περὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ, τοῦ γενομένου εκ σπέρματος Δαβὶδ κατὰ σάρκα• verse 4, τοῦ ὁρισθέντος υἱοῦ θεοῦ ἐν δυνάμει, κατὰ πνεῦμα ἁγιωσύνης, ἐξ ἀναστάσεως νεκρῶν, Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τοῦ Κυριου ἡμῶν.

According to the Vulgate rendering of the word ὁρισθέντος “qui praedestinatus est,” “who was predestinated,” the words mean, that this seed of David, according to the flesh, i.e., according to human nature, or, which amounts to the same in sense, that this Divine Person, considered not as terminating the divine nature, but as terminating human nature, was predestinated to become in time the Son of God, by a personal union with the Second Person of the Adorable Trinity. In this interpretation, generally adopted by the Latins, the word “who” refers not directly to the Divine Person of the Son of God, but to his human nature viewed in the abstract, and prescinding from its personal union with the Son of God.—(A’Lapide). It is to be borne in mind, that the God-man, Christ, had but one Person, the Person of the Eternal Word, and it could not be well said, that the person of the Son of God was from eternity predestinated to be the Son of God. It was, then, the human nature of Christ, that was from eternity predestinated to be the Son of God, by its personal union with the Word for, as man, Christ is the natural Son of God. Most likely, the Vulgate interpreter read προορισθεντος; but, this reading is not found at present in any Greek copy.

The Greek Commentators, taking the word ὁρισθεις, in its literal meaning of defined, declared, interpret the words thus:—This Jesus Christ, whom the Apostles proclaim as the Eternal Son of God, was most clearly shown to be such, by the prodigies of “power” or miracles performed at the invocation of his name, through the operation of the Holy Ghost, after his Resurrection from the dead. Ita Theodoret, who admits only one source of argument demonstrative of the eternal Sonship of Christ in the passage. Others, with St. Chrysostom, Theophylact, &c., contend that there are three sources of argument (as in Paraphrase), miracles,—“in power;”—the gifts of the Holy Ghost plenteously showered down by him on his Apostles and the first believers,—“according to the spirit of sanctification;”—and the power displayed in his own resurrection,—“by the resurrection from the dead.” In this latter interpretation, the resurrection of Christ is placed last, although, in point of time, occurring prior to the sending down of the Holy Ghost; because, though hardly immediately intended here, it was the most splendid argument of Christ’s Divinity; and, moreover, the word “resurrection” might be regarded, as embracing the general resurrection of all men, of which that of Christ was the cause and the exemplar. The interpretation of the Greek is preferred by many eminent Commentators, Estius among the rest. It is also embraced by Beelen, who prefers that of Theodoret, who admits only one source of argument. The interpretation, according to the Vulgate, and that according to the literal meaning of the simple Greek word, ὁρισθεις, are united in the Paraphrase.

“The resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead,” are interpreted by A’Lapide to mean, by a Hebrew idiom, “by the resurrection, or resuscitation, of himself from the dead.” Others include from, “who was made unto him” (verse 3), as far as, “by the resurrection from the dead” (verse 4), inclusively, within a parenthesis; and they connect the words, “of our Lord Jesus Christ,” with the words, “his Son” (verse 3), putting them in apposition, as if the Apostle meant to say, by the Son of God to whom I refer as preached by the Apostles and predestinated from eternity. I mean, “our Lord Jesus Christ.” The Greek in which the words, “from the dead” are joined to “by the resurrection,” thus “by the resurrection from the dead,” will clearly admit of this construction; which is regarded by many as the more natural meaning of the passage (vide Beelen, in hunc locum).

5. “By whom,” both as Son of God and son of David, “we,” i.e., I myself and the other Apostles, “have received grace and Apostleship.” This by the figure, Hendiadys, is put for the grace of Apostleship, “in his name,” to be exercised by us, as his legates and vicegerents, “for the obedience of faith, &c.,” so as to bring all nations to embrace the Gospel, to submit their intellects to the obscure truths of faith, which requires the “obedience,” the pious motion of the will, aided by grace. “With the heart we believe unto justice.”—(Rom. 10:10; see also 2 Cor. 10:5)

6. “Among whom.” &c. Hence it is that St. Paul, as Apostle of nations, addresses this Epistle to them. “Called,” κλητος, is a noun, signifying “by vocation” Christians. This he adds to show them that the grace of Christianity bestowed on them was the result of a purely gratuitous call on the part of God. The passage, from the words, “who was made to him,” verse 3, to the end of this verse inclusively, is to be read within a parenthesis.

7. After the long parenthesis, he now enters on the salutation. The word salutes, writes to, or some such, is understood. “To all that are at Rome, the beloved,” &c., i.e., to all the Christians of Rome. “Called to be saints.” Every Christian is, by his very profession, bound to be a saint. How few are there who correspond with this sublime end of their vocation! “Grace to you and peace,” the usual form of Apostolical salutation. “God our Father” may refer to the entire Trinity; it more probably refers to the First Person; “and from the Lord Jesus Christ,” we are his purchased slaves; hence, he is our “Lord,” in a special manner, by Redemption.

8. In this verse, the Apostle commences the exordium, in which he displays consummate prudence, admirably calculated to gain the good-will of the Romans, in order to render them afterwards docile and attentive to his instructions. Masters of eloquence would call this “captatio benevolentiæ.” “I give thanks to my God;” thanksgiving for past favours is a homage due to God for his benefits, and is the most efficacious means of insuring their continuance; “through Jesus Christ,” through him all graces have to come to us; hence, he is the fittest and most acceptable channel to convey back thanksgiving for these graces; “because your faith is spoken of,” i.e., is celebrated and rendered famous “in the whole world,” i.e., throughout the known parts of the entire world, then included in the Roman Empire.

9. “For God is my witness.” This is a form of oath, which the Apostle finds it necessary to resort to at present, in order to remove any prejudices the Romans might conceive against his addressing them. “Whom I serve,” λατρευω, i.e., minister to; “with my spirit,” is understood by some to mean spiritually and interiorly, in opposition to the carnal and merely external service of the Jews; “in the gospel of his Son,” in preaching the Gospel, and not in teaching the legal ceremonies; “that without ceasing I make a commemoration of you,” he shows in next verse how this commemoration is made.

10. “Always in my prayers,” not that he was continually engaged in prayer, but that as often as he prayed—and that was frequently—he remembered them, and the object of his unceasing prayer was to be permitted to see them. The crowding together of particles, “that,” “by any means,” “at length,” shows the ardent desire the Apostle had of seeing them but this was always in conformity and strict submission to the will of God, “by the will of God.”

11. His motive for wishing to see them was not the result of curiosity or avarice, it was solely for the purpose of imparting to them, by his ministry, some spiritual gift, in addition to those they had already received, and thus to confirm their faith which had been imparted to them by St. Peter. By “spiritual grace” is more probably understood some external grace, such as tongues, prophecies, &c., given for the benefit of others, to which he refers, 1 Cor. 14, and chap. 12 of this Epistle. The Greek for “grace” χαρισμα, admits of this interpretation.

12. Lest the preceding words might savour of arrogance, and might convey a depreciation of their faith and of the gifts already received, the Apostle now, in the depth of his humility, and to render them well affected toward him, says, that the advantages of his visit would be as much his own as theirs in the consolation he would receive as well as they, from the mutual communication of their common faith; mutual edification and consolation would be the result.

13. St. Paul now vindicates his right as Apostle of nations. He desired to visit them in order to reap some fruit of faith and edification among them, as he had already among the other nations—(“and I have been hindered hitherto.”) What this impediment was is mentioned (chap. 15), viz., his being occupied too much elsewhere.

14. “Barbarians.” The Greeks regarded all nations not using the Greek language, barbarians. Even the Romans were not excepted from this class until they became masters of Greece. Hence, the words “Greeks” and “Barbarians,” here designate civilized and uncivilized nations; “the wise” refer to the philosophers reputed wise and learned; and “unwise,” to the ignorant and untutored; “a debtor,” i.e., in virtue of his office, as Apostle of nations, bound to preach the Gospel.

15. “So,” i.e., therefore, because bound to preach to all without distinction, he is ready to preach the Gospel at Rome also, in the absence of contrary obstacles.

16. In some Greek copies, the words “of Christ” are added to the word “gospel,” but it is omitted in the chief MSS. and versions generally. He is ready and not ashamed to preach the scandal and folly of the cross even at Rome, where learning and science were united with the greatest dissoluteness of morals; where honours and riches alone were held in estimation; and where, consequently, the mysterious and humbling truths of the Gospel, as well as its precepts of self-denial, must prove particularly foolish and distasteful. “For it is the power of God, &c.,” it is the powerful instrument by which God confers salvation, of justice here, and glory hereafter, on all who believe it (for, to those who reject it, it becomes the source of greater damnation,), and observe the precepts which faith points out. The preaching of the Gospel, through the hearing of which alone faith comes, contains under it, the grace of the Holy Ghost, so necessary for faith. “To the Jew first,” the Jews were the first in the order of time to whom Christ directed the Gospel to be preached, “and to the Greek,” i.e., the Gentile; the Greek language was the most extensively used among the Gentiles; hence, the Apostle calls the Gentiles, “Greeks.” Moreover, the Hebrews divided the world into Jews and Gentiles.

17. He proves that the preaching of the Gospel is the powerful instrument, &c., “for the justice of God,” i.e., his justice bestowed on us, whereby we are rendered truly just before Him, it is called “the justice of God,” because it comes from Him alone. This justice is revealed in the Gospel to come “from faith,” (and not from the law of Moses, as the Jews supposed, nor from the strength of nature, as the Gentiles vainly imagined). “From faith to faith,” means, that faith is the beginning, the root, by which justice is acquired; faith increasing and supported by good works is the principle by which justice once obtained, is upheld and preserved. “As it is written;” this doctrine of justification by faith, is no new doctrine; the prophet Habacuc (chap. 2) says, “the just man liveth,” &c. For “liveth,” the Greek is, ζησεται, shall live. The spiritual life of the just man consists in faith. Of course he includes good works; for, the words of the prophet, “the just man shall live by faith” (chap. 2) literally refer to the just Jew, under the Babylonish capativity, expecting the deliverer Cyrus, promised him by God, and in this faith and consequent expectation, patiently enduring the evils of his state and performing the works of justice. They are quoted by the Apostle in their mystical sense (the sense principally intended by the Holy Ghost), and refer to the persevering faith of the Christian, which, like that of the faithful Jew, must be supported in its progress by good works and patience; and in that sense, will constitute his spiritual life, will serve to obtain first, and uphold second justification. In this verse, the Apostle lays down the great proposition of the Epistle, viz., that justice comes from a source quite different from that which the Jews and Gentiles imagined, that is, from faith.

18. The connexion of this verse with verse 16, as given in the Paraphrase, appears the most probable. The Gospel is also a most powerful means of salvation, by deterring men from the commission of sin—such as the Gentiles had committed against the natural law—which carried no strength for self-observance; and the Jews against the law of Moses, which also contributed no help for self-observance either; and the remainder of this chapter is devoted by the Apostle to point out how far their multiplied crimes rendered the Gentiles deserving objects of the heavy threats held out in the Gospel against sinners. In the next chapter, the same is shown in reference to the Jews, so that after having shown (chap. 3) that all, both Jews and Gentiles, were under sin, he shows the only means of rescuing them from this state, and rendering them just, to be faith. “That detain the truth of God in injustice.” The words “of God,” are not in the Greek. How many are there now-a-days, whose conduct is in opposition to their knowledge? To whom can the charge of “detaining the truth of God in injustice” so strictly apply as to pastors, and parents and all those who, having the care of others, and therefore, in some measure, bound injustice to teach them the knowledge of God, still neglect this most important duty? The Apostle directly and immediately alludes to the Gentile philosophers, whose crimes he is about enumerating.

19. “Because that which is known by God,” i.e., whatever could be known of Him from the light of reason, “is made manifest to them. For, God had manifested it to them,” by giving them the natural light of reason to arrive at this knowledge, and by placing this knowledge within the reach of reason (next verse).

20. “For the invisible things of him,” i.e., his invisible Attributes or Perfections, “from the creation of the world, are clearly seen.” The Greek word for “creation,” απο κτισεως, may mean “creature,” as if he said “his invisible attributes are perceived from the creature, called the world.” However, as the following words, “understood by the things that are made,” sufficiently convey this idea, and, in this construction, they would appear to be an unnecessary repetition, the construction given in the Paraphrase seems, therefore, preferable. “His eternal power and divinity.” “Divinity” refers to the leading Attributes of the Godhead, which have a peculiar claim on the worship of creatures, who are, therefore, without excuse for not adoring him, having these means of knowledge within reach—nay, having actual knowledge (as in next verse). The works of creation serve as the great book in which are read in legible characters, and the mirror in which are faithfully reflected, the Attributes of the Divinity. Hence, this visible word is, as it were, a natural gospel to the Pagans, whereby they are brought to the knowledge of God; and St. Chrysostom tells us, The wonderful harmony of all things speaks louder on this subject than the loudest trumpet. “So that they are inexcusable,” not having the excuse of ignorance, for not adoring him, as in the following verse.

21. “They have not glorified him as God.” Having an actual knowledge of God and of his divine perfections, they neither properly adored nor praised those perfections, nor did they pay Him the supreme honour due to Him as God; in which praise of his perfections and exhibition of due worship. “glorifiying him as God” consists. “Nor gave thanks” by referring to him, by grateful acknowledgement, the benefits received from him, an homage which reason dictates should be paid to him as the author of all blessings, “but became vain in their thoughts.” The Greek word for “thoughts,” διαλογισμοις, means, reasonings. They became vain in their reasonings; because they confined their knowledge of God to mere idle reasonings or disquisitions regarding him, without making this knowledge subserve to his worship. Hence as they did not attain the great end for which this knowledge was given them as a means, viz.: the worship and honour of God, they became “vain” in its exercise. “And their foolish heart was darkened.” Their mind, rendered stolid in punishment of so much ingratitude, was more and more darkened, and their will perverted. Religious error has been at all times the consequence of pride of intellect and depravity of will.

22. “Professing themselves wise.” Laying claim to the character of wisdom, “they (in reality) became fools,” since they failed in attaining the end of all true wisdom, viz.: the love and worship of God. Some interpreters regard this verse as parenthetical.

23. And not only did they withhold from God the glory, due to him (verse 21), but they became foolish to such a degree as to transfer the glory, which is his inalienable due, to men, beasts, birds and reptiles, including fishes: and, what is worse, “to the likeness of the image” of them, or to the image representing these different creatures. The words, “likeness of the image,” mean, “the image like or representing them;” for, an image itself is nothing else but the likeness of an object.

24. “Gave them up to the desires of their hearts.” (In Greek, “wherefore God also gave,” &c.; also is omitted in the chief MSS). The words “gave them up” do not imply a positive act of “giving them up” on the part of God, but merely the negative act of deserting them, of withholding his graces, which are indispensable for them in order to avoid sin. “Tradidit,” says St. Augustine, “non cogendo, sed deserendo.” (Serm. 57). He may also act positively, by throwing in their way obstacles, (v.g.) riches, honours. &c., things in themselves, good or indifferent, not necessarily inducing to sin, but which will as infallibly prove, owing to their abuse, the cause of sin to them, as if God had positively given them up to sin. In the same sense, God is said “to send to men the operation of error” “to harden their hearts,” &c.—(See 2 Thes. 2:10).

25. This verse contains but a repetition, in different words, of the idea conveyed in verse 23. “Into a lie,” i.e., idols, false divinities, which, as gods, have no real existence; and hence, as such, are “a lie.” “Who is blessed for ever;” these words convey that this God, whose worship they transfer to false and imaginary deities, is deserving of everlasting honour and glory. And the word “Amen” expresses, on the part of the Apostle, an earnest longing that this due worship may be rendered to him

26. “For this cause,” in punishment of the unnatural abandonment of the Creator, and of their transferring to lying, false divinities, to gods made by human hands, the supreme honour due to Him alone, “God delivered them up,” or abandoned them, “to shameful affections,” i.e., shameful sins of impurity, in which they were so grossly immersed, that this indulgence might be termed “affection,” or passion, on their part. “For their women have changed,” &c. Although the Apostle is treating of the vices of the learned philosophers among the Pagans (“professing themselves to be wise,” &c., verse 22), still, to show how excessive were their enormities, he says, the women themselves were visited with the punishment of the men, and followed their example in committing deeds of unnatural and more than bestial lust.

27. “And in like manner the men also,” &c. The history of the most polished nations of antiquity is but a record of the most shameful and abominable sins against nature: and even the wisest, and those reputed the most virtuous among their wise men, were guilty of these shameful lusts. Tertullian (Libro de Anima, chap. i, and in Apologetico adversus Gentes, chap. xlvi.) testifies this regarding the wisest of the ancients. viz., Socrates. Even the divine Plato is charged with the same. Theodoret (Libro de Legibus) charges him with praising and promising rewards to these unnatural, shameful indulgences. This is true of the other philosophers of antiquity. “Receiving in themselves the recompense due to their error.” As they, against the order of nature, ignominiously abandoned the Creator, and transferred his honour to the creature, it was a just punishment on the part of the Creator to abandon them in turn, and suffer them to perpetrate deeds of impurity against the order of nature also. Can we forget that in this fearful account of Pagan vice, the Apostle is but drawing a faithful picture of what we ourselves would be, if left to our own strength, if the grace and mercy of God had not visited us; for, we also are born of Gentile parents, and things would be, in all probability, if possible, worse with us than with them. Et hæc quidem fuistis, sed abluti estis, sanctificati estis; in nomine Domini Jesu Christi, et in spiritu Dei nostri.—(1 Cor. 6). Where, then, is our gratitude for this gratuitous goodness of God, rescuing us from this prison of sin, darkness, and infidelity, and asserting us into his admirable light?

28. “And as they liked not to have God in their knowledge,” i.e., as they undervalued and disregarded this great blessing which God bestowed on them, of knowing himself, hence, in punishment of this abuse of the mind, God gave them up to a “reprobate sense,” i.e., to a perversity of judgment, through which they judged of things erroneously, and were deprived of the faculty of distinguishing right from wrong: the consequence of which was, that they perpetrated many crimes opposed to the dictates of right reason, utterly unbecoming rational creatures—“things not convenient,” i.e., abominable things. “He delivered them to a reprobate sense;” the most dreadful punishment God has in store for sinners is to permit them to fall into greater sins, which induce a blindness of intellect, a perversity of judgment, a deprivation of moral sense, a hardness and obduracy of heart, which is generally the assured forerunner of final impenitence. How terrible and just, at the same time, was the punishment of the philosophers! They transferred to creatures—to the very beasts—the worship due to God; and he, in turn, suffered them to fall into crimes which were more than bestial, which lowered them beneath the brute creation.

29. “Filled with all malice.” From this abandonment of them by God, followed the commission of other sins, as well as that of impurity; these other sins were the result of their abandonment by God. “With all iniquity,” refers to vice and guilt in general, against God and man. “Malice,” the malignant desire of doing injury. “Fornication,” all sorts of impurity. (The word fornication, πορνεια, is omitted in the Vatican MS.) “Covetousness,” insatiable rapacity. “Wickedness,” depravity of heart, bent on mischief. “Full of envy,” “murder,” at least in will. “Contention,” the spirit of wrangling and disputation, having for object mere superiority, without any regard to truth. “Deceit,” duplicity of heart, saying one thing and thinking another. “Malignity,” the corresponding Greek word, κακοηθεια, means, “a disposition to misinterpret everything, and view it in its worst light,” opposed to ευηθεια, open candour. “Whisperers,” this refers to those who sow discord among friends by private tale-bearing, a class of sinners emphatically pronounced accursed, in the SS. Scriptures.

30. “Detractors,” public calumniators of good men, in order to damage their reputation. “Hateful to God,” the Greek word, θεοστυγεις, will also signify haters or enemies of God, and this is the more probable construction of the word. “Contumelious,” means ferocious, in violently injuring and oppressing others. “Proud,” forming too high an opinion of their own acquirements, and undervaluing others. “Haughty,” boastful and contumelious in their demeanour.

31. “Foolish,” showing in their actions the reprobate sense to which they have been delivered. “Dissolute,” the Greek word, ασυνθετους, is made by some to express, breakers of covenants; however, as this is sufficiently expressed in the words, “without fidelity,” which refers to covenants, it is better understand this word of a disagreeable, uncourteous spirit, which rendered them unfit to associate with others. “Without affection” for their friends; “without fidelity,” in their covenants; and “without mercy,” devoid of every feeling of humanity, towards all mankind.

32. The Greek reading differs from the Vulgate in this verse, although both readings differ not much in sense. The Greek runs thus: “who knowing the justice of God, that they who do such things are worthy of death; not only they that do them but they also that consent to them that do them.” In this reading the words of our Vulgate, “did not understand,” are omitted, though read in some MSS. and some Greek Fathers, and the passage is designed by the Apostle to express the great malice of the philosophers, who were guilty of the two fold sin of committing the above-mentioned sins themselves, and, what is worse, of approving of them in others; for, in the former case, the violence of passion might be pleaded as some extenuation, but not in the latter, in the case of approval. According to our Vulgate reading, the Apostle wishes to convey that, should there be any of the philosophers not guilty of all the above-mentioned crimes, they were still deserving of death, because, instead of reproving, they connived at, and approved of, their commission on the part of the people. The conclusion from this chapter is, that the Gentiles, instead of being able to lay any claims to the Gospel, on the ground of their exalted natural virtues, were, on the contrary, deserving of punishment and the wrath of God; “for the wrath of God from heaven is revealed against all impiety,” &c. (verse 18); and thus the Apostle establishes that, on the ground of merits, the Gentile world had no claim to the Gospel. The same is proved in the next chapter regarding the Jews.








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