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

Analysis

In this chapter, after inferring from the foregoing that the baptized have nothing deserving of damnation, except so far as they consent to the motions of concupiscence (verse 1), the Apostle tells us that we are rescued from the dominion of concupiscence by the grace of the Gospel (2, 3, 4.) He shows the different motions and effects of the flesh and of the spirit (4–9). He exhorts us to live according to the spirit, and points out the spiritual and eternal life of both soul and body, resulting from such a course (9–11). He next exhorts us to follow the dictates of the spirit, and to mortify the deeds of the flesh, in order to escape death and obtain life (12, 13)—to act up to our calling as sons of God, and to conform to the spirit of charity and love, which we received, unlike to that of the Jews of old, and by thus acting as sons of God, to secure the Heavenly inheritance, which we shall certainly obtain, on condition, however, of suffering (13–17). Lest this condition should dishearten them, he points out the greatness of God’s inheritance,—so great indeed is it, that he personifies inanimate creatures, and represents them as groaning for this glorious consummation. The very Christians themselves, although in the infancy of the Church, they received the sweet pledge of future glory in the choice gifts of the Holy Ghost, were sighing for it (17–24). The Holy Ghost, besides the assurance he gave them of being sons of God, was also relieving their necessities and prompting them to pray with ineffable ardour of spirit (26, 27). The Apostle encourages them to patient suffering by pointing out to them that they were predestined for these sufferings as the means of their sanctification and future glorification (28–30), and, finally, he excites them to confidence in God (31–38).

Paraphrase

1. There is nothing, therefore, deserving of damnation to be found in those who, by baptism, are engrafted on Christ Jesus, unless they themselves voluntarily consent to the desires of the flesh, and execute them in act.

2. For, the grace of the vivifying spirit which is diffused in our hearts, instigating us to good, like a law, has liberated me and all Christians from the guilt and dominion of concupiscence, which ends in death.

3. For, what was impossible to the law, inasmuch as it was weakned by corrupt nature, God (effected) when he sent his Son to assume real flesh, like sinful flesh, and condemned sin of injustice in the flesh of his Son.

4. This was the thing impossible to the law, which, however, God accomplished, viz., that we might fulfil the entire law (“the doers of which will be justified,” chap. 2, verse 13), who obey not the dictates of the flesh, but live according to the spirit of grace, which enables us to fulfil the entire law.

5. For, as to those who live according to the flesh, they are too much engrossed with the things of the flesh, to mind the observance of the law, which is all spiritual; it is only those who live according to the spirit, that attend spiritual matters.

6. Now, to be wholly engrossed with the things of the flesh is death to the soul; but to attend to spiritual things is the source of life and peace.

7. This wisdom of the flesh, or, this total giving one’s self up to be engrossed by the things of the flesh, is the source of death, because, it is at enmity with God, and rebellious against his law; hence, it is neither subject, nor can it be subject to the law of God; for, they are of their own nature perfectly irreconcilable.

8. Hence those who live according to the flesh, cannot please God, nor can they observe his precepts so as to obtain the justification of the law.

9. But you, after having been regenerated in Christ by baptism, do not live according to the flesh, but according to the spirit of grace which you received; if this spirit, however, still dwells in you. But if anyone does not preserve the Spirit of Christ, he is no longer a living member of him.

10. But if Christ dwell in you by his spirit, your body is indeed subject to death, as a punishment of sin; but your spirit or soul enjoys the life of grace here on account of justification, and shall live a life of glory hereafter.

11. But if the spirit of God the Father, who raised Jesus from the dead, dwell in you by justice, this same spirit, that raised Jesus Christ from the dead, shall also vivify and endow with glory and immortality your mortal bodies, on account of their present dignity in being the dwelling-place of his spirit.

12. As, therefore, brethren, we are in the spirit and not in the flesh, and as it is from the spirit that we have received past blessings and hope for greater in future, we are no longer debtors to the flesh, so as to walk or live according to its dictates or allow its dominion over us.

13. For, if you live according to the desires of the flesh, you shall die a spiritual death here which is the precursor of an eternal death hereafter. But if by the spiritual fervour infused into you by the Holy Ghost, you mortify the vicious desires and corrupt inclinations of the flesh, you shall live both a life of grace here and of glory hereafter.

14. For, whosoever are efficaciously moved by the Holy Ghost, and under his influence mortify the flesh and live a spiritual life, they are truly sons of God, and will, therefore, enjoy the inheritance of life eternal.

15. That you are the sons of God is clear from the spirit you received in baptism, for you have not received under the new dispensation, as the Jews did in the promulgation of the old on Sinai, the spirit of servitude, to inspire you with fear, but you have received the spirit of charity and loveadopting you as sons, under the influence of which, you freely and confidently call on God, or the entire Blessed Trinity, as the common Father of all the faithful, both Jews and Gentiles.

16. And this same spirit of God, whom we have received, bears testimony to our spirit, that we are the sons of God.

17. But, if we are the sons of God, we are therefore, his heirs, that is to say, we are heirs of God, as his sons, and co-heirs of Christ, as his brethren. It is on condition, however, that we suffer with him, and in the same spirit with him, that we shall be partners in his glory.

18. (Nor should the annexed condition of suffering dishearten or discourage us. The difficulty vanishes when we consider the magnitude of the reward and inheritance), for I am firmly persuaded, that the sufferings of the present time, viewed in themselves, bear no proportion whatever to the future glory and happiness which shall be revealed in us.

19. So great is this future glory of the sons of God, that inanimate creatures themselves are anxiously yearning and earnestly looking forward to its manifestation, as they are to be sharers in it, in a certain way.

20. For, inanimate nature is rendered subject to corruption and decay, notwithstanding the natural tendency of everything to attain its full perfection, in obedience to the will of him, who, in punishment of original sin, subjected it to corruption, but only for a time, with a hope, however, to which it anxiously looks,

21. Of being emancipated from the slavery of corruption, and of being asserted into the glorious liberty suited to the glorified state of the sons of God, to whose service it will administer.

22. When it shall be freed from these pangs and painful throes, which we know it has been suffering from creation to the present moment, in the hope of this happy and blessed deliverance.

23. And not only do inanimate creatures thus groan, but even we Christians, who have received the first fruits of the Holy Ghost, which are a sure earnest of our being on a future day glorified, groan within ourselves, anxiously expecting the consummation of our adoption as sons of God, when this body of sin and death shall be endowed with glorious immortality.

24. We are only in a state of expectancy; for, we have here only obtained the salvation of hope. Now, hope is incompatible with actual fruition; it must cease to be hope when we enter on the fruition of the object hoped for; since, who ever made the things which he enjoys the object of his hope.

25. If, then, we have not the things we are anxiously hoping for, we are only to wait and expect them by patiently enduring the evils of this life.

26. And not only have we received from the Holy Ghost the many favours referred to, particularly the testimony, that we are sons of God; but the same Spirit helps in sustaining our many infirmities, which are so great, that far from being able to perform good works, we even know not what to pray for, or how to pray, as we ought, and He Himself inspires us to pray with groans, that is to say, with a degree of spiritual fervour and strength, that cannot be fully expressed, or, with a fervour to ourselves inexplicable.

27. But although these groans which we send forth under the influence of God’s Spirit, be to us inexplicable, still God, the searcher of hearts, attends to them, and approves of them, because the Holy Ghost asks things, and asks them in a manner conformable to the will of God, when supplying the defect in the prayers of his saints.

28. But although out infirmity be so great as not to know what to pray for, or how to pray as we ought; still we should not be disheartened under crosses and sufferings. For, we know that by the disposition of an all-wise Providence, all things work together unto the good of those who love God; of those, I say, who have been, by his gratuitous decree, called by him to the profession and practice of sanctity, and obey his call.

29. Because these are they whom he foreknew, nay, even predestined to a conformity in patience with the model presented by his Son in patient suffering; in order that he who, in his Divine nature, is the only begotten Son of God, would, as Man, be the first begotten among many adopted brethren.

30. Those (I say), whom he predestined to a conformity in suffering with his Son, he called to these sufferings; and whom he called, he has justified by these sufferings; and whom he justified, he has glorified.

31. Alter this abundant manifestation of concern on the part of God for us, what shall we say? Shall we despond? By no means; since, it God be for us (as he really is), who can succeed in opposing us?

32. He who has not spared his natural, only begotten Son, but rather delivered him up to death for us all, what will he not give us? In giving us his Son, has he not with him given us every grace and blessing that shall secure our final happiness?

33, 34. Who shall institute an accusation against those whom God has elected and made his own by grace? It is God, the judge of all, who pronounces their sentence of acquittal; who then can presume to condemn them? It is Christ Jesus himself who died for us, who has risen from the dead for us, who sits at the right hand of God the Father, that intercedes for us, as our advocate.

35. What, then, after receiving so many blessings from God, shall separate us from the charity which in turn we owe to Christ? Is it bodily affliction? mental anguish? famine? nakedness? danger? persecution? the sword?

36. Which afflictions, David predicted, would be always the lot of the pious and virtuous, in whose person he speaks when he says (Psalm 43): “For thy sake are we put to death all the day long. We are regarded as sheep destined for the slaughter.”

37. But, far from yielding in these trying circumstances, we even obtain by means of them a triumphant victory through the grace and strength imparted to us by him who has loved us.

38. For I entertain a confident hope and firm persuasion, that neither threats nor fears of death, neither hopes nor promises of life, that neither spiritual powers, however strong, whether demons or good angels, from whatsoever order of spirits (were they to attempt it); that neither things present nor things to come, that neither the strength of earthly powers,

39. Nor the height of prosperity, nor the depth of adversity; in a word, that no creature whatsoever shall be able to separate us from the charity by which we are united to God, through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Commentary

1. “Therefore, now there is no damnation,” &c. This is the conclusion which the Apostle derives from the latter portion of the foregoing chapter. Whereas the man who is baptized and justified does not consent to the irregular sallies of concupiscence, there is nothing deserving of damnation in him, only as far as he voluntarily consents to them, “who walk not, &c.” Hence, by the grace of Baptism, sin is really remitted—(Council of Trent. SS. v. Can. 5). From this it by no means follows, that after the guilt of sin is remitted, there does not, sometimes, remain a temporal debt to be remitted, as Catholic faith teaches—(Ibidem, SS. xiv. Can. 12). For, such temporal debt is not “damnation.” 2ndly, All that would follow at best is, that no such debt to be expiated is left by Baptism (for it is to Baptism he alludes here), and this we freely admit. The conclusion drawn from the foregoing, in this verse, clearly shows: that in the latter part of the preceding chapter, the Apostle is describing the state of those who are justified. In the common Greek, the words, but according to the spirit, are added to this verse. They are, however, rejected by the best critics. They are wanting in the Alexandrian and other MSS., and also in some ancient versions. In the Vatican and other leading MSS. the words, “according to the flesh,” are also wanting, and the probability is, that, being taken from verse 4, as a marginal gloss, they crept into the Sacred text.

2. “From the law of sin,” i.e., has delivered me and all “who are in Christ Jesus,” from the tyranny of sin and death, by giving us strength to resist its motions and dictates.

3. “For that which the law could not do,” in Greek, αδυνατον τοῦ νομοῦ, is properly rendered in the Vulgate, “quod impossibile erat legi.” “In that it was weak through the flesh.” This he adds, lest he might be understood to attribute the commission of sin to the law itself; or, rather, to show how utterly impossible it was for the law to confer justification. For, even though it had not to contend with sinful flesh, of its own nature, without the grace of the Gospel, it could not justify, and how much more impossible it was for it to do so, when weakned by the rebellious flesh. “God sending his Son.” God (did or effected), when he sent his Son; the word did, or some such, must be understood in order to complete the sense. Others, with great probability, connect the passage thus: “For God, by sending (πεμψας) his Son into this world, in his assumed flesh, like unto our sinful flesh, and indeed on account of sin (και περι αμαρτιας), condemned sin by destroying its dominion in our flesh, a thing which the law could not effect, being weakned by the flesh rebelling against reason.” In this construction the word “did” need not be supplied; by giving the words “and of sin” the meaning referred to, which the Greek will admit, and by connecting them with “sending,” and not with “condemned,” there will be no difficulty. “In the likeness of sinful flesh;” he assumed real flesh, which was like our sinful flesh; “and of sin hath condemned sin,” because, “sin”—which the Apostle here personifies—had unjustly inflicted the punishment of death due to it, on Christ, who was wholly innocent. Hence, God deprived it of its power, which it exceeded and abused. The idea is the same as that in chap. 2, verse 14, Epistle to the Hebrews. According to the other interpretation referred to, the words, “condemned sin in the flesh,” will mean abolished, destroyed, the dominion which sin exercised in our sinful flesh. The Greek words, κατεκρινε την αμαρτιαν εν τῃ σαρκι, will admit of this meaning.—(Vide Beelen).

4. This is what was impossible to the law, viz., to enable us to fulfil its precepts, and thus insure its justification; for, “the doers of the law will be justified,” (chap 2:13), and by the death of the Son of God, the grace was merited for us, which enabled us to observe God’s commandments. In the other interpretation, this verse is connected with the word “sending.” The object God had in sending his Son to destroy the dominion of sin was, “that the justification of the law,” &c. These understood “what the law could not do” to refer to the destroying the dominion of sin in our flesh.

5. “They that are according to the flesh, mind,” (φρονουσι) i.e., have their entire thoughts and attention devoted to “the things that are of the flesh,” and hence, in reference to such, as they do not co-operate in observing God’s law, but rather oppose it, the grace of the New Testament will not give them strength to observe God’s law. The “flesh,” here, as in many other passages of St. Paul (v.g., Gal. 5:19), includes not only the animal propensities which reside in the sensual appetite, but the entire corrupt nature of man, even the spiritual faculties of the soul. In like manner, “sin,” or concupiscence, in the preceding, is not confined to carnal concupiscence; it extends to the disorderly affections of the soul, which are the source of spiritual sins.

6. “For the wisdom of the flesh.” The Greek for “wisdom of the flesh” (φρόνημα τῆς σαρκος), means the same as “mind the things of the flesh,” (verse 5). Hence, the meaning is, and the proper rendering should be, the minding of the things of the flesh.

7. The reason for which is, that this wisdom of the flesh is at enmity with God; for, it is rebellious against his law, it is not subject to it, nor can it be; for, the wisdom of the flesh and the observance of God’s law are perfectly irreconcilable; it must cease to be wisdom according to the flesh, when it obeys the law of God.

8. This is the conclusion which the Apostle draws from the preceding verses. His argument is this:—I have said (verse 4), that it is only those, who walk according to the spirit, that can observe God’s law, “for those who walk according to the flesh, mind the things of the flesh (verse 5). But, to mind the things of the flesh is death,” (verse 6). Hence, those who walk according to the flesh cannot please God, which they would do were they to observe his commandments. They cannot please God, any more than rebels, continuing such, can please their lawful sovereign.

9. “You are not in the flesh.” You are not subject to the flesh, nor do you follow its desires, but you walk according to the spirit. He addresses those who were baptized. “If so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you,” i.e., if he has not departed from you on account of your actual sins, but dwells in you, as in his temples. The bodies of the just are the temples of the Holy Ghost. “Now, if any one hath not the Spirit of Christ,” i.e., if the Holy Ghost, who is the “Spirit of God,” and the “Spirit of Christ,” abide not in a Christian, he is merely a Christian in name, but he is not a living member of the mystical body of Christ.

10. “The body is dead” (is and be are wanting in the original text), i.e., of necessity, liable to death, or, mortal, on account of the sin of Adam, in punishment of which “death entered into this world” (chap. 5) and he says “it is dead,” νεκρον, because it contains within it the seeds of certain death, and is gradually dissolving and approaching its final end. “But the spirit liveth.” (In Greek, τὸ πνευμα ζωη, the spirit is life) that is, the soul lives a spiritual life, “because of justification,” i.e., on account of the justifying graces with which it is adorned, and it shall hereafter live a life of glory, of which grace is the seed.

11. Not only will the immortal soul enjoy a glorious immortality, but even the mortal body shall share in and possess the attributes of glory and immortality. “Raised up Jesus Christ.” “Jesus” is wanting in the Greek.

12. This is the conclusion which the Apostle derives from the foregoing. As it is to the spirit, we owe our spiritual life of grace here, and as it is from it we expect a life of glory hereafter; therefore, we are no longer debtors to the flesh, so as to follow its dictates; it is to the spirit alone that we are indebted. The Apostle personifies the “flesh” here; he supposes it to be a master demanding our service, as he did before regarding “sin.”

13. This is an additional reason why we should serve not the flesh, but the spirit (by serving one we renounce the other); it is derived from the consequences of our service in both cases. “You mortify the deeds of the flesh.” In Greek, τοῦ σώματος (of the body), that is, kill within you those risings of corrupt passions, in subduing which are felt the pains of death.

14. This is a proof of the foregoing, viz., that by mortifying the deeds of the flesh “they shall live;” because, by acting up to the inspirations of the Holy Ghost, they become “sons of God,” and as “sons of God,” they are his “heirs” (verse 17), i.e., they shall enjoy the never-ending inheritance of eternal life. Therefore, “they shall live” (verse 13). The Apostle supposes them to be baptized, as a condition of this divine filiation. The word “led,” implies only moral impulse, which by our own free will we might resist; it involves no loss of human liberty; for, in the preceding the Apostle supposes human liberty, when he speaks of “mortifying the deeds of the flesh,” &c. The same is observable, Phil. 11, 12, 13, where, after speaking of the operation of God, he tells them to “work out their salvation,” &c.

15. In this verse, he shows from the spirit they received that they are sons of God; or, perhaps, in it is conveyed an additional motive for them to walk according to the spirit, viz., in order to correspond with the spirit they received. “You have not received the spirit of bondage again in fear” (in Greek, εἴς φόβον, unto fear). He evidently refers to the spirit of fear which the Jews received on Sinai, and which was given them as a gift of the Holy Ghost, in order to deter them from violating God’s commandments. Ut probaret vos, venit Deus, et ut terror illius esset in vobis.—Exodus, 20. Although the fear proceeded from the Holy Ghost, the servility of the fear came from themselves. The graces whereby the Jews of old were justified, belonged not to the Old Law as such, but to the New Covenant. “But you have received the spirit of the adoption of sons.” He contrasts this latter gift of the Holy Ghost with the former gift, which it far excelled. “The spirit of adoption of sons,” the spirit of love, the sanctifying grace of the Holy Ghost, by which we are become the adopted sons of God, and under the influence of which we confidently and freely call God Father. “Whereby we cry Abba (Father).” The more probable reason why the Apostle repeats the word “Father,” in Hebrew, “Abba,” and in Greek πατηρ, is to show that God is the common Father of all the believers, whether Jews, in whose language “Abba” means “Father;” or Gentiles, who call him πατηρ.

16. This same spirit, by whose influence “we cry out Abba, &c.,” by this filial affection whereby he inspires us to utter such a cry, “testifies together with our spirit,” (this is the meaning of the Greek word συμμαρτυρει), in other words, confirms the testimony of our spirit, “that we are sons of God.” The compound verb in the Greek may simply mean, to testify, as in Paraphrase. Verses 15, 16 are to be read within a parenthesis, and verse 17 immediately connected with verse 14. For in verse 15 there is given, incidentally, one proof of verse 14, viz., calling God Father; and in verse 16 another, viz., the testimony of the Holy Ghost.

OBJECTION.—Does it not follow, then, that each man is absolutely certain of his salvation?

RESP.—By no means. If we give the words, “giveth testimony,” the full meaning of the compound Greek word, συμμαρτυρει; in Latin, contestatur, all that would follow is, that the Holy Ghost confirms our own testimony, that we are the sons of God, by inspiring us to repeat the prayer in which we address God as our Father. This would certainly convey no absolute certainly of faith on the subject; or, as the Council of Trent describes, “certitudo fidei, cui non potest subesse falsum.”—(SS. vi., ch. ix.) If the words be understood in a simple form, all that would follow is, that we arrive at a moral, or rather conjectural certainty from the signs which come from the Holy Ghost—viz., horror of sin, love of virtue, peace and tranquillity of conscience, &c. Besides, the Apostle does not say that the Holy Ghost tells every individual by a revelation, that he is the son of God. This would be opposed to the clear order of his Providence, in which “no one knows whether he be worthy of love or hatred,” and to the command, “to work out their salvation with fear and trembling.”

17. God has wished that his children should have, besides the title of inheritance, the title of merit also, to eternal life. “Yet so, if we suffer with him,” the very adoption on which the title of inheritance is founded, is the reward of merit. While infants can only have the title of inheritance, adults must have the twofold title of inheritance and merit.

18. He stimulates them to submit to the painful condition of suffering, without which no one will enter the kingdom of God, by pointing out the immensity of the reward. If you regard the substance of the works and sufferings of this life, they bear no proportion whatever to the future glory which is to be their reward. But, if they be regarded as emanating from God’s grace, and if we take into consideration God’s liberal promise, attaching eternal life to them, there is some proportion; but which, still, is neither exact nor adequate; the one being temporal, the other, eternal. It is the substance of the sufferings and their duration, that the Apostle here compares with the future glory, as in the 2nd Cor. chap. 4. “For, that which is at present momentary and light—worketh for us an eternal weight of glory.”

19. The Apostle employs a bold figure of speech, prosopopœia, to convey to us an idea of the magnitude of the bliss in store for the sons of God. He represents inanimate creatures themselves anxiously looking out for the manifestation of the glory of the sons of God. The Greek word for “creation,” κτισις, is taken in Scripture to denote inanimate nature (Rom. 1:25), and it is here distinguished from rational beings, verse 23.

20. For, inanimate creation was rendered subject to corruption and mutability, in punishment of the sin of man, for whose service it was destined; “not willingly,” i.e., notwithstanding the tendency of everything to attain its natural perfection, or, from no inherent defect of its own. “But by reason of him that made it subject,” i.e., by the ordination of God, who subjected it to vanity, i.e., to corruption and change, in punishment of the sin of man, at whose fall everything destined for his use became deteriorated. “In hope,” the object of the hope is expressed next verse.

21. This is the object of the hope—viz., that it shall be rescued from the corruption in which it now is, serving sinful and mortal man, and be transferred to a state of incorruption suited to the glorious liberty of the sons of God, for whose service the “new heavens and the new earth in which justice dwells,” (2 Peter, 3:13), are destined.

22. He expresses, in the strongest form, the desire of inanimate nature to be rescued from corruption, by comparing it with the anxious desire, for a happy delivery, of a woman enduring the painful throes of childbirth.

23. “But ourselves also,” is referred by some to the Apostle. It more probably, however, has reference to all Christians in the days of the Apostle. “Who have the first fruits of the spirit,” i.e., who have received the gifts of the Holy Ghost, sanctifying grace, faith, hope, &c., and the other gifts which were abundantly conferred in the primitive Church, and which were so many pledges of future glory. “Waiting for the adoption of the sons of God,” i.e., their perfect, consummate adoption, by receiving the glorious inheritance. We have already received the imperfect, incomplete adoption by grace. “The redemption of our body.” This is the perfect state of our adoption in our resurrection and glorification. “Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”—(chap. 7 verse 24).

24. The Apostle, in the preceding verse, said, that we are anxiously expecting the glory of the blessed, the liberation of our body from the slavery of corruption. The connexion of this verse with it is, “I said we were expecting,” &c., for, that we are yet only expecting is clear from the fact, that it is only the initial salvation by hope we enjoy here below. Now, hope and fruition are perfectly incompatible; for, hope has reference to future, but not to present good or actual possession. “Hope that is seen,” means hope, the object of which is obtained.

25. If hope excludes actual possession of the thing hoped for, we ought to wait with patience for the object which must be at a distance. “Patience,” in the Greek, ῦπομονῆς, means, the patient suffering of evils; it has reference to the words, verse 17, “yet so if we suffer with him.” As we have not yet attained the objects of hope, viz., the inheritance of the sons of God, we must wait to receive them through the patient suffering of the crosses and evils of this life.

26. “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth.” This is more probably connected with verse 16, as in Paraphrase. The Holy Ghost “helpeth,” the Greek word, συναντιλαμβανεται, means to lay hold of a weight, on the opposite side, so as to help in carrying it. It implies the free concurrence of man with the aid of the Holy Ghost. “Our infirmity.” (in the common Greek, ἀσθενείαις ἡμῶν, our infirmities. The Vulgate, ἀσθενείᾳ, is supported by the chief MSS.) “For, we know not what we should pray for,” &c. So great is our weakness, that we know not how to pray as we ought, or what to pray for, much less to perform actions, the aid for which must be derived from prayer. The Apostle instances our inability to pray, as one out of the many cases of infirmity under which we labour. “But the Spirit himself,” which evidently refers to the Holy Ghost, “asketh for us, with unspeakable groanings;” “he asketh” by inspiring and making us to ask; and hence he is said “to ask,” because his grace is the principal agent, assisted by our free will, in making us pray “with ineffable groanings,” i.e., with a fervour of spirit which cannot be fully expressed, or, which is even to ourselves unaccountable. The Holy Ghost, then, asks along with us, and through us, by enlightening us, by exciting us as his members, to pray with an ardour and vehemence which we can neither fully express nor account for; hence it is said elsewhere, “non vos estis qui loquimini sed spiritus patris vestri,” &c.—(Matt. 10:20.) “Misit spiritum … clamantem, abba pater.”—(Gal. 4:6).

27. But though these groans be to us inexplicable, still, God knows and fully approves of them, because they proceed from his Spirit, whose prayers for us, i.e., to supply our deficiency, are always according to God’s will, “because he asketh for the saints,” i.e., in order to supply the deficiency in the prayers of the saints. Others connect the words thus: The Spirit also, as well as the hope of future bliss, sustains us in all our distresses and weakness.

28. “To such as, according to his purpose, are called to be saints.” The word “saints” is not in the Greek: “called,” as appears from the Greek, τοῖς κατὰ πρόθεσιν κλητοῖς οὖσιν, is not a participle, but a noun.

This passage is intended by the Apostle to stimulate the Romans to the patient endurance of the crosses of this life; for we know that all things, whether prosperity or adversity, nay, even their very sins (as is added by some of the Commentators), which serve the purpose of humiliation, work together unto the good of those who love God. And to show that this love regarded the faithful among the Romans, the Apostle explains it, by saying, “such as according to his purpose,” πρόθεσιν, i.e., his gratuitous decree, “are called to be saints.”

Commentators are greatly divided as to the object of this “purpose” or decree in question. Some assert that it regards the decree of giving glory; and even these are divided on this subject; one class of them says, that the decree of giving glory is prior to, and quite independent of, the good works of man. Those hold predestination to glory to be, ante prævisa merita. On the other hand, a second class maintain that the prevision of man’s future merits is prior, in the divine mind, to the decree of giving glory. These are the advocates of Predestination to glory, post prævisa merita. Others assert, that this decree in question regards not glory directly, but grace and sanctity. The advocates of the former opinion ground their interpretation: 1st, On the words “all things work together,” &c. Now, it is only of those called to glory, this could be true. 2ndly, They say, the word “purpose,” in Greek, πρόθεσιν, signifies a decree or infallible efficacy. 3rdly, The words, “called according to his purpose,” (for the words “to be saints,” are not in the Greek), are restrictive of the preceding. 4thly, The word “glorifies,” (verse 30), shows glory to be the term of the decree.

The advocates of the interpretation, which makes the decree refer to grace and sanctity, ground it: 1st, On the words, “called to be saints,” which is the term of the decree, and the words mean, called to state and profession of sanctity—the meaning in which the same words are taken in the different introductory salutations in the Epistle of St. Paul, 2ndly, The very object of the Apostle introducing the concurrence of all things towards their good, as a motive to induce them to bear patiently the crosses of this life, would prove the same; since all whom he addresses were called to grace and sanctity, but they could not all regard themselves as called to glory. Finally, the general objects of the Apostle in this Epistle, which regards the gratuitous call to grace of the Romans (for it was regarding this alone there was any controversy), makes it probable that here, too, he refers to the same.

In reply to the arguments of the preceding interpretation, they say: 1st, That “all things,” may be restricted by the subject matter to mean, all sufferings; and that the words, “work together,” do not necessarily imply actual working together, but only that these sufferings are intended, according to the antecedent will of God, for their sanctification. And even though all sufferings may not work together for the good of such as fall away from justice; still the Apostle, in the fervour of his charity, abstracts from the possible chance of their not persevering, and to draw a line of distinction between those called to glory and those rejected from it, would only injure the object he has in view, by throwing some into despondency. 2ndly, They say the word “purpose,” does not involve absolute infallible efficacy (v.g. Acts, 11:23); and morever, even though it did, no inconvenience would result; because, the grace and sanctity, which, in their opinion, it regards, are infallibly conferred. 3rdly. These words are explanatory, not restrictive. 4thly, Glory is only the reward of justice, and are we to wonder if the great charity of the Apostle made him abstract from the possibility of their not persevering, who were called, and represent all those whom God predestined to sanctity, as receiving the crown of glory which is decreed only for those who persevere? The latter opinion seems far the more probable. Hence, we have nothing to do here with the relative probability or improbability of the opinions regarding the decrees of glory, ante prævisa merita, or post prævisa merita. No doubt, the latter opinion appears far more in accordance with the doctrine of the Apostles, asserting that “God wishes all men to be saved,” and “none to perish;” more in accordance with our ideas of the goodnesss of God manifested in the death of Christ for all, and his tears and labours for the conversion of sinners during his mortal life. It is still free for any Theologian to hold either opinion. It is, however, to be observed, that although we can hold, that in predestinating men to glory, God is actuated by the prevision of the good works of those whom he predestines—post prævisa merita—and this is even, as has been just stated, the more probable opinion; still, no one could hold, without falling into the semi-Pelagian heresy, that in predestining men to grace, God is actuated by the prevision of their correspondence with this grace, as the motive of his conferring it. And although we may hold, negative reprobation, or, the non-predestinating, and selecting men out of the mass of perdition, to be, ante prævisa demerita—no doubt a very improbable opinion—still, no one, without falling into the shocking heresy of Calvin, could hold positive reprobation, or the decree of devoting anyone to eternal punishment, to be, ante prævisa demerita. The reason is, that Predestination ante prævisa merita, being a free gratuitous act of goodness of the part of God, he could exercise it as he pleased; but it would be unjust to inflict a punishment without some fault. Hence, God would be cruel and unjust in marking out men for punishment without some fault, i.e., in reprobating them positively, ante prævisa demerita. Of all the errors of Calvin, this is, perhaps, the most shocking and blasphemous.

29. In this verse, the Apostle explains why all things work together unto the good of those “called according to the purpose,” or gratuitous decree of God. The construction of the verse, adopted by the generality of Commentators, is this, “for whom he foreknew (those) he also predestinated.” Such of them as make the passage refer to predestination to glory, by “foreknew,” understand “those whom he foreknew by a knowledge of love and predilection,” i.e., whom he loved from eternity, those he predestined. The others say the words mean, “those whom he foreknew would be conformable to the image of his Son, he predestined to be such.” A’Lapide, whose interpretation has been adopted in the Paraphrase, says that the Apostle in this verse enters on an explanation of the nature of predestination referred to here, and then resumes the word “predestinated,” in next verse (30) in which the sentence suspended is completed. This construction perfectly accords with the style of the Apostle, who, carried away by some idea that occurs to him, sometimes, defers, for a long time, the completion of a sentence (v.g. chap. 5, v. 12, of this Epistle; chap. 3. Epistle to the Ephesians). According to this construction, the words of our English version: “For whom he foreknew, he also predestinated,” should be rendered from the Vulgate, quos præscivit et prædestinavit, “whom he foreknew and predestinated;” and, then, a marked difference is clearly perceptible in the text, between the mode in which the words, “he foreknew,” and “predestinated,” in this verse are connected, and the connexion which exists between any of the verbs in next verse. He says here, “whom he foreknew and predestinated.” In the next verse, “whom he predestinated, them he also called—whom he called, them he also justified,” &c. And this interpretation of A’Lapide requires the introduction of no other word in the sentence. Hence, his interpretation is adopted in the Paraphrase, in preference to any other. He connects verses 29 with 28, thus: “all things work together, &c.” (verse 28). Because these are they whom God foreknew, and predestinated to be conformable to the image of his Son, or to the model which his Son presents (v. 29). This conformity is to exist in suffering and justice; no doubt, it will extend to glory also. According to A’Lapide, “also” or “and” has the meaning of “because,” “nay even,” as if to say, “he foreknew, because he predestined them to be conformable to the image of his Son,” in justice and suffering. “That he might be the first-born,” &c. This predestination redounds to the glory of Christ, who, as God, is the only begotten, and as Man, is the natural Son of God, and first-born among the others who are only his adopted sons.

30. “And whom he predestinated.” Resuming the sentence suspended last verse, he says, “those (I say) whom he predestinated” to a conformity with the Son in suffering, he called to the same; “whom he called, he justified” by these sufferings, “and whom he justified, he glorified” by the same. The Apostle uses the past tense, though some of the events are future in regard to many, to show the certainty of the future events marked out in God’s decrees. We are not to suppose each of the terms which express the order in which the decrees of God are executed to be equally extensive, so that all are glorified, who are called. The words only mean, that out of the “called” are the “justified,” and out of the “justified” the “glorified.”

31. This is said to animate them with greater courage in bearing up against the crosses and persecutions of this life, knowing that God is for them, and destines all temporal evils for their good (verse 28); how, then, can any temporal misfortune or persecution from men ultimately harm them.

32. God has given us the greatest earnest and pledge of his love, in delivering up to death, and in not sparing “his own Son,” his natural, well-beloved Son, for our sakes. “Hath he not also given us,” &c.; in the Greek it is in the future, χαρισεται, “will he not also give us all things?” The meaning, however, is not changed, for in giving us Christ, he has virtually given with him all blessings and graces, and he has given us a sure earnest of arranging the decrees of his Providence, so as to lead securely to our final happiness. Having given us what is greater, when we were his enemies, he will not hesitate to grant us what is less, when we are his friends; having obtained the master, why hesitate about the possessions?—St. Chrysostom. What an excess of charity on the part of God. “He spared not,” whom?—His own Son, “by whom all things were made.” On whose account? On account of us, his wretched creatures, the work of hands, his sworn enemies, owing to our manifold sins.

33, 34. There is a great difference of opinion regarding the punctuation of these two verses. Some persons place a note of interrogation after each member of the sentences, thus: “Who then shall accuse against the elect of God? Is it God that justified?” To which the implied answer is: By no means. “Who is he that shall condemn? Is it Christ Jesus that died—yea, that is risen again?” &c. By no means. Others following the punctuation, as given in the Vulgate, interpret the words thus: “Who shall accuse the elect of God?” No one; since God has pronounced the sentence of their acquittal. “Who shall condemn?” No one; since Christ Jesus has died to save them, &c. In the Paraphrase is preferred the interpretation and construction adopted by Estius, who, adhering to the punctuation of the Vulgate, connects the words “God that justifies,” not with the preceding clause, but with the following: “who then shall condemn?” And the words, “Christ Jesus that died—yea, that is risen,” &c., with the following verse (35), “who then shall separate us from the love of Christ.” There apppears to be an allusion in these words to the 50th chapter of Isaias, and with this allusion the interpretation now given accords best. In the 33rd verse the Apostle appears to be arming and encouraging the Romans against the assaults and persecutions of their external enemies, whether Jews or Gentiles. In this, he is strengthening them against the alarms and terrors of conscience, which their past sins were apt to engender. “Who sits at the right hand of God,” i.e., as man, he holds the highest place next to God in heaven. “Who also maketh intercession for us.” He intercedes not by suppliant prayer, but by exhibiting his wounds, and the merits he gained by his sufferings.—(See Hebrews, 9:24).

35. “The love of Christ” may refer to the love Christ has for us, but it more probably refers to our love for Christ, since it alone could be effected or endangered by the causes referred to in this verse, how could “tribulation, famine,” &c., affect the charity of Christ for us? Hence, the words mean, who or what can deprive us of the love for Christ, which these great favours and sufferings on his part so imperatively demand at our hands?

36. As it is written: “For thy sake,” &c. These words are taken from the 43rd Psalm, and are generally supposed to have been written by David. In it, the Psalmist is supposed by the Greeks to represent, in a prophetic spirit, the sufferings of the Machabees. The Latins say that the Psalm is prophetic of the sufferings of the early martyrs of the Christian Church. Most probably, it refers to both; it is here taken by the Apostle, to refer to the sufferings, which the faithful are destined to undergo, in defence of the law of God in all ages.

37. “We overcome;” the Greek, ὑπερνεικῶμεν, means “to obtain a most complete victory,” i.e., we have more than sufficient strength to overcome our enemies. What a beautiful illustration of this is furnished us by St. Chrysostom, after having been expelled by Eudoxia (Epistola ad Cyriacum), “since the queen wishes to drive me into exile, let her do so; the Lord’s is the earth and its fulness. If she wishes to have me sawn in two, let her do so,; Isaias suffered the like punishment. If she wishes to cast me into the deep, I will remember Jonas; to stone me, I shall have Stephen, the first martyr, for an associate; to take away my head, I shall have for an associate John the Baptist; to deprive me of my substance, let her do so, “naked have I come forth from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thereto.”

38. St. Augustine quotes this passage from the Apostle, from verse 31 to the end, as a specimen of the most finished and impassioned oratory. “I am sure.” The Greek word, πεπεισμαι, only expresses a moral certainty, a firm persuasion, and confidence. It is taken in this sense, and it could bear no other, in 15:14, of this Epistle, 2 Timothy, 1, Hebrews, 6 and 11. Here, therefore, it furnishes no argument in favour of the special faith of heretics. We can, moreover, say that St. Paul is speaking of himself in the person of the elect, and who can say, regarding himself, that he is among the elect? And some of the Protestant writers themselves say that the “love of God,” referred to here, is the love of God for us. So that, even following their interpretation, there is not a shadow of argument for their erroneous doctrine. “Nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers.” These words refer to three of the different orders of angels, and under the three orders the rest are included; by some Commentators, they are referred to the demons, who fell from the different; orders of blessed spirits; by others, to the good angels, in which interpretation the Apostle makes an impossible hypothesis, as in Galatians, chap. 1, “If an angel from heaven should preach a different doctrine,” &c. “Nor might” is not in the Greek; it, most probably refers to the powers of this world, as opposed to the spiritual powers referred to before.

39. “Height, depth,” may also mean the things in the heavens, in the air, and under the earth and sea, &c.








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