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BY THE REV. JOHN PLATTS,
Author of a New Chronological Biography, Elements of Ecclesiastical History,
The Literary and Scientific Class Book, &c.
'I will show thee that which is noted in the Scripture of Truth.'— Daniel.
JAMES ROBINS AND CO. IVY LANE, PATERNOSTER ROW.
THE EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE
Paul, originally named Saul, was of the tribe of Benjamin, a native of Tarsus, in Cilicia, and of the sect of the Pharisees. He was first a persecutor of the Church, afterwards a disciple of Jesus Christ, and apostle of the Gentiles. Bishop Pearce conjectures that he changed his Hebrew name Saul to the Roman name Paul, from respect to his first Roman convert, Sergius Paulus (Acts, xii. 7). He was a Roman citizen (Acts, xxii. 27, 28), because Augustus had given the freedom of Rome to all the freemen of Tarsus, in consideration of their firm adherence to his interests. It is probable that he laid the foundation of those literary attainments, for which he was so eminent in the future part of his life, at his native city of Tarsus; and he afterwards studied the law of Moses, and the traditions of the elders, at Jerusalem, under Gamaliel, a celebrated Rabbi.
Paul imbibed a most violent hatred against the Christians ; and, when Stephen was stoned, he held the raiment of his murderers, and afterwards set out for Damascus to imprison the disciples; but a supernatural vision converted his rancour into żeal for the faith. After this he became a distinguished preacher of Christianity. His eloquence was so great that it made Felix tremble, converted Dionysius the areopagite at Athens, and drew from Longinus expressions of admiration. The Epistles of St. Paul are models of pathetic remonstrance and close reasoning. He endured great labours and sufferings in the cause of Christ, and was at last put
to death, by Nero the emperor, probably in the year 65. Dr. Paley observes, “ that in Paul we have a man of liberal attainments, and in other respects of sound judgment, who had devoted his life to the service of the Gospel. We see him, in the prosecution of his purpose, travelling from country to country, enduring every species of hardship, encountering every extremity of danger, assaulted by the populace, punished by the magistrates, scourged, beat, stoned, left for dead; expecting, wherever ) came, a renewal of the same treatment and the same dan
yet, when driven from one city, preaching in the next; spending his whole time in the employment; sacrificing to it his pleasures, his ease, his safety; persisting in this course to his old age; unaltered by the experience of perverseness, ingratitude, prejudice, desertion ; unsubdued by anxiety, want, labour, persecutions; unwearied by long confinement; undismayed by the prospect of death. Such was St. Paul.”
This Epistle to the Romans was placed before the other Epistles of St. Paul, not because it was first in order of time, but because of the dignity of the imperial city, to which it is directed, or because of the excellence of the matter which it contains. This Epistle was written from Corinth, the capital city of Achaia in Greece, A. D. 58, being the fourth year of the emperor Nero, just before St. Paul set out for Jerusalem with the contributions which the Christians of Macedonia and Achaia had made for the relief of their poor brethren in Judea (Rom. xv. 25, 26, Acts, xx. 1). It was transcribed, or written as St. Paul dictated it, by Tertius (Rom. xvi. 22); and the person who conveyed it to Rome was Phæbe (Rom. xvi. 1), a deaconess of the Church at Cenchrea. St. Paul, when he wrote this Epistle, had not been at Rome (Rom. i. 13, xv. 23); but he had heard an account of the state of the Church in that city from Aquila and Priscilla, two Christians, who were banished from thence by the edict of Claudius, and with whom he resided during his first visit to Corinth.
St. Paul's design in this Epistle was to heal certain disputes which then prevailed among the Christians at Rome, and divided the converted Jews and Gentiles. The Jews claimed a superiority over the Gentiles, on account of their birthright, and the promises made to their fathers; while the Gentiles contended for the merit of their philosophers and legislators, and bitterly reproached the Jews with their infidelity towards God, and a violation of his laws.
To settle these contentions, St. Paul applies himself to restrain the presumption of both parties. He shows that neither of them could pretend to any merit, or had any reason to glory, or boast of their vocation, which proceeded purely from the grace and mercy of God. He asserts there is but one God, who is the God and Father of all mankind, both Jews and Gentiles; and that under the Gospel there is no difference between Jews, and Gentiles. The argumentative part of the Epistle reaches to the twelfth chapter,
from which, to the end, the apostle proceeds to enforce that disposition and those duties which are suitable to the Christian profession.