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EPISTLE OF ST. PAUL
WRIT IN THE YEAR OF OUR LORD 57, OF NERO 3.
BEFORE we take into consideration the epistle to the Romans in particular, it may not be amiss to premise, that the miraculous birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ, were all events that came to pass within the confines of Judea; and that the ancient writings of the Jewish nation, allowed by the Christians to be of divine original, were appealed to, as witnessing the truth of his mission and doctrine ; whereby it was manifest, that the Jews were the depositaries of the proofs of the Christian religion. This could not choose but give the Jews, who were owned to be the people of God, even in the days of our Saviour, a great authority among the convert Gentiles, who knew nothing of the Messiah, they were to believe in, but what they derived from that nation out of which he and his doctrine sprung. Nor did the Jews fail to make use of this advantage several ways, to the disturbance of the Gentiles that embraced Christianity. The Jews, even those of them that received the Gospel, were, for the most part, so devoted to the law of Moses and their ancient rites, that they could, by no means bring themselves to think that they were to be laid aside. They were, every where, stiff and zealous for them, and contended that they were necessary to be observed, even by Christians, by all that pretended to be the people of God, and hoped to be accepted by him. This gave no small trouble to the newly-converted Gentiles, and was a great prejudice to the Gospel, and therefore we find it complained of in more places than one; vid. Acts xv. 1. 2 Cor. xi. 3. Gal. ii. 4, and v. 1, 10, 12. Phil. iii. 2. Col. ii. 4, 8, 16. Tit. i. 10, 11, 14, &c. This remark may serve to give light, not only to this epistle to the Romans, but to several other of St. Paul's epistles, written to the churches of converted Gentiles.
As to this epistle to the Romans, the apostle's principal aim in it seems to be, to persuade them to a steady perseverance in the profession of Christianity, by convincing them that God is the God of the Gentiles as well as of the Jews; and that now, under the Gospel, there is no difference between Jew and Gentile. This he does several ways.
1. By showing that, though the Gentiles were very sinful, yet the Jews, who had the law, kept it not, and so could not, upon account of their having the law (which being broken, aggravated their faults, and made them as far froin righteous as the Gentiles themselves) have a title to exclude the Gentiles from being the people of God under the Gospel.
2. That Abraham was a father of all that believe, as well uncircumcised as circumcised ; so that those that walk in the steps of the faith of Abraham, though uncircumcised, are the seed to which the promise is made, and shall receive the blessing.
3. That it was the purpose of God, from the beginning, to take the Gentiles to be his people under the Messias, in the place of the Jews, who had been so