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gospel might be rendered a complete form of religion : that the ! Gentile converts, who knew their freedom from the law of
Moses, despised their Judaizing brethren as superstitious bigots, while the dthers regarded them as profane, for neglecting institutions which they esteemed sacred : that those who posseffed spiritual gifts, had occasioned great disturbance in the church, each extolling his own gifts, and striving to exercise them in the public assemblies, without giving place to others: Lastly, that some, both of the Jewish and Gentile believers, reckoning it disgraceful to obey constitutions made by idolaters, had, in several instances, contemned the wholesome laws of the state, and were in danger of being punished as evil doers, to the great scandal of the Christian name.
As th: apostle had not been in Rome, when he wrote this epistle, some persons, well acquainted with the affairs of the church there, must have made him acquainted with all the particulars above mentioned. For his letter to the Romans was evidently framed with a view to these things. If so, who more likely to give the information, than Aquila and Priscilla, with whom the apostle lodged fo long? And though the Roman brethren were then dispersed, consequently the apostle had no opportunity of writing to them as a church; yet the disorders which prevailed among them, having made a deep impression on his spirit, we may suppose he resolved to embrace the first opportunity of remedying them. Accordingly, during his second visit to the Corinthians, having heard that the church was reestablished at Rome, St. Paul wrote to the Romans this excellent and learned letter, which bears their name ; wherein, at great length, he discoursed of the justification of finners; an. swered the objections made to the gospel doctrine of justification ; proved from Moses and the prophets the calling of the Gentiles, the rejection of the Jews, and their future restoration ; and gave the Roman brethren many precepts and exhortations, suited to their character and circumstances.
From the pains which the apostle took in this letter, to prove that no Gentile can be justified by the law of nature, nor Jew by the law of Moses, and from his explaining in it all the divine dispensations respecting religion, as well as from what he says, chap. i. 7. 13, 14, 15. it is reafonable to think it was designed
for the unbelieving Jews and Gentiles at Rome, as well as for the brethren ; who therefore would shew the copies which they took of it to their unbelieving acquaintance. And inasmuch as the apostle profeffed to derive his views of the matters contained in this letter, from the former revelations, and from inspiration, it certainly merited the attention of every unbeliever to whom it was shown, whether he were a Jewish fcribe, or a heathen philofopher, or a Roman magistrate, or one of the people ; some of whom, I make no doubt, read it. And thougủ, by reading it, they may not have been persuaded to embrace the gospel immediately, the candid and intelligent, by seriously weighing the things written in it, must have received such instruction in the principles and duties of natural religion, as could hardly fail to lead them to see the absurdity of the commonly received idolatry; which was one good step towards their conversion. - To conclude: As in this learned letter, the principal objections, by which Jews and Deists have all along impugned the gospel, are introduced and answered, it is a writing which the adversaries of revelation, who pretend to oppose it on rational principles, ought to peruse with attention and candour.
The commentators observe, that although the apostle, in the inscription of this letter, hath afferted his apoftolical authority, to make the Romans fenfible, that the things written in it were dictated to him by the Spirit ; yet, as he was personally unknown to the greatest part of them, he does not teach, exhort, and rebuke them with that authority which he uses in his letters to the churches of his own planting, but he writes to them in a mild and condescending manner, in order to gain their affection.
Sect. IV. Of the Time and Place of writing the Epifle to the
Romans. The first time Paul visited Corinth, he found Aquila and Priscilla, lately come from Italy, in consequence of Claudius's cdict, (Acts xviii. 2.) which was published in the eleventh year of his reign, answering to A. D. 51. (See Pref. 1 Cor. sect. 1.) Probably the apostle arrived at Corinth in the summer of that year. And as he abode there more than eighteen months, before he set out for Syria, (Acts xviii. 18.) he must have left Co
rinth in the spring of A. D. 53.-In his voyage to Syria, the apostle touched at Ephesus, then sailed straight to Cesarea. From Cesarea he went to Jerusalem, and after that to Antioch. And having spent some time there, he departed, and went over all the country of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening the disciples, Acts xviii. 21, 22, 23. Then passing through the upper confts, be came to Ephesus, fets xix. I. His voyage from Corinth to Cefarea, and his journey through the countries just now mentioned, may have been performed in a year and ten months. Wherefore, if he failed from Corinth in February 53, he may have come to Ephesus in the end of the year 54. And seeing he abode at Ephesus about three years, (Acts xx. 31.) before he went into Macedonia, his arrival in Macedonia (Acts xx. 1.) must have happened in the year 57. At this time the apostle went over all these parts, and gave them much exhortation, before he went into Greece, Acts xx. 2. Probably this was the time he preached the gospel in the borders of Illyricum, Rom. xv. 19. these transactions would take up the summer of the year 57, we cannot suppose he came into Greece sooner than in the autumn of that year. The purpose of his journey into Greece, was to receive the collections which the churches of Achaia had made for the saints in Judea, 2 Cor. ix. 3.-5. Having therefore abode three months in Greece, (Acts xx. 3.) he departed with the collections early in the year 58.—The time of the apostle's departure from Greece with the collections, being thus fixed, there can be no doubt concerning the date of his epistle to the Romans ; for he told them he was going to Jerusalem, when he wrote it, Rom. xv. 25. But now I go to ferrufalem, miniftring to the saints. Wherefore the epistle to the Romans was written at Corinth, as we shall fee immediately, in the end of A. D. 57, or in the beginning of A. D. 58, full seven years after the Jews and Christians were banished from Rome by Claudius, and about three years after their return. For Claudius dying in the year 54% his edict terminated with his life; and not being renewed by his successor, the Jews and Christians came back to Rome in such numbers, that, in the third year of the emperor Nero, when the apostle wrote this letter, the Roman church had acquired its former celebrity. To conclude: The circumstances, by which the date of the epistle to the Romans is fixed, are so
well ascertained, that learned men are nearly agreed in their opinion upon the point : some, with Pearson, dating it at Corinth, in the year 57; others, with Lardner, in the beginning of 58 ; and others, with Mill, in 58, without determining the time
of the year.
The falutations from Gaius or Caius, the apostle's hoft, and from Erastus, the chamberlain of the city, Rom. xvi. 23. are additional proofs, that this epistle was written at Corinth. For that Gaius lived there, seems plain from 1 Cor. i. 14..as did Erastus likewise, 2 Tim. ii. 14. Besides, Phoebe, a deaconess of the church at Cenchrea, the eastern part of Corinth, having been the bearer of this letter, Corinth, by that circumstance also, is so plainly pointed out as the place where it was written, that there was no occasion for the apostle to be more particular.
R O M AN S.
View and Illustration of the Matters contained in this Chapter.
HE unbelieving Jews having violently opposed the gospel,
and because Jesus, whom the Christians called the Chrift
, was not such an one as they expected, the apostle, in the inscription of this epistle, affirmed that the gospel was preached to the Gentiles, in fulfilment of God's promise made by the prophets in the scriptures, ver. 1, 2.- And that Jesus, whom the apostles called the Chrif, was, as to his flesh, sprung of the seed of David, ver. 3. - But as to his divine nature, he was, with the greatest power of evidence, declared to be the Son of God, by his resurrection, ver. 4.-And because Paul was personally unknown to most of the Christians in Rome, he assured them that he was made an apostle by Christ himself, for the purpose of preaching the gofpel to the Gentiles, ver. 5::-of which class of men, most of the inhabitants of Rome were, ver. 6.- He was therefore authorised to write this letter to the whole inhabitants of Rome.
many particulars crowded into the inscription, hath made it uncommonly long. But they are placed with great judgment, in the very entrance, because they are the foundations, on which the whole scheme of doctrine contained in the epiftle, is built.
Because it might seem ftrange, that Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles, had not hitherto visited Rome, the most noted Gentile city in the world, he assured the Romans he had often purposed to come to them, but had hitherto been hindered, ver. 13, 14. However, he was still willing to preach the gospel in Rome, ver. 15. ;mo being' neither afraid, nor alhamed, to preach it in that great and learned city; because it reveals the powerful method which God hath devised for bestowing falvation on every one who believeth ; on the few first, to whom it was to be first preached, and also on the Greek, ver, 16. In this account of the