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gospel, the apostle infinuated, that no Jew could be saved by the law of Mofes, nor any Gentile by the law of nature. For, if the Jews could have been saved by the one law, and the Greeks by the other, the gospel, instead of being the power of God for salvda tion to every one who believeth, would have been a needless dispensation; and the apostle ought to have been ashamed of it, as altogether fuperfluous.
To prove that the gospel is the power of God for salvation tó every one who believeth, the apostle first of all observes, that therein the righteoufness of Gad by faith is revealed : in the gospel, the righteousness which. God will accept and reward, is revealed to be a righteousness, not of works, but of faith. And this being the only righteousness of which finners are capable, the gospel which discovers its acceptableness to God, and the method in which it may be attained, is, without doubt, the power of God for salvation, to all who believe, ver. !7. Here an essential de fect, both in the law of Moses, and in the law of nature, is tacitly insinuated. Neither the one law, nor the other, reveals God's intention of accepting and rewarding any righteousness, but that of a perfect obedience. Secondly, To prove that the gospel alone is the power of God for salvation, the apostle observes, that both in the law of nature, and the law of Moses, the wrath of God is revealed from heaven, &c. That is, these laws, instead of granting pardon to finners, subject them to punishment, however penitent they may be ; consequently, these laws are not the power of God for salvation, to any one. But the gospel, which promises pardon and eternal life, is the effectual means of saving finners. In short, any hope of mercy finners entertain, must be derived from revelation alone, ver. 18. And in regard the apostle wrote this epistle to the Romans for the purpose of explaining and proving these important truths, the declaration of them, contained in verses 16, 17, 18. may be considered as the proposition of the subjects to be handled in this epistle.
Accordingly, to shew that no person, living under the law of nature, has any hope of salvation given him by that law, the apostle begins with proving, that, instead of possessing that perfect holiness, which is required by the law of nature, in order to falvation, all are guilty before God, and doomed by that law to punishment. To illustrate this proposition, St. Paul took the Greeks for an example; because, having carried the powers of reason to the highest pitch, their philosophy might be considered as the perfection both of the light and of the law of nature; consequently, among them, if any where, all the knowledge of God, and of the method of salvation, discoverable by the light of nature, and all the purity of manners, which men can attain by their own powers, ought to have been found. Nevertheless that people, so intelligent in other matters, were in religion foolish to the last degree, and in morals debauched beyond belief. For notwithstanding the knowledge of the being and perfections of the one true God subsisted among them, in the most early ages, ver. 19.-being understood by the works of creation, ver. 20.--their legislators, philosophers, and priests, unrighteoufly holding the truth concerning God in confinement, did not glorify him as God, by discovering him to the common people, and making him the object of their worship: But, through their own foolish reasonings, fancying polytheism and idolatry more proper for the vulgar than the worship of the one true God, they themselves at length lost the knowledge of God to such a degree, that their own heart was darkened, ver. 21.-Thus the wise men among the Greeks became fools in matters of religion, and were guilty of the greatest injustice, both towards God and men, ver. 22.-For, by their public institutions, they changed the glory of the incorruptible God, into an image of corruptible man, and of birds, &c. which they held up to the people as objects of worship. And by their own example, as well as by the laws which they enacted, they led the people to worship these idols, with the most impure and detestable rites, ver. 23.-For which crime, God permitted those pretended wise men, who had fo exceedingly dishonoured him, to dishonour themselves with the most bruitish" carnality; of which the apostle gives a particular description, ver. 24, -26: and observes, that those proud legislators and philosophers, who thought they had discovered the highest wisdom, in their religious and political inftitutions, thus received in themselves the recompence of their error that was meet, ver. 27.-So that the abominable uncleanness, which was avowedly practised by the Greeks, and which was authorised by their public inftitutions, as well as by the example of their great men, was both the natural effect, and the juft punifhment of that idolatry, which, in every state, was established as the national religion.-Farther, because the Grecian legislators did not approve of the true knowledge of God as fit for the people, the great men, as well as the vulgar whom they deceived, lost all sense of right and wrong, in their behaviour towards one another, ver. 28.--most of them being filled with all manner of injustice, fornication, wickedness, &c. ver. 29-31. Nay, although by the law of God written on their hearts, they knew that those who commit such crimes, are worthy of death, to such a degree did they carry their profligacy, that they not only committed these fins themselves, but encouraged the common people to commit them, by the pleasure with which they beheld their de-, baucheries in the temples, and their revellings on the festivals of their gods, ver. 32
Such is the apostle Paul's account of the manners of the Greeks : from which it appears, that their boasted philosophy, notwithstanding it enabled them to form excellent plans of civil government, whereby the people were inspired with the love of their country, and good laws for maintaining the peace of fociety, it proved utterly ineffectual for giving the legislators the knowledge of salvation, and for leading them to establish a right public religion : defects which entirely destroyed any influence which their political institutions might otherwise have had, in aiding the people to maintain a proper moral conduct. In fhort, the vicious characters of the false gods, whom the legislators held up to the people as objects of their worship, and the impure rites with which they appointed them to be worshipped, corrupted the morals of the people to such a degree, that the Greeks became the most debauched of mankind, and thereby lost all claim to the favour of God. But if this was the case with the most intelligent, most civilized, and most accomplished heathen nations, under the tuition of their boasted philosophy,
it will easily be admitted, that the light of nature, among the : barbarous nations, could have no greater efficacy in leading them
to the worship of the true God, and in giving them the knowledge of the method of salvation. The most civilized heathen nations, therefore, equally with the most barbarous, having, under the guidance of the light of nature, lost the knowledge of God, and become utterly corrupted in their morals, it is evident, that none of them could have any hope of a future life from the law of nature, which condemns all to death without mercy, who do not give a finless obedience to its precepts. Wherefore, both for the knowledge of the method of salvation, and for salvation itself, the Greeks were obliged to have recourse to the gospel, which teaches, that because all have sinned, and are incapable of perfect obedience, God hath appointed for their salvation, a righteousness without law, that is, a righteousness which does not confift in perfect obedience to any law whatever, even the righteousness of faith, that being the only righteousness attainable by finners; and at the same time declares, that God will accept and reward that kind of righteousness through Chrift, as if it were a perfect righteousness. These, inferences, indeed, the apostle hath not drawn in this part of his letter, because he intended to produce them, (chap. iii. 20. 23. 28.) as general conclusions concerning all mankind, after hav. ing proved the insufficiency of the law of Moses, for justifying the Jews. Yet it was fit to mention them here, that the reader might have a complete view of the apostle's argument.
I shall finish this illustration with the following remarks.
1. The picture which the apostle hath drawn of the manners of the Greeks, is by no means aggravated. The intercourse which he had with the philosophers, and more especially with his owni disciple, Dionysius the Areopagite, enabled him to form a just judgment of the learning and religion of that celebrated people: as his long residence in Athens, Corinth, and other Greek cities, made him
perfectly acquainted with their manners. But though his description is not exaggerated, we must remember that it does not extend to every individual. It is an image of the manners of the Greek nations in general, or rather of such of them as were in the higher ranks of life. I call the reader's attention to this remark, because the apostle himself supposes, in the second chapter, that the Gentiles, who have not the benefit of revelation, may attain that faith and holiness which is necessary to justification : in which cafe he assures us, that they shall be rewarded with glory and peace. Besides, it is well known, that, in every Gentile nation, there were always many who believed in the one true God, and who, in the persuasion that he is, and that he is the rewarder of them who diligently seek him, were anxious to know and do his will'; and who being instructed and strengthened by God, behaved in such a manner as to be acceptable to him.
2. My second remark is, That although the revelation of the wrath of God from heaven, against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, mentioned by the apostle, Rom. i. 18. certainly implies, that no sinner can have any hope of salvation from the law of nature, it does not follow, that the pious hea. thens had no hope of salvation. The heathens in general believed their deities placable, and, in that persuasion, offered to them propitiatory sacrifices, and expected to be pardoned and blessed by them, even in a future state (See Guardian, No. 27.): nay, many of them believed they were to reanimate their bodies. But these hopes they did not derive from the law or light of niature, but from the promise which God made to the first parents of mankind. For that promise being handed down by tradition to Noah, and his sons, they communicated the knowledge thereof, together with the use of facrifice, to all their descendants. So that the hope of pardon and immortality, which the pious heathens entertained, was the very hope which the gospel hath more clearly brought to light, and was derived from the same source, namely, from divine revelation. Withal, being agreeable to the natural wishes of mankind, and the only remedy for their greatest fears, these circumstances contributed to preserve it in the world. Since then, the hope of pardon and of a future state, which the heathens entertained, was derived, not from the light of nature, but from the primitive revelations, VOL. I. N
the apostle's reasoning in this chapter is perfectly just, and his conclusion stands firm ; namely, that the light and law of nature hold out no method in which a finner can be saved, and that it is the gospel alone which hath brought the important secret to light, by explaining and enlarging the primitive revelations, and by teaching in the clearest manner, that God will accept men's faith for righteousness, and, at the judgment, reward it as if it were a perfect righteousness, on account of the obedience of Jefus Christ.
3. My third remark is, That the description which the apostle hath given of the national manners of the Greeks, however disgraceful to human nature, being perfectly true, merits attention; becaufe it is a complete confutation of thofe who contend, that natural reason hath always been sufficient to lead mankind to just notions in religion, and to a proper moral conduct. For after the weakness of human reason, in matters of religion and morality, hath been so clearly demonstrated by experience in the case of the Greeks, who, of all mankind, were the most distinguished for their intellectual endowments, the futile pretence of the fufficiency of the light of nature, set up by modern infidels, for the purpose of rendering revelation needless, should be rejected with the contempt due to so gross a falsehood. And all who are acquainted with the actual state of the world under the guidance of the light of nature, ought thankfully to embrace the instruction contained in the gospel, as the most effectual means of training ignorant finful creatures to virtue; and should humbly submit to the method of salvation by Christ, therein revealed, as of divine appointment, and as the only method in which finners can be saved.
PREMONITION TO THE READER.
OME perhaps may be of opinion, that to have done justice
to the following translation of the apoftolical epifles, the author, as often as it differs from the common version, should have fhewn the import and propriety of these differences, with the reasons on which they are founded, especially when they are of the minute kind ; because negligent readers, fancying differences of that sort of little moment, and not attending to those which are of greater magnitude, are apt to conclude, that the tranflation, now submitted to the public, differs so little from the one in common use, that it might have been spared. But nothing can be worse founded than such a conclusion. Persons who are 12