Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

into the text. His purpose was to exhort the Gentile and the Jewish Christians, or, in other words, the strong and the weak, to mutual self-renouncing forbearance, requiring “patience ” on both sides, and mutual self-forgetting joy in the “consolation" of the Christian fellowship. Now both these exhortations the writer enforces, as his manner is, by an appeal to the sovereign authority, even Christ. As in the previous chapter he had solved the difficulty between the two parties by bringing both into the presence of the common Lord, at the foot of whose throne all dissensions should expire, even so he does now, but with a most affecting variation. First, he appeals to the Saviour's example of self-sacrifice, which he makes Him utter from the familiar sixty-ninth Psalm. Then he appeals to the Saviour's revealed will touching both Jews and Gentiles in their unity. Our Prayer comes in as a parenthesis. Before we proceed to expound it, let us glance for a moment at the two branches of the exhortation.

The duty of self-sacrificing regard to the edification of others is a law of the Christian fellowship enforced by the example of Christ. He "pleased not Himself.” This remarkable expression, which simply declares the one principle of the Redeemer's selfrenunciation for the good of man, might have been illustrated by an appeal to the entire sum of His history. But the Apostle chooses instead an obscure word from a Messianic Psalm, in which a typical sufferer cries unto God, “The reproaches of them that reproached Thee fell on me." He seems to put these words into the lips of Christ Himself ; and they refer, not so much to His vicarious submission to judgment on behalf of man, as to His meek endurance of the indignities cast upon Him on the way to that final judgment on the Cross. As the supreme self-sacrifice of redemption is the sum of all example, so our Lord's innumerable lesser abnegations bring that example home to our daily life. And here is the connection with our Prayer. The suffering Christ, whether in His types in the Old Testament, or Himself the Antitype in the New, teaches His people to endure the contumely of the world and to bear with each other's mutual recriminations. There was grave need for this appealto the last and highest argument. The church at Rome was in great danger. Bigotry on the weak side begat intolerance on the strong side ; and the animosity that was common to the two was contrary to the first principles of the law and example of Christ. Hence the pregnant reference, which hints far more than it expresses, to the great lesson of self-sacrificing endurance taught throughout the Old Testament. Hence the solemn supplication to God that He would raise them to the high pitch of their duty by imparting to them the strength of His patience and consolation through the study of His Word.

Here comes in the Prayer, then, as it were before its time. When it ends, the same exhortation to mutual forbearance and love is further enforced by the declared will of Christ Himself as the Fulfiller of ancient prophecies concerning the blending of Jews and Gentiles in the Church. The Apostle bids them “receive" one another : a word that must have its most intense meaning. The Jewish Christians should receive the Gentile and the Gentile the Jewish in the same spirit as Christ had received both into equal fellowship with Himself, thus advancing the glory of God. The argument, if expanded, would be this. The common Redeemer of all men, for the manifestation of the highest glory of God, in the accomplishment of His purposes, admitted the two classes of mankind to the same privileges. He was in an especial manner the Minister of the Circumcision, and the first stage of His career limited His high service of the Father to the covenant People. Not only so, in every stage of His career He would minister to the glory of God by the exhibition of His truth in the fulfilment of all the promises to Israel. As the Redeemer He would never forget the tribes of the Election. But, as He glorified the fidelity of God towards the covenant People, so also He glorified the mercy of God towards the Gentile nations. Here, however, the Apostle, by an exquisite refinement, changes his style. He returns to the OldTestament predictions, all given for our instruction," and chooses three which prove that in Christ the Gentiles also were to bring to the Author of redemption a tribute of glory as loud, and as full, and as lasting, as that which Israel should bring, and much more abundant.

First, the Redeemer Himself is their great Representative, and gathers their Catholic thanksgivings up into His own lips: “I will confess to Thee among the Gentiles.” But the second makes them their own representative, and commands all the nations by a double prophecy to join the ancient people in their praises : “ Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with His people.” The third lays the common foundation of both in a prediction of Isaiah, that the true David should “ reign over the Gentiles," and that “in Him the Gentiles should trust.” At this point, the Apostle bursts into a second prayer ; but the entire assemblage of these quotations belongs to the first, and are really, though following it, its introduction. They explain the great Hope which the Old Testament, interpreted by Christ, inspires. They give the reason why the God of the Apostle's supplication derives His title from the “patience and consolation" of Scripture in the one Prayer, and from its "hope" in the other. They finally illustrate the phraseology of the petitions now to be considered, so far as they have a specific reference to the church at Rome. Against the latent dis

cord and manifest dissension between the two parties the entire volume of the Old Testament protested. The root of this evil was neglect of the “instruction " given by the prophets, forgetfulness of the great "hope" they announced to universal man, and slowness of heart to learn the "patience and consolation " which their predictions, through the Spirit's grace, infuse. To the mind of St. Paul it concerned the highest glory of God that the ancient distinction between Gentile and Jew should be utterly abolished and forgotten. To this high level of contemplation he had long since risen with Christ. To this high level the Christians of Rome had not risen. A large concluding section of his epistle is devoted to the endeavour to raise them out of their unevangelical position : a labour of love which engaged his whole soul. His arguments are enforced by the example and teaching of Christ, by the supreme revelation of the glory of the Divine counsel, and by the blessedness of the common patience, consolation, and hope of the Gospel. But here, as everywhere, his mightiest argument is prayer. It is his manner whenever he would stimulate his readers to the highest achievements and attainments of grace, or impress upon them the importance of some great forgotten duty, to make them kneel with him. This observation may be verified by a glance at the long series of his Epistles: the solitary exception being that to the Galatians. On the present occasion he can scarcely wait till the argument proper is ended. He breaks off mid-way, and cries : “May that God who gives patience and strength through the Scriptures grant you to have but one sentiment of love towards each other, even as Christ has but one feeling towards you, holding you all equally dear : may He give you one faith towards Him who is not the God of Jews and of Gentiles respectively, but of one common humanity in the Person of Jesus Christ; that you may, with one unvaried and accordant confession, glorify Him in the name of the One Saviour of all."

3. But the Prayer has survived its original purpose ; it belongs to the universal Church, and has its relation to every community, with an obligation resting upon each individual confessor of the name of Jesus. Unity is the one topic that emerges out of the whole: the unity of brotherly love, the unity of common faith in the mediatorial God, and the unity of a worshipping confession. Each of these is the gift of God, but only a gift of God that blesses the effort of man to attain it. All that has to be said on this unity in general has been anticipated in the exposition of the Prayer in the Second Epistle to the Corinthians. But there is one feature peculiar to this passage which will amply repay our attention. It is the unity of mind and voice in the glorification of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Those who mind the same thing

in the concord of brotherly love must make His name the centre of unity: that seems to be the meaning of "according to Chtist Jesus ;" His name is the standard of union, and not its example. So, also, their union in the purest worship of the Gospel is the unity of thought and word in the confession of the Divine Father of the Person of Christ. In other words, the confession and adoration of God in Christ, with all that is involved in it, is the bond of unity in the worship of the Christian Church.

Our English translation, "God even the Father of our Lord,” does not expressly indicate this, or rather expresses it in a diluted form. The word "even" is needless. The sacred formula throughout St. Paul's writings is always faithful to our Lord's own saying, "I ascend to My God and your God," which declares at once an immeasurable difference and an essential unity between His relation and ours to the common Father. In Eph. i. 17, "The God of our Lord Jesus Christ” is the object of Christian prayer as He is here the object of Christian praise. In that passage the acknowledgment of our Saviour's incarnate relation to God is said to be the highest wisdom of revelation, as we shall hereafter see ; in this passage the relation of God to the Incarnate Saviour is said to be the subject of highest worship. There is no difficulty in understanding this, if we remember that in the mystery of Christ's Person God in all His fulness is revealed to us ; but not simply as God, rather as God incarnate, the Godhead "dwelling bodily in His fulness” in Christ. (Col. ii. 9.) In the mediatorial economy of the Trinity the Father is God, as it were absolutely; the Son incarnate, one with the Father in eternal dignity, is in the dispensation of grace and the return of glory subordinate as Mediator; the Spirit proceedeth from the Father and the Son as, touching redemption, subordinate to both. The bold but reverent maintenance of this truth is necessary if we would form a right theory of New Testament devotion. It does not by any means imperil the co-equal dignity of the other Persons of the Trinity, who, " for a season if need be," are the Father's Ministers in the execution of His will. The glorification of the Son is included in that of the Father, if we remember that the Father is the “ God of Jesus Christ:" that is, not the “ Head of Christ" simply, (1 Cor. xi. 3,) but the God who, in the redeeming manifestation of the Trinity, is known only as revealed in the Son. The “ Christ of God” is the “God of Christ ;” and the “ God of Christ” is really “ God in Christ.” So, also, in the neighbouring prayer the “power of the Holy Ghost" is no less than the Divine power of a Personal Agent; for, in this sense also, “there is no power but of God.” While all prayer goes up to the Father through the Mediator by the Holy Spirit, it is the Holy Trinity in the Person of the Father who receives human supplication. And, while all praise glorifies the God and Father of Jesus Christ, the only God whom mortals know, it is the praise of the Triune God that the Father, if such language may be allowed, representatively receives. The right understanding of all this depends upon our sound conceptions of the two temporal Missions of the Son and the Spirit : on these two subordinations, received in the sim. plicity of Christian faith, hang all the mysteries of the worship of redemption.

The glorification of God as revealed in the Person of Christ is here said to be a confession of the common mind and common voice of the Church. There is no express distinction between the faith and the worship. The faith is the body of the worship, and the worship the spirit of the faith : but these two are one. How all Divine doctrine and Divine praise are wrapped up in the knowledge and acknowledgment of God in Christ we shall more fully see when we come to the Ephesian Prayers. The one thought that is peculiar to our present passage, which therefore must be pointed out particularly, is the petition that God would grant this unity of confession. St. Paul prays that the Romans might live together in peace, minding the same thing “ according to Christ Jesus." And then he rises to the highest manifestation of that unity in their glorifying God with one mind and one mouth. Both gifts are Divine. It is God that maketh men to be of one mind in & house ; and it is the same God who by His Spirit reveals that knowledge on which a true worshipping confession is based. This is the abiding need of the Church ; and the supply of this need is the supply of all need. It is a perversion of our Prayer, a perversion as superficial as it is dangerous, to say that the unity of the Christian confession is secured if men agree to worship the common Father through Christ. The confession here referred to includes all the fundamentals of complete evangelical truth. It is a very large, and full, and glorious acknowledgment of the “mystery of God and of Christ." There is no petition more important than this in the present day. When we offer it in these times, we must forget the divisions of the church at Rome.

There are divisions among us in comparison of which the differences of the Jewish and Gentile Christians, however critical, were slight. When St. Paul wrote the Epistle to the Romans there were two evils that interfered with the unity of faith : that of the “ weak," who in their bigotry limited the Gospel; that of the "i strong," who in their license would make it too free. The same evils reign after long centuries of the Spirit's administration ; but they are intensified and aggravated, and give but slight signs of arrest. Bigotry and Latitudinarianism still fight against the simplicity of

« FöregåendeFortsätt »