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it proper to subjoin a Table of their CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER, (as established in the subsequent pages, which exhibits the places where, and the times when, they were in all probability respectively written. The dates, &c. assigned by Dr. Lardner and other learned men, are duly noticed in the following pages. EPISTLES. PLACES.

A. D. 1 Thessalonians Corinth

52 2 Thessalonians Corinth

52 Galatians

Corinth

At the close of 52

or early in 53 1 Corinthians Ephesus

57 Romans

Corinth

About the end of 57

or the beginning of 58 2 Corinthians Macedonia,

58 (perhaps from Philippi) Ephesians Romo

61 Philippians

Rome

Before the end of 62

{ Colossians

Rome Philemon

Rome

About the end of 62

or early in 63 Hebrews

About the end of 62 (perhaps tilom Rome)}

or early in 63 1 Timothy Macedonia

64 Titus Macedonia

64 2 Timothy Rome

65 III. The Catholic Epistles are seven in number, and contain the letters of the apostles James, Peter, John, and Jude. They are termed Catholic, that is, general or universal, because they are not addressed to the believers of some particular city or country, or to individuals, as Saint Paul's Epistles were, but to Christians in general, or to Christians of several countries. The subjoined table exhibits the dates of the Catholic Epistles, and also the places where they were written, agreeably to the order established in the following pages. EPISTLES. PLACES.

A. D. James Judæa

6) 1 Peter Rome

64 2 Peter

Rome About the beginning of 65
Unknown

68 1 John

(perhaps Ephesus) )

} {
or early in 69

68 2 and 3 John

Ephesus

or early in 69 Jude Unknown

64 or 65 IV. The general plan on which the Epistles are written, is, first, to discuss and decide the controversy, or to refute the erroneous notions, which had arisen in the church, or among the persons, to whom they are addressed, and which was the occasion of their being written; and, secondly, to recommend the observance of those duties, which would be necessary, and of absolute importance to the Christian church in every age, consideration being chiefly given to those particular graces or virtues of the Christian character, which the disputes that occasioned the Epistles might tempt them

. On the origin and reasons of this appellation, see Chapter IV. Sect. I. 01 infra.

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to neglect. In pursuing this method, regard is had, first, to the nature and faculties of the soul of man, in which the understanding is to lead the way, and the will, affections, and active powers are to follow; and, secondly, to the nature of religion in general, which is a reasonable service, teaching us that we are not to be determined by superstitious fancies, nor by blind passions, but by a sound judgment, and a good understanding of the mind and will of God; and also showing us the necessary union of faith and practice, of truth and holiness. The pious, affectionate, and faithful manner in which the apostles admonish, reprove, exhort, or offer consolation, can only be adequately appreciated by him, who, by patient and diligent study, is enabled to enter fully into the spirit of the inspired authors.

V. Explicit as the Epistles unquestionably are in all fundamental points, it is not to be denied that some parts of them are more difficult to be understood than the Gospels. The reason of these

! seeming difficulties is evident. In an Epistle many things are omitted, or only slightly mentioned, because they are supposed to be known by the person to whom it is addressed; but, to a person unacquainted with such particulars, they cannot but present considerable difficulty. The affairs discussed by Saint Paul were certainly well known to the persons to whom he wrote ; who consequently would easily apprehend his meaning, and see the force and tendency of his discourse. As, however, we who live at this distance of time, can obtain no information concerning the occasion of his writing, or the character and circumstances of the persons for whom his Epistles were intended, except what can be collected from the Epistles themselves, it is not strange that several things in them should appear obscure to us. Further, it is evident from many passages, that he answers letters sent, and questions proposed to him, by his correspondents; which, if they had been preserved, would have illustrated different passages

much better than all the notes of commentators and critics.

To these causes of obscurity which are common to all the writers of the Epistles, we may add some that are peculiar to Saint Paul, owing to his style and temper. Possessing an ardent, acute, and fertile mind (as we have seen in the preceding section), he seems to have written with great rapidity, and without closely attending to method. Hence arise those frequent parentheses which occur in his Epistles. In the course of his argument he sometimes breaks off abruptly, in order to pursue a new thought that is necessary for the support of some point arising from the subject, though not imme

1 The following remark of a late excellent writer, on the Scriptures in general, is particularly applicable to Saint Paul's Epistles. — “Difficulties indeed there are, but the life-directing precepts they contain are sufficiently easy; and he who reads the Scriptures with an unprejudiced inind, must be convinced, that the whole end they have in view is to lead mankind to their truest and best happiness, both here and hereafter. They inform our reason, they guide our consciences ; in short, they have the words both of temporal and eternal life.” Gilpin’s Sermons, vol. iv. p. 335. See also Mrs. More's Essay on Saint Paul, vol. i. pp. 59–72.

diately leading to it; and when he has exhausted such new idea, he returns from his digression without any intimation of the change of topic, so that considerable attention is requisite in order to retain the connection. His frequent changes of persons and propositions of objections, which he answers without giving any formal intimation, are also causes of ambiguity. To these we may add, 1. The modern divisions of ehapters and verses, which dissolve the connection of parts, and break them into fragments; and, 2. Our uncertainty concerning the persons addressed, as well as the opinions and practices to which the great apostle of the Gentiles alludes, sometimes only in exhortations and reproofs. Other causes of obscurity might be assigned, but the preceding are the most material ; and the knowledge of them, if we study with a right spirit, will enable us to ascertain the rest without difficulty. The most useful mode of studying the epistolary writings of the New Testament is, unquestionably that proposed and recommended by Mr. Locke; which, having been already noticed when treating on the doctrinal interpretation of the Scriptures, it is not necessary again to repeat.”

SECTION III.

ON THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS.

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I. Date, and where written. — II. Genuineness and authenticity of

this Epistle. - III. The church at Rome, when and by whom founded.-- IV. Occasion. –V. Internal state of the church at Rome. - VI. Scope. -- VII. Synopsis of its contents. - VIII. Observa

tions on this Epistle. 1. THE Epistle to the Romans, though fifth in order of time, is placed first of all the apostolical letters, either from the pre-eminence of Rome, as being the mistress of the world, or because it is the longest and most comprehensive of all Saint Paul's Epistles. Various years have been assigned for its date. Van Til refers it to the

year 55 ; Langius, Bishop Pearson, Drs. Mill and Whitby, Fabricius, Reineccius, and others, to the year 57; Baronius, Michaelis, Lord Barrington, Drs. Benson and Lardner, and Bishop Tomline, to the year 58 ; Archbishop Usher and our Bible chronology, to the year 60; Dr. Hales to the end of 58, or the beginning of 59; and Rosenmüller to the end of the year 58. The most probable date is that which assigns this Epistle to the end of 57, or the beginning of 58; at which time Saint Paul was at Corinth, whence he was preparing to go to Jerusalem with the collections which had been niade by the Christians of Macedonia and Achaia for their poor brethren in Judæa. (Rom. xv. 25–27.) The Epistle was dictated by the apostle in the Greek language to Tertius his amanuensis (xvi. 22.) and was sent to the church at Rome by Phæbe, a deaconess of the church at Cenchrea (xvi. 1.), whose journey to Rome afforded Saint Paul an opportunity. of writing to the Christians in that city. That he wrote from Corinth is further evident from Romans xvi. 23. where he sends salutations from Erastus the chamberlain of Corinth (which city, we learn from 2 Tim. iv. 20. was the place of his residence), and from Gaius, who lived at Corinth (1 Cor. i. 14.) whom Saint Paul terms his host, and the host of all the Christian church there.

i Locke's Essay for the Understanding of Saint Paul's Epistles, (Works, vol. 11.) p. 275. et seq. See also Dr. Graves's Essay on the Character of the Apostles and Evangelists, pp. 146–163., for some useful remarks on the obscurity of Saint Paul's Epistles.

2 See Vol. II. p. 662.

II. That this Epistle has always been acknowledged to be a genuine and authentic production of Saint Paul, is attested not only by the antient Syriac and Latin versions, but by the express declarations and quotations of Irenæus,3 Theophilus of Antioch, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Origen, and by all subsequent ecclesiastical writers. It was also cited or alluded to by the apostolic fathers, Barnabas,9 Clement of Rome,to Ignatius,!! Polycarp,12 and by the churches of Vienne and Lyons.13

III. The Scriptures do not inform us at what time or by whom the Gospel was first preached at Rome. Those who assert that the church in that city was founded by Saint Peter, can produce no solid foundation for their opinion : for, if he had preached the Gospel there, it is not likely that such an event would have been left unnoticed in the Acts of the Apostles, where the labours of Peter are particularly related with those of Paul, which form the chief subject of that book. Nor is it probable that the author of this Epistle should have made no reference whatever to this circumstance, if it had been true. There is still less plausibility in the opinion, that the church was planted at Rome by the joint labours of Peter and Paul, for it is evident from Romans i. 8. that Paul had never been in that city previously to his writing this Epistle. As,

10

11

1 This opinion is satisfactorily vindicated, at considerable length, by Dr. J. F. Flatt, in a dissertation, De tempore, quo Pauli epistola ad Romanos scripta sit (Tubinge, 1789); reprinted in Pott's and Rupertis' Sylloge Commentationem Theologicarum, vol. ii. pp. 54—74.

2 Salmeron imagined that this epistle was written in Latin, but this notion is contradicted by the whole current of Christian antiquity; and John Adrian Bolten, a German critic, fancied that it was written in Syriac, but he was amply refuted by Griesbach. Viser, Herm. Sacr. Nov. Test. pars ii. p. 354. Rosenmüller, Scholia, vol. iii. p. 359. That Greek was the original language we have already proved, supra, Vol. II. pp. 15—20.

3 Lardner's Works, 8vo. vol.ii. Pp. 163-165.; 4to. vol. i. pp. 368, 369.
4 Ibid. 8vo. vol. ii. pp. 195--199.; 460. vol. 1. pp. 385-_-388.
5 Ibid. 8vo. vol. ii. pp. 222-224. ; 4to. vol. i.

pp. 400-402. 6 Ibid. 8vo. vol. ii. pp. 266-272. ; 4to. vol. i. pp. 424—428. 7 Ibid. 8vo. vol. ii. pp. 375–377.; 4to. vol. i. pp. 482484. 8 Ibid. 8vovol. ii. pp. 471-472.; 4to. vol. i. P.

535. 9 Ibid. 8vo. vol. ij. pp. 17, 18.; 4to. vol. i. pp. 286, 287. 10 Ibid. 8vo. vol. ii. p. 35.; 4to. vol. i. p. 296. 11 Ibid. 8vo. vol. ii. p. 74.; 4to. vol. i. p. 318. 12 Ibid. 8vo. vol. ii. p. 94. ; 4to. vol. i. P.

329. 13 Ibid. 8vo. vol. ii. p. 151.; 4to. vol. i. p. 361.

43

VOL. IV.

however, the fame of this church had reached him long before he wrote the present letter (xv. 23.), the most probable opinion is that of Dr. Benson, Michaelis, Rambach, Rosenmüller, and other critics, viz. that the Gospel was first preached there by some of those persons who heard Peter preach, and were converted at Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost : for we learn from Acts i. 10. that there were then at Jerusalem strangers of Rome, Jews, and proselytes. These Roman Jews, on their return home, doubtless preached Christ to their countrymen there, and probably converted some of them : so that the church at Rome, like most of the churches in Gentile countries, was at first composed of Jews. But it was soon enlarged by converts from among the religious proselytes to Judaism, and in process of time was increased by the flowing in of the idolatrous Gentiles who gave themselves to Christ in such numbers, that, at the time Saint Paul wrote his Epistle to the Romans, their conversion was much spoken of throughout the world. (i. 8.)

IV. The occasion of writing this Epistle may be easily collected from the Epistle itself. It appears that Saint Paul, who had been

. made acquainted with all the circumstances of the Christians at Rome by Aquila and Priscilla (Rom. xvi. 3.), and by other Jews, who had been expelled from Rome by the decree of Claudius (Acts xviii. 2.), was very desirous of seeing them, that he might impart to them some spiritual gift ;? but, being prevented from visiting them, as he had proposed, in his journey into Spain, he availed himself of the opportunity that presented itself to him by the departure of Phæbe to Rome, to send them an Epistle. Finding, however, that the church was composed partly of Heathens who had embraced the Gospel, and partly of Jews who, with many remaining prejudices, believed in Jesus as the Messiah ; and finding also that many conten

1 tions arose from the Gentile converts claiming equal privileges with the Hebrew Christians (which claims the latter absolutely refused to admit unless the Gentile converts were circumcised), he wrote this Epistle to compose these differences, and to strengthen the faith of the Roman Christians against the insinuations of false teachers; being apprehensive lest his involuntary absence from Rome should be turned by the latter to the prejudice of the Gospel.

V. In order fully to understand this Epistle, it is necessary that we should be acquainted with the tenets believed by those whose errors the apostle here exposes and confutes. It is clear that he wrote to persons, who had been either Gentiles or Jews, and that his grand design was to remove the prejudices entertained by both these descriptions of persons.

The greater part of the GENTILES, who lived in gross ignorance, did not trouble themselves much concerning the pardon of their sins,

1 At this time there were great numbers of Jews at Rome. Josephus relates that their number amounted to eight thousand (Antiq. Jud. lib. xvii. c. 12.) and Dion Cassius (lib. xxxvii. c. 17.) informs us that they had obtained the privilege of living according to their own laws.

2 Rom. i. Smo 13. xv. 14. xvi. 19. 3 Rom. xvi. 1, 2.

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