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who attempt to establish a creed from a few of the chapters without the slightest reference to it, as a whole. They dwell particularly upon the former part of the Epistle; and thus do they exclude the necessity of that practical obedience, which St. Paul so forcibly urges upon them. But the latter part warrants no such conclusion; indeed it is wholly taken up with the enforcement of those moral duties, which the Apostle took every occasion to exhort his followers to perform.
We are well aware, that there are many parts in this Epistle, that require a careful examination and much study and prayer, before we can arrive at their full meaning: but there can be no difficulty in understanding this latter part; for it contains exhortations of the simplest character, that he that runneth may read, and that he that hath the Spirit of God may obey. It dwells fully and at large upon the Christian virtues, which ought to be brought into action, upon what we ought to do, and upon what we ought not to do.
Viewing the Epistle thus fairly, we can
not find a single reason, why the performance of those works, which are so pleasing to the Almighty, should be thrown out of sight; we cannot tell why or wherefore there should be any other preaching than the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which holds out rewards to the righteous and eternal punishment to the wicked.
There is something far beyond the explaining the doctrine of the Bible required; our discourses, like the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans, should end with an encouragement held out to our hearers to obey the Gospel and the laws, which it everywhere enforces. We may come before you for the purpose of edifying, or with a motive of raising ourselves in the estimation of those who are collected around us; but alas! what is this but a mockery in the sight of God? what is it, unless an effect is brought about, which shall make " your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father, which is in heaven ?"
We would not teach you any thing beyond what is contained in the Bible; but
if we exclude the necessity of obeying the laws of God, we are departing from the Scriptures, which almost in every page teach obedience to God, love towards our neighbour, and duty towards ourselves.
From these preliminary considerations, let us at once proceed to the examination of our text.
Although it be a simple exhortation originally addressed to the Romans, still there is much in it, that requires a careful elucidation. "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service."
I beseech you, brethren, by the mercies of God, i. e. by the compassion of God, by his exceeding great love, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice. St. Paul evidently alluded to God's great mercy or compassion in giving his Son to atone for the sins of the world. In the former part of this Epistle, he particularly dwells upon God's great love to mankind. Being justified by faith," says he, we have peace
with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Again, "But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life." And by what other effectual means could St. Paul hope to turn their affections to God, than by reminding them of the love of him, who first loved them? The slightest allusion to the death of Christ was sufficient to awaken the dormant affections, and to enlist many a faithful servant to fight in his fight, and to glory in his glory. The remembrance of the crucifixion of the Son of God was fresh in the minds of the Romans, though at one time it might have been to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness; still by the admirable process, which St. Paul took to explain the great mystery, their eyes became opened, and they were able to see the wonderful things of God. And what greater inducement could he hold out to them to turn unto the Lord their God, than the exhibition of the Saviour dying to atone for their sins-of Jesus Christ the Son of the living God dying upon the cross
-of humanity departing, and divinity ascending into heaven-of God manifest in the flesh 1?
We do believe that to one, who hath the Spirit of God, the mere mention of the compassion of Jesus will have more effect, than bringing before him the whole terrors of the law. Indeed there is something in human nature, which will the more readily yield, by holding out, what hath been, and what will be done for it, than by endeavouring to force it into obedience by those harsher means, which rather terrify than console. St. Paul had a mighty advantage on his side; he could hold out the great scheme of redeeming love; he could represent how the Saviour had reconciled guilty man to offended Deity; he could describe the sufferings, the torments, and
The erroneous interpretations of this Epistle, were occasioned by ignorance of the peculiar Jewish phraseology and opinions, to which the Apostle referred in it. For St. Paul evidently directed it to the Jewish Christians settled at Rome; and as some conjecture, probably wished to cement an union between them and the Jews established there, by the conviction of the latter, that Christianity was true.