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ROMANS II. 6–9.
Who will render to every man according to his
deeds : to them who, by patient continuance in well-doing, seek for glory, and honour, and immortality, eternal life: but unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath; tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil.
In meditating on the solemnities, discoveries, and consequences of that great decisive day, when the Lord shall come to be our Judge ; we were obliged to pass over, in a general manner, several important particulars relative to the subject, and especially we reserved, for a separate discourse, the consideration of the manner in which all men will be “judged according to their works,” and “ receive according to what they have done, “ whether it be good or evil.” The present will therefore be an appendix to the preceding discourse, as intended to illustrate its interesting truths, and to render them more perspicuous and impressive. In the passage before us, the apostle does not undertake to decide a controverted point of doctrine, to state the method of a sinner's justification, or to account for that difference of character which actually subsists among the descendants of fallen
Adam. These subjects he has fully discussed in other parts of his writings : but here he takes occasion from his subject to shew, that the opposite conduct of the righteous and the wicked will terminate in future happiness or misery. He considers some persons as being more favoured by providence than others, as the Jews had every way the advantage of the gentiles : but he intimates that they generally abused those advantages to their deeper condemnation. “Despisest thou the “ riches of his goodness, and forbearance, and long-suffering, not knowing that the goodness “ of God leadeth thee to repentance?” The more kind, patient, and merciful the Lord is, the baser our rebellion and ingratitude must appear, the greater cause have we to repent, and the more abundant motives and encouragements. But if men presume on his lenity, supposing that he will not or cannot punish, and so encourage themselves in sin, they “despise the riches of his “goodness and mercy ;” and, “after their hard
ness and impenitent heart, treasure up to them“ selves wrath, against the day of wrath and “revelation of the righteous judgment of God, “ who will render to every man according to his
deeds.” The treasures which they perhaps covetously and dishonestly accumulate on earth, must be left to their survivors : but the vast accessions which they daily make to their load of guilt, and the heavy wrath of God against them, are laid up for themselves, to be their future and eternal portion. For, at the great day of righteous retribution, God “ will render unto every man ac“cording to his deeds : to them who by patient
“ continuance in well-doing seck for glory, and “honour, and immortality, eternal life; but unto “ them that are contentious, and do not obey the “ truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and « wrath ; tribulation and anguish upon every soul “ of man that doeth evil.”—In discoursing on these words, I shall,
I. Describe more fully the two characters contrasted by the apostle, and shew the doom reserved for each :
II. Compare the statement thus made with several otherimportant scriptures, which may serve to elucidate and confirm it:
III. Explain more precisely the rule of judgment, as delivered in the sacred oracles : and
IV. Make some particular application of the subject.
I. I shall endeavour to describe more fully the two characters contrasted by the apostle, and to shew the doom reserved for each.
The apostle's reasoning, throughout this whole epistle, proves that he was speaking of sinners under a dispensation of mercy. He therefore considers a man, thus circumstanced, proposing to himself the acquisition of “ glory, and honour, “ and immortality.” Such a purpose must imply a belief of the scriptural doctrine concerning the perfections and government of God, the immortality of the soul, and a future state of righteous retribution; with a persuasion that eternal happiness is attainable even by sinners, in the way which the Lord hath revealed. At the same time the man is convinced that the blessing must be sought with diligence and self-denial, and that it ought to
be preferred before all other objects whatever. Thus, while “ there be many that say, Who will “shew us any good?” “ seeking every man his “ gain from his quarter,” pursuing worldly pleasures, honours, and distinctions, or wasting their lives in sloth and dissipation; he'“ seeks first the
kingdom of God and his righteousness,” and “ labours for the meat which endureth unto ever“ lasting life.” He is now become a candidate for immortality; and nothing, inferior to an endless inheritance and unfading joys, can satisfy the vast desires of his heart. Whatever he renounces, ventures, or suffers, he resolves to seek" a king“ dom that cannot be moved." He feels the force of our Lord's questions, “What is a man profited, “if he gain the whole world, and lose his own “ soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for “ his soul?" He does not, however, merely seek deliverance from wrath and misery; he is also athirst for happiness in the enjoyment of God, and of those“ pleasures which are at his right hand “ for evermore.” He attends to religion, not that he may
be seen of men, or acquire reputation ; nor is he solely intent on pacifying an uneasy conscience: but as a reasonable creature, formed for an immortal existence, he aims, in this introductory scene, to ensure felicity in the world to come. He “ believes that God is, and that he is a re“ warder of them that diligently seek him ;” and therefore he seeks his favour, as “ the one thing “ needful,” and endeavours to render all other objects and pursuits subservient to this grand concern.
It is evident that men of this stamp are very scarce ; and that most of those, who are called Christians, are wholly strangers to this habitual purpose and conduct. The few, who answer the description, are not confined to any single sect, but are scattered about in the visible church, as “ men wondered at” for their singularity and preciseness. Now, at whatever period of life any man is thus brought " to seek glory, and honour, “and immortality,” he enters on a new state, and constitutes a new character: “ being made free “ from sin, he becomes the servant of God, has “ his fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting
These persons seek the desired good" by patient “ continuance in well doing.” A sinner cannot be said “ to do well,” until he humbles himself before God for his transgressions, mourns for them in true repentance, confesses them with self-abhorrence and a sincere purpose of forsaking them, and seeks mercy in the way which God hath appointed, for the glory of his own name and the honour of his violated law. A rebel can do nothing well so long as he vindicates and persists in his rebellion, refuses mercy because the terms of it are too humiliating, and is wholly averse to submission and renewed allegiance. The prodigal son, when he “ came to himself,” and determined to return home and humbly crave his father's forgiveness, began" to do well.” The proud morality, formal devotion, or ostentatious liberality of an impenitent sinner will never meet the approbation of that God, who sent his Son into the world, “ not to call the righteous but sinners to
repentance.” Humble penitents, and they alone,