« PreviousContinue »
THE NEW TESTAMENT
LORD AND SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST,
SACRED TEXT IS AT LARGE RECITED,
THE SENSE EXPLAINED, AND THE INSTRUCTIVE EXAMPLE OF THE BLESSED
THE WHOLE DESIGNED TO ENCOURAGE THE READING OF THE SCRIPTURES IN
BY WILLIAM BURKITT, M. A.
LATE VICAR AND LECTURER OF DEDHAM, IN ESSEX.
JAMES DINNIS, 62, PATERNOSTER-ROW.
EXPOSITORY NOTES, &c.
THE EPISTLE OF ST. PAUL
This Epistle to the Romans has always been esteemed by the Church of GOD one of the chiefest and most excellent portions of holy scripture. The reason why this Epistle stands first, is not because it was wrote first; (the epistles to the Corinthians, Galatians, and Thessalonians, being writ before it;) but either because of the imperial dignity of the city, to wit, Rome, unto which it was directed, or else because of the sublimity of the matter, and the excellency of the doctrine, contained in it, with respect to which some have called it, "The Marrow of Divinity, -The Key of the New Testament, -The Christian Church's Confession of Faith,--and, The most divine Epistle of the most holy Apostle."
The scope and design of which is two-fold; First, To show that neither the Gentiles by the law of nature, nor the Jews by the law of Moses, could ever attain to justification and salvation, but only by faith in Jesus Christ: for the sake of whose merits alone we are accounted righteous in the sight of God. Secondly, To show that faith is not separated from good works, but productive of them; being the parent and principle of obedience, without which whosoever liveth is accounted dead before GOD. The subject matter of this Epistle is two-fold; partly doctrinal, and partly practical in the doctrinal part, which makes up the first eleven chapters, the apostle treats of justification by faith alone, without the works of the law; of original corruption, by the fall of Adam; of sanctification by the Spirit of Christ; of the calling of the Gentiles; that is, of the present rejection of the Jews, and the future recalling of them when the fulness of the Gentiles was come in.
In the applicatory or practical part of this Epistle, which begins at chapter xii, we bave many useful and excellent exhortations, both to general and particular duties, respecting GOD, our neighbour, and our. selves; and several encouragements given us to the love and practice of universal holiness.
In this first chapter our apostle (after salutation given) proceeds to his principal design and scope, namely, to assert and prove the grand doctrine of justification by faith, that is, by believing and obeying the gospel of Christ: and that no person, either Jew or Gentile, could possibly be justified by any works of their own.
As to the Gentiles, he shows in this chapter. That
chapter will inform us,) and this as a just judgment
PAUL, a servant of Jesus Christ,
called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,
Observe here, The author and penman of this epistle described: 1. By his name, Paul. Before his conversion he was called Saul, then Saul the persecutor; after his conversion he was Paul the professor, Paul the preacher, Paul the great doctor of the Gentiles. O wonderful power of the heart
changing grace of God! which is able to turn Sauls into Pauls; persecutors into professors; faithless sinners into faithful servants of Jesus Christ. Observe, 2. He is described by his general office; a servant of Jesus Christ: an higher and more honourable title than that of emperor of the whole earth. Servire Christo est regnare: to serve Christ, especially in the quality of an ambassador, is a greater honour than to have the monarchs of the world to serve us, and bow the knee before us. Observe, 3. He is described by his particular office, Called to be an apostle; that is, constituted and appointed by Christ to that holy function, without any merit or desert of his own. He did not assume the honour of an apostle till called; and when called, it was not any desert of his own, but the free and undeserved grace of God that called him. Observe, 4. That as he was called to, so is he said to be separated for, the great work of preaching the gospel : separated unto the gospel of God, that is, set apart in the purpose and decree of God · separated from his mother's womb, Ga.,
i. 15. Immediately and extraordinarily called by Christ himself to this great work, Acts ix. 15. and mediately by the officers of the church, Acts xiii. 2, 3, &c. The work of dispensing the mysteries of the everlasting gospel is to be undertaken by none but those who are solemnly separated and set apart for it, and regularly called to it. I would to God the herd of lay-preachers at this day would consider this. These usurpers of the sacred function can neither pray in faith for a blessing upon what they undertake, because they have no promise to bottom their faith upon, nor can the people expect to profit by what they hear from them; for this would be to expect God's blessing out of God's way. Read with trembling what God says, Jer. xxiii. 32. I sent them not, neither commanded them, therefore shall they not profit this people at all. Where mark, That the people's not profiting by these men, is not charged upon their false doctrine, but upon their want of a call and commission. It is not said, that their doctrine is unsound, but they preach unsent; therefore they shall not profit this people at all. These men contradict the command of God, the universal practice of the christian church, violate the rules of order and right reason, and expose a most awful and tremendous ordinance of God to contempt and scorn; yea, lay it open to the bold presumption of every ignorant and impudent pretender. Observe, 5. The glorious title given to the gospel, which St. Paul was called forth to preach: it is here styled the gospel of God, and elsewhere the gospel of Christ. It is the gospel of God, as he was the author and contriver of it; it is the gospel of Christ, as he is the subject-matter and scope of it. As Jesus Christ was the sum of the law, so is he the substance of the gospel. Indeed St. Paul sometimes calls it his gospel, Rom. ii. 16. because he was the dispenser and promulger of it; it was Depositum fidei suæ commissum; "A divine treasure committed to his care and trust." And if the gospel preached be the gospel of God, let us entertain it in our judgments, retain it in our memories, embrace it in our affections, hide it in our hearts, confess it with our mouths, and practise it in our lives.
2 (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,)
That is, which gospel God has promised before by his holy prophets speaking in
the holy scriptures. Where note, 1. The antiquity of the gospel, how ancient that doctrine is, even as old as the prophets themselves; nay, as old as Adam himself. The gospel, or glad tidings of a Saviour, was first preached to Adam by God himself, Gen. iii. 15. next to Abraham, Gen. xv. then it was predicted by all the prophets which have been since the world began. The gospel which we preach can by no means fall under the charge and imputation of novelty: it is no new or modern doctrine, but almost as old as the world itself: Which gospel he had promised before by his holy prophets. Behold then a greut correspondency, a sweet agreement and harmony, between the Old and New Testament, between the prophets and apostles; though great difference in the manner and measure of the revelation. For, as one says, the Old Testament is the hiding of the New; the New Testament is the opening of the Old. The Old Testament is the New Testament veiled; the New Testatament is the Old revealed. Note, 2. The venerable title given to the scriptures: they are called the holy Scriptures. Which he had promised before by his prophets speaking in the holy scriptures. scriptures are holy in several respects. 1. In regard of their author and inditer, the Holy Spirit of God. 2. In regard of the penmen and writers of them, holy men of God. 3. In regard of the subject-matter contained in them, the holy will of God. 4. In regard of their design, to make us holy both in heart and life. And, if the word of God be an holy word, then let it be treated by us with all holy deference and regard. Lord! what an impious liberty do some men take, in this wanton age, to furnish out a jest in scripture attire, and in their jocular humour to make light and irreverent applications of scripture phrases and sentences! They lay their schemes of ridiculous mirth in the Bible, and play the buffoons with the most serious things in the world. These men bring forth scripture as the Philistines brought forth Samson, only to make them sport; but they shall ere long find Almighty God in earnest, though they were in jest. that has magnified his word above all his name, will not brook it, that any man should make it vile and contemptible, by rendering it the theme of his giddy mirth and profane drollery.
3 Concerning his Son Jesus Christ
our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh, 4 And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead :
The apostle having told us in the foregoing verses, that he was particularly called to, and by God set apart for, the preaching of the gospel, in the verses before us he declares that Jesus Christ was the main subject of that gospel which he preached, and describes him by his twofold nature; by his human nature, ver. 3. by his divine nature, ver. 4. According to his human nature he was made of the seed of David; that is, descended from David, and one of his posterity by the mother's side, who was of that house and line, according to the flesh; that is, the weakness, frailty, and mortality, of his human nature. Where observe, 1. That our Lord Jesus Christ had a being, even an eternal existence, before his incarnation, or manifestation in our flesh and nature. He was the Son of God, before he was the Son of man; hence he is said to be made of the seed of David, intimating that he was then made what he was not before. In regard of his divine nature, he was begotten, not made; but in regard of his human nature, he was made, not begotten. Observe, 2. That Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, did in the fulness of time assume the true and perfect nature of man into a personal union with his Godhead; the human nature was united to the divine nature miraculously and extraordinarily, by the overshadowing power of the Holy Ghost, Luke i. 34, 35. and also integrally and completely; that is to say, Christ took a complete and perfect human soul and body, with all the faculties of the one, and all the members of the other, that thereby he might heal the whole nature of that leprosy of sin, which had upor, and diffused its malignity into every member, and every faculty. Next, we have a demonstration of Christ's divine nature, ver. 4. Declared to be the Son of God with power, &c. As if our apostle had said, that our Lord Jesus Chri, though according to the faculty and weakness of his human nature he was of the seed of David, yet in respect of that divine power of the Holy Ghost which manifested itself in him, especially in his resurrection from the dead, he was declared to be the Son of God with power: that is, mightily
and powerfully demonstrated so to be Learn hence, 1. That the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, by vincing demonstration that he was the Son the Holy Ghost, is a powerful and conof God. Christ as man is nowhere said in scripture to be the Son of God, but with relation to the divine power of the Holy Ghost, by whom he had life communicated to him from the Father, both at his conception and at his resurrection. At his conception he was the Son of God, by being conceived by the Holy Ghost; but this was secret and invisible, known only to the mother of our Lord. Therefore at his resurrection, by the Spirit of holiness, that is, by the immediate power of the Holy Ghost, God thought fit to give a visible and public demonstration to the whole world, that Jesus was his own Son, the promised and true Messias, and consequently did thereby give testimony to the truth and divinity of our Saviour's doctrine and miracles. God did now publicly own his Son, in the face of the whole world, and freed him from all suspicion of being an impostor or deceiver; for it is not supposable, that God should put forth an almighty power to raise him from the grave, if he had by robbery assumed that glorious title of the Son of God, therefore saith the Father of him in the morning of the resurrection; Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee; that is, in the words of our apostle here, declared and made the conspicuously app ar to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.
Yet observe, 2. That though Christ was raised from the dead by the power of God's Holy Spirit, yet did he certainly raise himself by his own power as God, according to his own prediction, John ii. 19, Destroy this temple of my body, and in three days I will raise it up; and according to St. Peter's assertion, 1 Pet. iii. 18, Being put to death in the flesh, in his human nature, but quickened by the Spirit; that is, by the power of his Godhead, or divine nature, quickening himself; for had he been only raised by the power of God, and not by his own power, how could his resurrection have been a declaration that he was the Son of God? What had more appeared in Christ's resurrection than in other men's? for they were raised by the power of God as well as he. But here lies the difference: Christ rose by a self