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the commendation given to the race of Jews from whom he was descended. The restraining clause, according to the flesh, is not, in my opinion, added, as in some other passages, for the purpose of diminishing the power of the Jews, but rather of giving them increased confidence. For though the Jews had renounced Paul, yet he owns himself to have been descended from that nation, whose election continued yet vigorous and flourishing in the root, though the branches had withered and decayed. Budeus, in his remarks upon the word anathema, disagrees with Chrysostom, who confounds anathěma, signifying the accursed thing or person separated from God, with anathēma, meaning an offering or gift presented to a church or temple, and hung up in some part of the building Who
are Israelites-Paul here evidently assigns a reason why he was so much distressed by the destruction of his nation as to be prepared to redeem it by his own ruin ; namely, their descent from Israel. The relative pronoun is here taken in the sense of a causal adverb. Moses (Exod. xxxii. 32) was perplexed with the same anxiety, when he prayed to be blotted out of the book of life, lest the holy and elect race of Abraham should be reduced to nothing. The apostle, therefore, assigns other and still higher reasons besides the feelings of humanity, which ought to make him attached to the Jews, because the Lord had so exalted them, as it were, by the enjoyment of a certain prerogative, that they were separated from the common state of mankind. The high praises, with which he extols their dignity, are proofs of his love, for we generally use only such kind expressions, when we are speaking of those to whom we are attached. And although their ingratitude rendered them unworthy of esteem, on account of the divine gifts which they enjoyed, yet Paul continues to
reverence them for this cause; and thus conveys to us a useful lesson, that the wicked cannot so spoil and corrupt the good endowments bestowed by Infinite Perfection, as not always to be justly entitled to praise and honour, even when the abusers of these blessings derive nothing else from them but greater disgrace. And, as we ought not to despise the divine gifts enjoyed by the wicked from a hatred to their persons, so, on the contrary, we ought to use great prudence in our conduct towards them, lest they be puffed up by the kindness of our esteem, and the manner in which we speak of their excellences. We ought to be still more cautious not to suffer our praises to have the appearance of flattery. Let us imitate the conduct of Paul, who, while he allows the Jews to enjoy their own dignity and honours, afterwards declares all things to be nothing without Christ. He has sufficient reason for praising them, because they were Israelites; for Jacob prayed for it as the greatest blessing to his posterity, that "his name should be named on them.” (Gen. xlviii. 16.) To whom pertaineth the adoption-For the scope of all the observations made by Paul is to show, that notwithstanding the Jews had by their revolt impiously divorced themselves from God, yet the light of divine grace was not wholly extinguished among them, as Paul (Rom. iii. 3) says, Shall their unbelief and breach of covenant make the faith of God without effect ? not only because the Lord always preserved for himself some seed as a remnant from the whole multitude of the Jews, but the name of the church yet remained among them by an hereditary right. And although the Israelites had now so stripped themselves of all these honours, that no profit accrued to them from being called the sons of Abraham, yet because the gentiles were in danger of undervaluing the majesty of the gospel in consequence of the fault
of the Jews, Paul does not consider what they deserved, but conceals their dishonour and baseness under the cover of many veils, that the gentiles may be fully persuaded that the gospel had flowed to them from a heavenly fountain, from the temple of God, and from an elect nation. For the Lord had passed by all other nations, selected them as his peculiar people, and adopted them for his sons, as Moses and the prophets frequently testify; nor is Jehovah content to call them simply his sons, but he sometimes names them his first-born and his pleasant ones. Thus the Lord says, “ Israel is my first-born son ; let my son go, that he may serve me.” (Exod. iv. 22.) “ I am a Father to Israel, and Ephraim is my first-born." (Jer. xxxi. 9.) “Is Ephraim my dear son ? is he a pleasant child ? therefore my bowels are troubled for him: I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord.” (Jer. xxxi. 20.) By these expressions he is not only desirous to commend his indulgence to Israel, but particularly to prove the power of adoption, under which the promise of the heavenly inheritance is contained.* Glory means the excellence conferred upon that nation by the Lord above all other people, which he effected by many other means, and also by dwelling in the midst of them. For, besides many signs of his presence, he manifested a singular proof of it in the ark, from whence he returned answers and heard his people, that he might exert his power in affording them assistance. On this account it is termed (1 Sam. iv. 22) the glory of God. The following distinction may be observed between the covenants and the promises ; the covenant is conceived in a certain
* What is adoption ? That grace whereby we are not only made friends with God, but also his sons and heirs.- Archbishop Usher's Brief Method of Christian Religion.
number of express and solemn words, and implies mutual obligation,-for example, the covenant mad with Abraham ; but the promises are interspersed in various parts of the Scriptures. For, when God had once entered into covenant with his ancient people he did not cease to offer them his grace by giving occasionally new promises ; and it hence follows, tha the promises are referred to the covenant as their only source ; and, in the same manner, the peculiar assistance afforded by God to believers, and by which the Almighty manifests his favour towards his own sons, flows from the alone fountain of election. And, since the law was nothing else but the renewal of the covenant, for the purpose of confirming in a better manner its remembrance, the giving of the law ought, in this passage, to be restricted to the commands of God. For it is no common honour conferred on the Jewish people to have the Supreme Being their lawgiver. For, if other nations boast of their Solons, and their Lycurguses, how much better founded subject and matter for glorying have the Israelites, in claiming the Lord as their legislator!“ and ask from the one side of heaven unto the other, whether there hath been any such thing as this great thing is, or hath been heard like it?" (Deut. iv. 32.) The wors ship means the ceremonies and rites of the Jewish ritual, prescribing the proper manner of worshipping God; for those only ought to be considered lawful, which are appointed by a divine rule ; and every invention of man, besides this, is the mere profaning of religion.
Whose are the fathers—For it is of much importance to be descended from holy men, beloved of the Most High, since God has promised pious parents that he will show their sons mercy even to a thousand generations; and he does this particularly and in express words to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, (Gen.
xvii. 4,) and in other passages. Nor is it of any moment, that pious ancestry, when separated from the fear of the Lord and holiness of life, is of itself vain and unprofitable; for the very same takes place in the worship and glory of the God of truth and love, as various passages in the Prophets prove, but particularly the following, Isa. i. 11; lx. 1 ; Jer. vii. 4. But, since God condescends to bestow a certain degree of honour on pious progenitors, Paul has very properly reckoned this among the prerogatives of the Jewish people, for they are on that account denominated heirs of the promises, because they had been lineally descended from the patriarchs. (Acts iii.) Of whom Christ came, &c.—There is no foundation for referring Christ's descent to the patriarchs, as if Paul confined it to them, for his object was to close the high praise and eulogy bestowed upon the excellence of the Jewish people, by tracing the descent of the Messiah from the Israelites. For it is no small or trifling honour to be united by carnal descent with the Redeemer of the world, since, if Christ honoured the whole human race by uniting himself with us by becoming a partaker of our nature, he bestowed a still greater glory on the Jews, with whom he resolved to form the close bond of alliance and affinity. This favour of relationship, we must always remember, when separated from true piety, so far from being of use, turns rather to the greater condemnation of those who enjoy such a privilege. This passage is remarkable, as affording a clear proof that the two natures are so distinguished, in the Messiah, as to be united at the same time in the very person of the Saviour of sinners. For Paul, by tracing Christ's descent from the Jews, declares his real humanity. The additional sentence, according to the flesh, denotes that Christ Jesus possessed something more exalted than the flesh, and a clear distinction is here