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Oscar Wilde


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Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


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A. Conan Doyle


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P. G. Wodehouse


Exposition of the Epistle to the Romans: with remarks on the commentaries of dr. MacKnight, professor Tholuck and professor Moses Stuart. Vol. 1, 2nd ed.; 2

by Robert Haldane

Excerpt:

Notwithstanding that this Epistle was written after some of the rest, it has been placed first in order among them on account of its excellence, and the abundance and sublimity of its contents. It contains, indeed, an abridgment of all that is taught in the Christian religion. It treats of the revelation of God in the works of nature, and in the heart of man, and exhibits the necessity and the strictness of the last judgment. It teaches the doctrine of the fall, and corruption of the whole human race, of which it discovers the source and its greatness. It points out the true and right use of the law, and why God gave it to the Israelites; and also shows the variety of the temporal advantages over other men which that law conferred on them, and which they so criminally abused. It treats of the mission of our Lord Jesus Christ, of justification, of sanctification, of free will and of grace, of salvation and of condemnation, of election and of reprobation, of the perseverance and assurance of the salvation of believers in the midst of their severest temptations, of the necessity of afflictions, and of the admirable consolations which God gives His people under them,—of the calling of the Gentiles, of the rejection of the Jews, and of their final restoration to the communion of God. Paul afterwards lays down the principal rules of Christian morality, containing all that we owe to God, to ourselves, to our neighbours, and to our brethren in Christ, and declares the manner in which we should act in our particular employments; uniformly accompanying his precepts with just and reasonable motives to enforce their practice. The form, too, of this Epistle is not less admirable than its matter. Its reasoning is powerful and conclusive; the style condensed, lively, and energetic; the arrangement orderly and clear, strikingly exhibiting the leading doctrines as the main branches from which depend all the graces and virtues of the Christian life. The whole is pervaded by a strain of the most exalted piety, true holiness, ardent zeal, and fervent charity.

This Epistle, like the greater part of those written by Paul, is divided into two general parts,—the first of which contains the doctrine, and extends to the beginning of the twelfth chapter; and the second, which relates to practice, goes on to the conclusion. The first is to instruct the spirit, and the other to direct the heart; the one teaches what we are to believe, the other what we are to practise. In the first part he discusses chiefly the two great questions which at the beginning of the Gospel were agitated between the Jews and the Christians, namely, that of justification before God, and that of the calling of the Gentiles. For as, on the one hand, the Gospel held forth a method of justification very different from that of the law, the Jews could not relish a doctrine which appeared to them novel, and was contrary to their prejudices; and as, on the other hand, they found themselves in possession of the covenant of God, to the exclusion of other nations, they could not endure that the Apostles should call the Gentiles to the knowledge of the true God, and to the hope of His salvation, nor that it should be supposed that the Jews had lost their exclusive pre-eminence over the nations. The principal object, then, of the Apostle was to combat these two prejudices. He directs his attention to the former in the first nine chapters, and treats of the other in the tenth and eleventh. As to what regards the second portion of the Epistle, Paul first enjoins general precepts for the conduct of believers, afterwards in regard to civil life, and finally with regard to church communion.

In the first five chapters, the great doctrine of justification by faith, of which they exclusively treat, is more fully discussed than in any other part of Scripture. The design of the Apostle is to establish two things: the one is, that there being only two ways of justification before God, namely, that of works, which the law proposes, and that of grace by Jesus Christ, which the Gospel reveals,—the first is entirely shut against men, and, in order to their being saved, there remains only the last. The other thing that he designs to establish is, that justification by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ, respects indifferently all men, both Jews and Gentiles, and that it abolishes the distinction which the law had made between them. To arrive at this, he first proves that the Gentiles, as well as the Jews, are subject to the judgment of God; but that, being all sinners and guilty, neither the one nor the other can escape condemnation by their works. He humbles them both. He sets before the Gentiles the blind ignorance and unrighteousness both of themselves and of their philosophers, of whom they boasted; and he teaches humility to the Jews, by showing that they were chargeable with similar vices. He undermines in both the pride of self-merit, and teaches all to build their hopes on Jesus Christ alone; proving that their salvation can neither emanate from their philosophy nor from their law, but from the grace of Christ Jesus.

In the first chapter, the Apostle commences by directing our attention to the person of the Son of God in His incarnation in time, and His Divine nature from eternity, as the great subject of that Gospel which hewas commissioned to proclaim. After a most striking introduction, every way calculated to arrest the attention and conciliate the affection of those whom he addressed, he briefly announces the grand truth, which he intends afterwards to establish, that 'the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth,' because in it is revealed 'The BiGHTEODSNESS Of God.' Unless such a righteousness had been provided, all men must have suffered the punishment due to sin, seeing God hath denounced His high displeasure against all 'ungodliness and unrighteousness.' These are the great truths which the Apostle immediately proceeds to unfold. And as they stand connected with every part of that salvation which God has prepared, he is led to exhibit a most animating and consolatory view of the whole plan of mercy, which proclaims 'glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men.'

The first point which the Apostle establishes, is the ruined condition of men, who, being entirely divested of righteousness, are by nature all under sin. The charge of 'ungodliness,' and of consequent 'unrighteousness,' he proves first against the Gentiles. They had departed from the worship of God, although in the works of the visible creation they had sufficient notification of His power and Godhead. In their conduct they had violated the law written in their hearts, and had sinned in opposition to what they knew to be right, and to the testimony of their conscience in its favour. All of them, therefore, lay under the sentence of condemnation, which will be pronounced upon the workers of iniquity in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men. In the second chapter, a similar charge of transgression and guilt is established against the Jews, notwithstanding the superior advantage of a written revelation with which they had been favoured.

Having proved in the first two chapters, by an appeal to undeniable facts, that the Gentiles and the Jews were both guilty before God, in the third chapter, after obviating some objections regarding the Jews, Paul takes both Jews and Gentiles together, and exhibits a fearful picture, drawn from the testimony of the Old Testament Scriptures, of the universal guilt and depravity of all mankind, showing that 'there is none righteous, no, not one,' and that all are depraved, wicked, and alienated from God. He thus establishes it as an undeniable truth, that every man in his natural state lies under the just condemnation of God, as a rebel against Him, in all the three ways in which He had been pleased to reveal Himself, whether by the works of creation, the work of the law written on the heart, or by the revelation of grace. From these premises he then draws the obvious and inevitable conclusion, that by obedience to law no man living shall be justified; that so far from justifying, the law proves every one to be guilty and under condemnation. The way is thus prepared for the grand display of the grace and mercy of God announced in the Gospel, by which men are saved consistently with the honour of the law. What the law could not do, not from any deficiency in itself, but owing to the depravity of man, God has fully accomplished. Man has no righteousness of his own which he can plead, but God has provided a righteousness for him. This righteousness, infinitely superior to that which he originally possessed, is provided solely by grace, and received solely by faith. It is placed to the account of the believer for his justification, without the smallest respect either to his previous or subsequent obedience. Yet so far from being contrary to the justice of God, this method of justification, 'freely by His grace,' strikingly illustrates His justice, and vindicates all His dealings to men. So far from making the law void, it establishes it in all its honour and authority. This way of salvation equally applies to all, both Jews and Gentiles—men of every nation and every character; 'there is no difference,' for all, without exception, are sinners.


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