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hast graciously encouraged us, that if we are faithful unto death, thou wilt give us the crown of life.
To thee, who art able to keep us from falling, and to present us faultless before the presence of thy glory with exceeding joy: to thee, God only wise, our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power for ever and ever!
July 26, 1778.
ROMANS ii. 14, 15.
For when the gentiles, which have not the law,
do by nature the things contained in the law; these having not the law are a law unto themselves, which show the work of the law written in their hearts ; their conscience also bearing witness, and their reasoning between themselves, accusing or else excusing one anotber.
This epistle of St. Paul's was written from the city of Corinth in Greece, a short time before his journey to Jerusalem ; when he went up to carry the charitable collections he had made in different parts, chiefly among the gentile Christians, for the relief of his poor countrymen in Judea. Whilst he was there, through the bitter malice of his unbelieving countrymen against him, he was seized, cast into prison, and tried for his life ; of
which you have a full account in the book of the Acts :
And in consequence of his appeal from the Roman governor's tribunal to the emperor in person, he was carried to Rome, a place which he mentions his intention of visiting in this epistle ; but little thought at that time, that he should be brought thither as a prisoner for the Gospel's sake.
At that early period, not twenty years from the death of Christ, we find from the latter part of this epistle, that there was already a very considerable congregation of Christians in that capital city of the world.
It was perhaps chiefly, though not altogether, made
up of Jews, who lived there in great numbers ; where they occupied a large district beyond the Tiber, and had their places of worship allowed them.
There might be some amongst them who had seen and known Christ himself, as they were obliged by their law to go yearly up to Jerusalem, especially at their great feast of the passover, when their curiosity could not but lead them to see and inquire after a person so very extraordinary, and who made such great pretensions. And we perceive in this letter,
that several of them were of Paul's acquaintance, and some among
them even his near relations.
There were, however, not a few amongst them who, having embraced Christianity,still retained their prejudices for their former Jewish profession; and blending both together, insisted on the necessity of all Christians observing the works of the law : i. e. submitting to circumcision, and the observance of their other Jewish ceremonies. And as Christ was of their nation, and born amongst them, the gentiles might some of them be disposed to pay too much deference to these men; and others be deterred from the Gospel by such a load of singular disagreeable religious customs being laid upon them, as the law of Moses required them to submit to and observe.
Our apostle, therefore, sets himself to confute this error which had so pernicious a tendency; but does it with great wisdom and gentleness, so as to give as little offence as possible to those that had imbibed it, and to win them over to the true doctrine of Christ. This was his principal design in writing.
He begir:s with declaring the inexcusableness of the heathen world, in suffering them