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CHAPTER XIII. 1-7.
This section contains the duty of Christians to the civil magistrate: for the understanding this right we must consider these two things :
1. That these rules are given to Christians that were members of a heathen commonwealth, to show them that, by being made Christians and subjects of Christ's kingdom, they were not, by the freedom of the Gospel, exempt from any ties of duty or subjection, which by the laws of their country they were in, and ought to observe, to the government and magistrates of it, though heathens, any more than any of their heathen subjects. But, on the other side, these rules did not tie them up, any more than any of their fellow-citizens, who were not Christians, from any of those due rights, which, by the law of nature, or the constitutions of their country, belonged to them. Whatsoever any other of their fellow-subjects, being in a like station with them, might do without sinning, that they were not abridged of, but might do still, being Christians; the rule here being the same with that given by St. Paul, 1 Cor. vii. 17, “As God has called every one, so let him walk." The rules of civil right and wrong, that he is to walk by, are to him the same they were hefore.
2. That St. Paul, in this direction to the Romans, does not so much describe the magistrates that then were in Rome, as tells whence they, and all magistrates, every where, have their authority; and for what end they have it, and should use it. And this he does, as becomes his prudence, to avoid bringing any imputation on Christians from heathen magistrates, especially those inšolent and vicious ones of Rome, who could not brook any thing to be told them as their duty, and so might be apt to interpret such plain truths, laid down in a dogmatical way, into sauciness, sedition, or treason, a scandal cautiously to be kept off from the Christian doctrine ! nor does he, in what he says, in the least flatter the Roman einperor, let it be either Claudius, as some think, or Nero, as others, who then was in possession of that empire. For he here speaks of the higher powers, i. e. the supreme civil power, which is in every commonwealth derived from God, and is of the same extent every where, i. e. is absolute and unlimited by any thing, but the end for which God gave
it, viz. the good of the people, sincerely pursued, according to the best of the skill of those who share that power, and so not to be resisted. But, how men come by a rightful title to this power, or who has that title, he is wholly silent, and says nothing of it. To have meddled with that, would have been to decide of civil rights, contrary to the design and business of the Gospel, and the example of our Saviour, who refused meddling in such cases with this decisive question, “ Who made me a judge or divider over you?” Luke xii. 14.
TEXT. I Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no
power but of God : the powers that be are ordained of God.
PARAPHRASE. 1 Let every one of you, none excepted“, be subject to
the over-ruling powers 6 of the government he lives in.
NOTES. la “Every ove," howerer endowed with miraculous gifts of the Holy Ghost,
or advanced to any dignity in the church of Christ. For that these things were apt to make men overvalue themselves is obvious, from what St. Paul says to the Corinthians, 1 Cor. xii. and here to the Romans, chap. xii. 3—5. But, above all others, the Jews were apt to have an inward reluctancy and indignation against the power of any heathen over them, taking it to be an unjust and tyrannical usurpation upon them, who were the people of God, and their bet
ters. These the apostle thought it necessary to restrain, and, therefore, says, in : the language of the Jews, “every soul," i. e. every person among you, whether
Jew or Gentile, must live in subjection to the civil magistrate. We see, by what St. Peter says ou the like occasion, that there was great need that Christians should have this duty inculcated to them, “Jest any among them should use their liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, or misbehaviour,” | Pet. ii. 13–16. The doctrine of Christianity was a doctrine of liberty. And St. Paul, in this epistle, had taught them, that all Christians were free from the Mosaical law. Hence corrupt and mistaken men, especially Jewish converts, impatient, as we have ob. serred, of any heathen dominion, might be ready to infer, that Christians were exempt from subjection to the laws of heathen governments. This he obviates, by telling them, that all other governments derived the power they had from God, as well as that of the Jews, though they had not the whole frame of their government immediately from him, as the Jews had. 1 Whether we take “ powers,” here, in the abstract, for political authority, or in the concrete, for the persons de facto exercising political power and jurisdiction, the sense will be the same, viz. That Christians, by virtue of being Christians, are not any way exempt from obedience to the civil magistrates, nor ought by any means to resist them, though by what is said, ver. 3, it seems that St. Paul meant here magistrates having and exercising a lawful power. But whether the magistrates in being were or were not such, and consequently were or were not to be obeyed, that Christianity gave them no peculiar power to examine. They had the common right of others, their fellow-citizens, but had no distinct privilege as Christians. And, therefore, we see, ver. 7, where he enjoins the paying of tribute and custom, &c. it is in these words : “Render to all
TEXT. 2 Whosoever, therefore, resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of
God : and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt
thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and
thou shalt have praise of the same: 4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that
which is evil, be afraid ; for he beareth not the sword in vain : for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon
him that doth evil, 5 Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for
conscience sake. 6 For for this cause pay you tribute also ; for they are God's ministers,
attending continually upon this very thing. 7 Render therefore to all their dues : tribute to whom tribute is due,
custom to whom custom, fear to whom fear, honour to whom honour.
PARAPHRASE. 2 There is no power but what is from God: The powers that
are in being are ordained by God : So that he, who resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God; and they that re
sist will be punished by those powers that they resist. 3 What should you be afraid of ? Rulers are no terror to those
that do well, but to those that do ill. Wilt thou then not live in dread of the civil power? Do that which is good and
right, and then praise only is thy due from the magistrate. 4 For he is the officer and minister of God, appointed only for
thy good. But if thou doest amiss, then thou hast reason to be afraid : for he bears not the sword in vain. For he is
the minister of God, and executioner of wrath and punish5 ment upon him that doth ill. This being the end of govern
ment, and the business of the magistrate, to cherish the good, apd punish ill men, it is necessary for you to submit to government, not only in apprehension of the punishment which
disobedience will draw on you, but out of conscience, as a 6 duty required of you by God.' This is the reason why also
you pay tribute, which is due to the magistrates because they employ their care, time, and pains, for the public weal, in
punishing and restraining the wicked and vicious; and in 7 countenancing and supporting the virtuous and good. Render,
therefore, to all their dues : tribute to whom tribute is due, custom to whom custom, fear to whom fear, and honour to whom honour.
NOTE. their dues, tribute to whom tribute is due, honour to whom honour," &c. Bat who it was, to whom any of these, or any other dues, of right belonged, he decides not, for that he leaves them to be determined by the laws and constitutions of their country.
CHAPTER XIII. 8-14.
He exhorts them to love, which is, in effect, the fulfilling of the whole law.
TEXT. 8 Owe no man any thing, but to love one another : for he that loveth
another hath fulfilled the law. 9 For this, Thou shalt pot commit adnltery, thou shalt not kill, thou
shalt not steal, thou shalt not bear false witness, thou shalt not covet ; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended
in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 10 Love worketh no ill to his neighbour : therefore, love is the fulfilling
of the law. 11 And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out
of sleep; for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. 12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us, therefore, cast off
the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.
PARAPHRASE. 8 Owe nothing to any body, but affection and good-will, mutu
ally to one another; for he that loves others sincerely as he 9 does himself, has fulfilled the law. For this precept, Thou
shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not bear false witness, thou shalt not covet ; and whatever other command there bé, concerning social du
ties, it in short is comprehended in this, “ Thou shalt love 10 thy neighbour as thyself.” Love permits us to do no harm
to our neighbour, and therefore is the fulfilling of the whole 11 law of the second table. And all this do, considering that it
is now high time that we rouse ourselves up, shake off sleep, and betake ourselves, with vigilancy and vigour, to the duties of a Christian life. For the time of your removal, out of this
place of exercise and probationership, is nearer than when 12
you first entered into the profession of Christianity. The
NOTE. 11, 12 * It seems, by these two verses, as if St. Paul looked upon Christ's coming
as not far off, to which there are several other occurrent passages in his epistles: See 1 Cor. i.7, VOL. VIII.
TEXT. 13 Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness,
not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. 14 But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the
flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.
PARAPHRASE. night, the dark state of this world, wherein the good and the bad can scarce be distinguished, is far spent. The day, that will show every one in his own dress and colours, is at hand. Let us, therefore, put away the works that we should be ashamed of, but in the dark; and let us put on the dress and
ornaments that we should be willing to appear in, in the 13 light. Let our behaviour be decent, and our carriage such
as fears not the light, nor the eyes of men; not in dis
orderly feastings and drunkenness; nor in dalliance and wan14 tonnesso: nor in strife and envyd. But walk in newness of
life, in obedience to the precepts of the Gospel, as becomes those who are baptized into the faith of Christ, and let not the great employment of your thoughts and cares be wholly in making provision for the body, that you may have wherewithal to satisfy your carnal lusts.
NOTES. 12 b Onda, “ armour.” The word in the Greek is often used for the apparel,
cloathing, and accoutrements of the body. 13 • These he seems to name with reference to the night, which he had mentioned,
these being the disorders to which the night is usually set apart. d These probably were set down, with regard to aniversal love and good-will, which he was principally here pressing them to.
CHAPTER XIV. 1-XV. 13.
St. Paul instructs both the strong and the weak, in their mutual duties one to another, in respect of things indifferent, teaching them, that the strong should not use their liberty, where it might offend a weak brother: nor the weak censure the strong, for using their liberty.