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show that there was need of some other plan. The wrath of God, gy. The word rendered wrath properly denotes that earnest appetite, or desire by which we seek any thing, or an intense effort to obtain it. And it is particularly applied to the desire which a man has to take vengeance who is injured, and who is enraged. It is thus synonymous with revenge. Eph. iv. 31, "Let all bitterness, and wrath," &c. Col. iii. 8, "Anger, wrath, malice," &c. 1 Tim. ii. 8. James i. 19. But it is also often applied to God; and it is clear that when we think of the word as applicable to him, it must be divested of every thing like human passion, and especially of the passion of revenge. As he cannot be injured by the sins of men (Job xxv. 6-8), he has no motive for vengeance properly so called, and it is one of the most obvious rules of interpretation that we are not to apply to God passions and feelings which, among us, have their origin in evil. In making a revelation, it was indispensable to use words which men used; but it does not follow that when applied to God they mean precisely what they do when applied to man. When the Saviour is said (Mark iii. 5) to have looked on his disciples with anger (Greek, wrath, the same word is here), it is not to be supposed that he had the feelings of an implacable man seeking vengeance. The nature of the feeling is to be judged of by the character of the person. So, in this place, the word denotes the divine displeasure or indignation against sin; the divine purpose to inflict punishment. It is the opposition of the divine character against sin; and the determination of the divine mind to express that opposition in a proper way, by excluding the offender from the favours which he bestows on the righteous. It is not an unamiable, or arbitrary principle of conduct. We all admire the character of a father who is opposed to disorder, and vice, and disobedience in his family, and who expresses his opposition in a proper way. We admire the

character of a ruler who is opposed to all crime in the community, and who expresses those feelings in the laws. And the more he is opposed to vice and crime, the more we admire his character and his laws; and why shall we be not equally pleased with God, who is opposed to all crime in all parts of the universe, and who determines to express it in the proper way for the sake of preserving order and promoting peace? The word divine displeasure or indignation, therefore, expresses the meaning of this phrase. See Matt. iii. 7. Luke iii. 7; xxi. 23. John iii. 36 Rom. ii. 5. 8; iii. 5; iv. 15; v. 9; ix. 22; xii. 19; xiii. 4, 5. Eph. ii. 3; v. 6. 1 Thess. i. 10; ii. 16, &c. The word occurs thirty-five times in the New Testament. Is revealed. That is, revealed to the Jews by their law. and to the Gentiles in their reason, and conscience, as the apostle proceeds to show. From heaven. This expression I take to mean simply that the divine displeasure against sin is made known by a divine appointment; by an arrangement of events, communications, and arguments, which evince that they have had their origin in heaven; or are divine. How this is, Paul proceeds to state, in the works of creation, and in the law which the Hebrews had. A variety of meanings have been given to this expression, but this seems the most satisfactory. It does not mean that the wrath will be sent from heaven; or that the heavens declare his wrath; or that the heavenly bodies are proofs of his wrath against sin; or that Christ, the executioner of wrath, will be manifest from heaven (Origen, Cyrill, Beza, &c.); or that it is from God who is in heaven; but that it is by an arrangement which shows that it had its origin in heaven, or has proofs that it is divine. Against all ungodliness. This word properly means impiety towards God, or neglect of the worship and honour due to him. arßuav. It refers to the fact that men had failed to honour the true God, and had paid to idols the homage which was due to him. Multitudes also i

every age refuse to honour him, and made known by the light of nature neglect his worship, though they are The truth pertaining to his perfections, not idolaters. Many men suppose that his law, &c. They hold it back, or if they do not neglect their duty to restrain its influence. In unrighttheir fellow-men, if they are honest cousness. Or rather, by their iniquity. and upright in their dealings, they are Their wickedness is the cause why the not guilty, even though they are not truth had had so little progress among righteous, or do not do their duty to them, and had exerted so little influGod; as though it were a less crime ence. This was done by their yielding to dishonour God than man; and as to corrupt passions and propensities, though it were innocence to neglect and by their being therefore unwilling and disobey our Maker and Redeemer. to retain the knowledge of a pure and The apostle here shows that the wrath holy God, who is opposed to such deeds, of God is as really revealed against the and who will punish them. As they neglect of God as it is against positive were determined to practise iniquity, iniquity; and that this is an offence of they chose to exclude the knowledge so much consequence as to be placed of a pure God, and to worship impure first, and as deserving the divine in- idols, by which they might give a dignation more than the neglect of our sanction to their lusts. Their vice and duties towards men. Comp. Rom. xi. tendency to iniquity was, therefore, the 26. 2 Tim. ii. 16. Titus ii. 12. Jude reason why they had so little know15. 18. The word does not elsewhere ledge of a holy God; and by the love occur in the New Testament. Un- of this, they held back the truth from righteousness of men. Unrighteous-making progress, and becoming diffused ness, or iniquity towards men. All among them. offences against our neighbour, our parents, our country, &c. The word ungodliness includes all crimes against God; this, all crimes against our fellowmen. The two words express that which comprehends the violation of all the commands of God; "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, &c. and thy neighbour as thyself." Matt. xxii. 37-40. The wrath of God is thus revealed against all human wickedness. Who hold the truth. Who keep back, or restrain the truth. The word translated hold here, sometimes means to maintain, to keep, to observe (1 Cor. vii. 30. 2 Cor. vi. 12) ; but it also means to hold back, to detain, to hinder. Luke iv. 42, "The people sought him (Jesus), and came to him, and stayed him." (Greek, the same as here.) Philemon 13, "Whom I would have retained with me," &c. 2 Thess. ii. 6, "And now ye know what withholdeth,' &c. In this place it means also that they held back, or restrained the truth, by their wickedness. The truth. The truth of God, in whatever way made known, and particularly, as the apostle goes on to say that which is

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The same thing is substantially true now. Men hold back or resist the truth of the gospel by their sins in the following ways. (1.) Men of influence and wealth employ both, in directly opposing the gospel. (2.) Men directly resist the doctrines of religion, since they know they could not hold to those doctrines without abandoning their sins. (3.) Men who resolve to live in sin, of course, resist the gospel, and endeavour to prevent its influence. (4.) Pride, and vanity, and the love of the world also resist the gospel, and oppose its advances. (5.) Unlawful business-business that begins in evil, and progresses, and ends in evil-has this tendency to hold back the gospel. Such is the effect of the traffic in ardent spirits, in the slave-trade, &c. They begin in the love of money, the root of all evil (1 Tim. vi. 10); they progress in the tears and sorrows of the widow, the orphan, the wife, the sister, or the child; and they end in the deep damnation of multitudes in the world to come. Perhaps there has been nothing that has so much held back the influence of truth, and of the

ungodliness, and unrighteous- | be known of God is manifest in 1 ness of men, who hold the truth them; for " God hath shewed it in unrighteousness: unto them.

19 Because that which may

gospel, as indulgence in the vice of intemperance, and traffic in liquid fire. (6.) Indulgence in vice, or wickedness of any kind, holds back the truth of God. Men who are resolved to indulge their passions will not yield themselves to this truth. And hence all the wicked, the proud, and vain, and worldly are responsible, not only for their own sins directly, but for hindering, by their example and their crimes, the effect of religion on others. They are answerable for standing in the way of God and his truth; and for opposing him in the benevolent design of doing good to all men. There is nothing that prevents the universal spread and influence of truth but sin. And men of wickedness are answerable for all the ignorance and wo which are spread over the community, and which have extended themselves over the world.

19. Because. The apostle proceeds to show how it was that the heathen hindered the truth by their iniquity. This he does by showing that the truth might be known by the works of creation; and that nothing but their iniquity prevented it. That which may be known of God. That which is knowable concerning God. The expression implies that there may be many things concerning God which cannot be known. But there are also many things which may be ascertained. Such are his existence, and many of his attributes, his power, and wisdom, and justice, &c. The object of the apostle was not to say that every thing pertaining to God could be known by them, or that they could have as clear a view of him as if they had possessed a revelation. We must interpret the expression according to the object which he had in view. That was to show that so much might be known of

20 For the invisible things of

1 or, to. a John1.9.

God as to prove that they had no excuse for their crimes; or that God would be just in punishing them for their deeds. For this it was needful only that his existence and his justice, or his determination to punish sin, should be known; and this, the apostle affirms, was known among them, and had been from the creation of the world. This expression, therefore, is not to be pressed as implying that they knew all that could be known about God, or that they knew as much as they who had a revelation; but that they knew enough to prove that they had no excuse for their sins. ¶ Is manifest. Is known; is understood.

In them. Among them. So the preposition in is often used. It means that they had this knowledge; or it had been communicated to them. The great mass of the heathen world was indeed ignorant of the true God; but their leaders, or their philosophers, had this knowledge. See Note on ver. 21. But this was not true of the mass, or body of the people. Still it was true that this knowledge was in the possession of man, or was among the pagan world, and would have spread, had it not been for the love of sin. ¶ God hath showed it to them. Comp. John i. 9. He had endowed them with reason and conscience (ch. ii. 14, 15); he had made them capable of seeing and investigating his works; he had spread before them the proofs of his wisdom, and goodness, and power, and had thus given them the means of learning his perfections and will.

20. For the invisible things of him. The expression "his invisible things" refers to those things which cannot be perceived by the senses. It does not imply that there are any things pertaining to the divine character which may be seen by the eye; but that

him from the creation of the are made, even his eternal power world are clearly seen, being and Godhead : so that they are understood by the things that without excuse.

a Ps. 19.1,&c.


there are things which may be known of him, though not discoverable by the eye. We judge of the objects around us by the senses, the sight, the touch, the ear, &c. Paul affirms, that though we cannot judge thus of God, yet there is a way by which we may come to the knowledge of him. What he means by the invisible things of God he specifies at the close of the verse, his eternal power and Godhead. The affirmation extends only to that; and the argument implies that that was enough to leave them without any excuse for their sins. From the creation of the world. The word creation may either mean the act of creating, or more commonly it means the thing created, the world, the universe. In this sense it is commonly used in the New Testament. Comp. Mark x. 6; xiii. 19; xvi. 5. Rom. i. 25. 2 Cor. v. 17. Gal. vi. 15. Col. i. 15. 23. Heb. iv. 13; ix. 11. 1 Pet. ii. 13. 2 Pet. iii. 4. Rev. iii. 14. The word "from" may mean since, or it may denote by means of. And the expression here may denote that, as an historical fact, God has been known since the act of creation; or

may denote that he is known by means of the material universe which he has formed. The latter is doubtless the true meaning. For, (1.) This is the common meaning of the word creation; and, (2.) This accords with the design of the argument. It is not to state an historical fact, but to show that they had the means of knowing their duty within their reach, and were without excuse. Those means were in the wisdom, power, and glory of the universe, by which they were surrounded. Are clearly seen. Are made manifest; or may be perceived. The word used here does not occur elsewhere n the New Testament. Being un

1 or, that they may be.

derstood. His perfections may be investigated, and comprehended by means of his works. They are the evidences submitted to our intellects, by which we may arrive at the true knowledge of God. ¶ Things that are made. By his works. Comp. Heb. xi. 3. This means, not by the original act of creation, but by the continual operations of God in his Providence, by his doings, wań μxos, by what he is continually producing and accomplishing in the displays of his power and goodness in the heavens and the earth. What they were capable of understanding, he immediately adds, and shows that he did not intend to affirm that every thing could be known of God by his works; but so much as to free them from excuse for their sins.

His eternal power. Here are two things implied. (1.) That the universe contains an exhibition of his power, or a display of that attribute which we call omnipotence; and, (2.) That this power has existed from eternity, and of course implies an eternal existence in God. It does not mean that this power has been exerted or put forth from eternity, for the very idea of creation supposes that it had not, but that there is proof, in the works of creation, of power which must have existed from eternity, or have belonged to an eternal being. The proof of this was clear, even to the heathen, with their imperfect views of creation and of astronomy. Comp. Ps. xix. The majesty and grandeur of the heavens would strike their eye, and be full demonstration that they were the work of an infinitely great and glorious God. But to us, under the full blaze of modern science, with our knowledge of the magnitude, and distances, and revolutions of the heavenly bodies, the proof of this power is much more grand and impressive. We may apply


the remark of the apostle to the pre- that they are without excuse. sent state of the science, and his lan- has given them so clear evidence of his guage will cover all the ground, and the existence and claims, that they have proof to human view is continually no excuse for their idolatry, and for rising of the amazing power of God, hindering the truth by their iniquity by every new discovery in science, and It is implied here that in order that especially in astronomy. Those who men should be responsible, they should wish to see this subject presented in a have the means of knowledge; and most impressive view, may find it that he does not judge them when done in Chalmer's Astronomical Dis- their ignorance is involuntary, and the courses, and in Dick's Christian Philo- means of knowing the truth have not sopher. Equally clear is the proof that been communicated. But where men this power must have been eternal. If have these means within their reach, t had not always existed, it could in and will not avail themselves of them, no way have been produced. But it all excuse is taken away. This was is not to be supposed that it was the case with the Gentile world. They always exerted, any more than it is had the means of knowing so much that God now puts forth all the power of God, as to show the folly of worthat he can, or than that we constantly shipping dumb idols. Comp. Isa. xliv. put forth all the power which we pos- 8-20. They had also traditions sess. God's power was called forth respecting his perfections; and they at the creation. He showed his om- could not plead for their crimes and nipotence; and gave, by that one great folly that they had no means of knowact, eternal demonstration that he was ing him. If this was true of the paalmighty; and we may survey the gan world then, how much more is it proof of that, as clearly as if we had true of the world now? And especialseen the operation of his hand there. ly how true and fearful is this, respectThe proof is not weakened because we ing that great multitude in Christian do not see the process of creation con- lands who have the Bible, and who stantly going on. It is rather augmented never read it; who are within the reach by the fact that he sustains all things, of the sanctuary, and never enter it; and controls continually the vast masses who are admonished by friends, and by of matter in the material worlds. ¶ God- the providences of God, and who rehead. His divinity. The Greek word 0ɛt-gard it not; and who look upon the órns is not elsewhere used in the New l'estament, though the similar words 0eóτns and fɛčov, both rendered Godhead, occur in Col. ii. 9. Acts xvii. 29. The passage here proves the truth that the supremacy, or supreme divinity of God, was exhibited in the works of creation, or that he was exalted above all creatures and things. It would not be proper, however, to press this word as implying that all that we know of God by revelation was known to the heathen; but that so much was known as to show his supremacy; his right to their homage; and of course the folly and wickedness of idolatry. This is all that the argument of the apostle demands, and, of course, on this principle the expression is to be interpreted So

heavens, and even yet see no proof of the eternal power and Godhead of him who made them all! Nay, there are those who are apprized of the discoveries of modern astronomy, and who yet do not seem to reflect that all these glories are proof of the existence of an eternal God; and who live in ignorance of religion as really as the heathen, and in crimes as decided and malignant as disgraced the darkest ages of the world. For such there is no excuse, or shadow of excuse, to be offered in the day of doom. And there is no fact more melancholy in our history, and no one thing that more proves the stupidity of men, than this sad forgetfulness of Him that made the heavens, even amid all the

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