The Epistle to the Romans.

Division 3. (Rom. 9 — 11.)

Israel's special promises, how and when to be fulfilled.

The grace of the gospel has now been carried to its issue in glory. The doctrine of the epistle is so far concluded; but we have yet to see the bearing of all this upon Israel and the special promises given to her of God. The sin of man at large and of Israel, we may say especially, has been fully proved. "There is no difference, all have sinned and come short of the glory of God;" but that does not affect at all the question of the faithfulness of God to His own Word. Let man be what he may; if God has spoken, He will surely fulfil what He has promised, and here we have to remember that the promise to Abraham was a very different one from the conditional one of law. The promise to Abraham was indeed not directly to the nation at all, and therefore the standing or fall of the nation could not affect it. It was absolute grace in its nature, and as we see in the fifteenth chapter of Genesis, if trial and suffering, if the furnace were needed as well as the lamp, the covenant included both, in order to work out the purpose of God. When law came in, it was exceptional entirely, as the apostle says, "It came in by the way," and for the purpose, not of putting Israel's title to the inheritance upon a new foundation, but really in order to show that nothing but absolute grace could be the foundation of such promises as hers. The law was the ministration of death and condemnation, as we have fully seen, and if the inheritance were of law, as the apostle tells us afterwards, it were no more of promise. Law and promise are in absolute contrast, in contradiction, one may say, to one another. Israel chose the law, and so far, therefore, as she could do it, gave up the grace in which God in fact had been hitherto dealing with her, to accept the recompense of her own desert. She found this in result; and it was seen from the beginning that it would be terribly against her. The new covenant, which still remains to be fulfilled, provides for the fulfilment of the Abrahamic covenant, but to a people who have sinned, and expressly in view of their sins; but it is absolute grace once more. It is all God's "I will," not the legal "Thou shalt." Thus, these unconditional promises must be fulfilled. The prophets fill them out and show us Israel on their conversion as a nation not lost in the midst of the Gentiles, but, on the contrary, the centre of the divine rule for the earth and in special nearness to the divine King. The promises of the Old Testament have nothing to do with heaven, no thought of any one going there. They concern the earth; and here the blessing for the earth of necessity implies the blessing for Israel. Isaiah affirms the eternal perpetuity of their seed and name, not merely for the millennium, but "as the new heavens and the new earth," says God "which I will make, shall remain before Me, so shall her seed and her name remain." Thus Israel's distinct existence, and as it is implied, distinct privilege, remains eternal. There is no escape from this, except into the utter confusion in which so many are, between the earthly people and the heavenly, Israel and the Church. If we will only read Scripture with the simplicity which belongs to it, if we will only allow that God means exactly what He says, there will be no difficulty at all in discerning that Israel's promises abide in spite of all that has come in apparently to set them aside, and (for a time,) in fact has done so.

Subdivision 1. (Rom. 9.)

The election of Grace.

The first part of that which we find here shows us Israel as the elect of God, but election necessarily means grace. It is God acting in grace from Himself and without claim on man's part. Thus, in the very way in which it is carried out, we may be sure that we shall have the manifestation of this. Man will never be able to use the fact of God's election in order to get credit for himself or to establish a fleshly claim.

1. But, in the first place, before the apostle proceeds to this, he affirms, in the strongest way, his sorrow over and devoted love towards Israel. He had not been behind Moses in his desire, if it were possible, to sacrifice himself for the blessing of the people. "He had wished" (it is not as if it were indeed something that could be deliberately entertained or something which was thought possible in itself to be realized) that he himself "were accursed from Christ on account of his brethren, his kindred after the flesh." He does not say: "I could wish." It was simply an uncalculating, unreasoning longing, if you please, for their blessing. It was the agony of a soul beside itself with the thought of their loss of all that God had made their own. He shows us, thereupon, the ground of their endearment to him, a people connected with the whole history of God's dealing with man hitherto. To them, as he says, belong, the adoption and the glory and the covenants and the giving of law and the service of God and the promises. To them belong the fathers, and Christ too, as concerning the flesh, but He is much more than what this implies: He is "over all, God blessed for ever."

Let us look at these separately. First of all we must not confound the adoption of Israel with that which we know in Christianity. It is the peculiar privilege of the Christian dispensation, as we call it, that we both have the adoption, the open acknowledgment that we are sons of God, and the Spirit of adoption to seal and manifest this. Israel had nothing of this kind. Nationally Israel indeed could be called God's son, and, as in relation to the nations of the earth, His first-born, for the blessing of Israel implies the blessing of the nations of the earth also, — the first-born implies the later born. Nevertheless, the character of this is entirely different from Christian adoption. "You only have I known," says the Lord, "of all the families of the earth." They were still a family of the earth and never ceased to be that. Their adoption does not in the least certify the salvation of one single soul among them, nor the spiritual relationship to God on the part of any one. Nationally, they might call God, Father, and He says: "I am a Father to Israel," but the very fact of His saying that implies, as the apostle tells us, that at the time He says it, the true children of God are scattered abroad. God is not owning His children as such. The owning of the nation is in distinct contrast with this. In the time to come, as we know, Israel will be a nation all holy, but up to the time in which the apostle writes, up to the time in which we are now, the condition of the nation has been a very different one from this. The adoption, as we have seen, is an adoption of a family of earth and for earthly privilege and blessing.

Next, we have the glory; and here it is manifest that we have to think of that which dwelt in the midst of them, their peculiar privilege, the presence of God, whether in the tabernacle or in the temple, a presence manifested amongst no other people.

Thirdly, the covenants all belonged to Israel. There was no covenant with the Gentiles, except indeed, that Abraham was to be a blessing finally to all the families of the earth. Indirectly they come in there; but, as expressly made to them, there was no covenant, and with regard to ourselves also, Christians as we are, and in the fulness of a blessing which Israel could know nothing of, the new covenant is still not made with us, but ministered to us, — a very different thing. The foundation has been laid, as the Lord refers to it when He institutes His memorial feast. The cup was the cup of the new covenant in His blood. The foundation of all blessing, as we know, was in the cross, and thus if Israel for the time, or, as to the mass of them, have rejected God's grace, the provisions of the covenant can, nevertheless, be ministered far and wide, and that is what we have distinctly in the New Testament. The covenants then belonged to Israel alone.

Then we have the giving of the law; and here the "ten words," as they are called, the ten commandments, are expressly declared to be a covenant with Israel. The lesson of the law was for all, the conviction of human unrighteousness was the conviction of all the world; but the law itself, which was, in fact, one of Israel's covenants, was expressly and exclusively their own.

Next, we have the service, the ritual service which God instituted in Israel. He has never instituted another yet. He has brought us indeed into the place of worshipers and given us the Spirit, that we might worship acceptably and in the nearness which divine grace has given to us; but just on that very account a ritual is not that which God has provided for us. We have nothing that answers even to the book of Psalms. The joy with which God has filled our heart and the truth which He has made our own, enable us to use all the assurances of blessing which we find there or elsewhere. We are "blessed with all spiritual blessings" in Christ, and therefore we can freely claim as ours anything that can be called a "spiritual blessing." If God says to Joshua: "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee," the apostle assures us we can claim that; although if there were any promise which could be thought of, perhaps, as special to the individual, it would be that. But all spiritual blessings are ours. That does not in the least take them from those to whom they were made. It does not deprive Israel of any part of her inheritance or of her privileges. God simply is the same God to us, only more fully known, and therefore in greater fulness of blessing for us. The greater includes the less, and the blessings spoken, of throughout the Old Testament, so far as they are spiritual blessings, are, therefore, fully ours.

We would need a large service book to be able to put them into voice aright, but in fact anything of this kind would be contrary to that which we have as our peculiar blessing, the presence of the Spirit of God amongst us. Are we to put words into His mouth? He is with us, as we have seen, to give full expression to those prayers even, which may be expressed only by a groan, but it is a groan intelligent in the ears of God; but the service of God, the ritual service, was Israel's alone.

Then we have the promises; and these are in the same absolute way claimed for Israel. It is plain, of course, that the Old Testament promises are meant, those which any one in the apostle's time would recognize to be the promises. The Christian ones were still a mystery, — and the apostle shows us what is meant by this, namely, that they were things hidden from ages and generations and now made manifest to the saints. Thus the new covenant itself, as ought to be most plain, if we consider the terms of it, does not and cannot cover the fulness of our blessing. The ministers of Christ are "stewards of the mysteries of God" (1 Cor. 4:1). What is characteristic of Christianity is just that which is beyond even the new covenant itself, — the opened sanctuary even is no but it is not here the place to look further.

"The fathers" present to us the venerable forms that we are familiar with in Old Testament history; but Christ, again, as concerning the flesh, belongs to Israel also; that is, He came of them; while at the same time it is carefully guarded here that there was in Him that which of necessity made His manhood of much deeper significance than could be implied in the fact of His coming of Israel. The title which He constantly uses with regard to Himself in this connection is that of the Son of Man. Israel could have, in this sense, no exclusive title to Him, and, in fact, not even a special title. He is, of course, much more than Man, One over all, "God blessed forever." The distinct force of this has been attempted to be set aside by many, and in different ways, which it does not need to consider here. The words as we have them in our version perfectly express the original, and affirm in the strongest way that Christ is God in the highest sense, the God who is over all. That does not conflict in the slightest with the supreme title of the Father, but assures us that Christ is one with the Father Himself, in the same way, supreme.

All this belongs, says the apostle, to that Israel, his kindred according to the flesh: expressly cutting off in this way any spiritual application, so-called, as to the Christian Church. It still belongs to, and cannot be taken from them, notwithstanding their present condition, so long existent. God is strong and patient.

This, then, is the people over whom the apostle mourns, and no wonder. How is it possible for us to forget Israel's claim to the most affectionate remembrance? But if they have failed and, as to the mass, been for the present set aside, the word of God has not failed on that account. "All that are of Israel," says the apostle, "are not" therefore "Israel." A nation in the flesh, there were amongst them (scattered by the system, as already said,) the true children of God; but outside also of Israel were children of God, as we know. To belong to the nation could not deprive any one who sought God, of the blessing of that; and on the other hand, the belonging to Israel could not confer blessing upon those whose backs were really towards Him. But God had taken care expressly to show, in the very history which they had in their hands, that the seed of Abraham were not, as they constantly assumed, the mere seed after the flesh. These were not necessarily the children of Abraham in any proper sense. Thus, the history itself marks out, and from the beginning, that in Isaac the seed shall be called. Ishmael was, as to that, as much a child of Abraham as Isaac, but Ishmael is not reckoned as of the seed, as Isaac is. His being the child of the bondwoman might seem, perhaps, to account for that; therefore we have another case, and a plainer one, which God has taken abundant pains to make plain to us. Jacob, the younger, was in this the one chosen of God, and not Esau. Yet they were both children of Rebecca; according to the flesh they had both an equal title, if indeed the fullest were not Esau's, but here God Himself speaks out in the fullest way. Before the children were born, before anything had been done by either of them, either good or bad, God says: "The elder shall serve the younger." He does not base this upon any conduct of theirs. He simply affirms it to be His will, and thus if Israel will maintain that the seed of Abraham according to the flesh have rights based upon the flesh, they must admit to these rights the Ishmaelites on the one hand and the Edomites on the other; that election is of grace, therefore, that is of God's will alone, is settled by history. But let us remember here that the moment we speak of God's will, it is not merely, as we say, an arbitrary thing. In God's will, His whole nature speaks. You cannot find anywhere the will of God expressed in which you will not find His character expressed also. In fact, where this is manifested in the fullest way, just there we may expect the fullest and sweetest manifestation of what God is. We must never lose sight of this when we speak of the absolute will of God.

God's love is free: when He pleads with His people in Malachi the love He had shown to Jacob, He uses the name which reminds them of the natural character of their father, stamped so upon his descendants also, before divine grace had made him Israel. These names are used according to their different significance, in application to his seed, as one may see conspicuously in Balaam's prophecy. Here it suitably points out how little the "worm Jacob" had merited divine love. On the other hand, if He has to say in contrast, "I hated Esau," He carefully marks the wickedness on their part which had called forth His anger against them. "They shall call them the border of wickedness, and the people against whom the Lord has indignation for ever." This was not, as in the former case, before the children were born, or had done good or evil; and the free love of divine grace has no corresponding free hate, but longsuffering patience toward the creatures He had made. "Esau have I hated" was said at the close of the Old Testament, after long trial extending over many centuries.

2. But here immediately a question is raised by men. Is this righteousness? It was the very question which the law that they had was meant to settle for them and which it does effectually settle, that on man's part he has none; that therefore he cannot claim anything from God on that score. If God set him aside wholly from blessing, it is no question of righteousness in God. If we speak of righteousness in that way, we ignore our own condition. The apostle appeals to the history with regard to this. When they made the golden calf at Horeb, all was gone as far as that generation was concerned. God retreats into Himself. He says: "I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy and I will have compassion upon whom I will have compassion." It is upon this ground alone that He can take them up again. The Israel of Paul's time owed thus, in fact, their very existence to this compassionate will of God.

The case of Pharaoh is another which men speak of much. God says of Pharaoh: "For this same purpose I have raised thee up, that I might show in thee My power and that My Name might be declared in all the earth." But what does He mean by this? If God is going to declare His Name, for what purpose is it? In fact, when God did thus raise up Pharaoh, the world at large was sunk in idolatry. Pharaoh was the head of the most idolatrous nation, probably, upon the face of the earth. He was also in a place in which that which was done to him, the manifestation of God's sovereign power in his case, would go far and wide amongst the nations. Was there no goodness manifest in that very fact, that "against all the gods of Egypt" He was executing judgment? We find that it did indeed speak, and the song of Israel at the Red. Sea shows what was the effect amongst the nations. Not indeed, that they were brought to God by it; not necessarily that any were. Of this we have no knowledge. Yet in the case of Rahab, supplemented, no doubt, by other testimonies, we see how much it wrought. Thus, if God raised up Pharaoh and made him a monument of His judgment, it was mercy, nevertheless, that made him so, and that mercy had been displayed with regard to Pharaoh himself, as it is very easy to see. Nay, the hardening of Pharaoh's heart was largely wrought by the very mercy shown him. "Because judgment is not speedily executed against an evil work, therefore the heart of the sons of men is thoroughly set in them to do evil." But shall not God show mercy then? He does show it, again and again, removing the judgment threatened or brought about in the ease of Pharaoh, and when the king finds relief from that which had for the moment terrified him, his heart hardens itself against God. One may say that we are told that it was God who hardened it; certainly not by any putting forth of His power to do this. It was rather the very mercy that was displayed, by which the hardening was effected, and thus God's goodness remains all the way through, whatever might be the effect upon a human heart in opposition to Him.* The sun which melts the ice may harden the clay. It is the same sun that does both. Thus, while it is true that "on whom He will He showeth mercy, and whom He will He hardened)," and although we may be little able to follow out in detail the mystery of God's ways in this, we are not in the least called to justify Him. The day will come when everything will be fully manifest; and then He will be "justified in judgment and clear when He is judged."

{*Three expressions are used to describe the hardening of Pharaoh's heart: "Pharaoh hardened his heart"; "God hardened Pharaoh's heart"; "Pharaoh's heart was hardened." We have in these the responsible person, Pharaoh, steeling his heart against the mercy and judgment of God; then, God's acts of mercy and judgment were His own, and by these, in divine forbearance, the heart of the stubborn king was fully manifested. It was the judicial hardening which can thus be regarded as a divine infliction, as with Israel in Isa. 6. Lastly, the circumstances are looked at as having the effect; the result is simply mentioned. — S.R.}

3. We are next told that in all these things, in the judgment, as well as in the grace, God is manifesting Himself. The apostle first of all indeed, rebukes the thought of a man replying against God, whatever God may be pleased to do. Such replying must necessarily be in vain. Could one succeed in establishing his cause against Him, what could it be? It would be the ruin of everything. Think of being able to show that God was not the righteous, holy, gracious God He is! Think of the disaster everywhere which would result from such a thing. The moment we speak of God, we must be still and know that He is God; and the apostle insists upon this in the first place. If Be be the potter, He has power over the vessels to make one vessel to honor and another to dishonor. Who shall deny Him that? How He will use His power is another matter. He never says that He makes vessels to dishonor, but as a mere question of power and wisdom, as merely the question of His Godhead, are we going to dethrone God? As a fact, when the apostle comes to the different character of vessels, be shows us that if God was minded to show His wrath and make His power known, He did it, as in Pharaoh's case, while He "endured with much long suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction." That was exactly Pharaoh's case; but he never says that God fitted the vessels for destruction. On the other hand, if He would make known the riches of His glory upon the vessels of mercy, He carefully adds: "Which He had afore prepared for glory."* God's intervention in the one case is as carefully noted as it is positively absent in the other, and this is the character of all His ways; His wrath needs to be made known, and His power. The necessity of that in such a world as is around us ought surely to be manifest. God's judgments thus have a character of mercy which we must never forget in relation to them, but if He comes out in that which most fully expresses His will, as election does, for instance, here we find all His heart conveyed in it. If election be of grace, then grace is that which we must in the fullest way ascribe to God. "We," says the apostle, are a sample of this: "We, whom He hath called not only from amongst the Jews, but also from amongst the Gentiles." We are upon the same ground, and thus it is that the apostle quotes Hosea here in two passages which manifestly apply directly to Israel only: "I will call them My people which were not My people, and her beloved which was not beloved;" and again: "It shall come to pass that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not My people, there shall they be called the sons of the living God." Both passages, as I have said, refer to God's purposes with regard to Israel in the time to come, but as a principle they equally show how He is acting and how He has title to act in His present grace. The men of the Gentiles, who were not His people, He is calling His people; and where He had said unto them, "Ye are not My people," there they are now called of Him His children. The apostle does not say that this is an exact fulfilment of Hosea's words. It is a fulfilment in principle, and that is all that is implied in his quotation.

{*Similarly, in the judgment of the nations in Matt. 25, our Lord speaks to those on the right of "the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world," but those on the left He sends to "everlasting fire prepared" — not for them but, "for the devil and his angels." That any are saved is due alone to grace, but men cannot blame God for those who are lost. — S.R.}

4. Mercy then, in fact, is Israel's only hope, and here everything has been declared already and her own sins by the prophets. Isaiah crieth concerning Israel: "Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sands of the sea, a remnant shall be saved." It will be a remnant only out of many, and this applies to the time not yet come, when "He will finish the work and cut it short in righteousness," when He is making a short work upon the earth. In the fourth chapter of his prophecy, Isaiah has shown us how this will be carried out and how the nation will become at last a holy nation, when "it shall come to pass that he that is left in Zion, and he that remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem: when the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the spirit of judgment and by the spirit of burning." It is the time of which He says again that, "When God's judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness"; and this principle applies to Israel also. Judgment must do its work, but in order that at last grace may be able to be manifested. But thus, in contrast with the proud expectation of blessing from God as a whole, a remnant only will remain to enjoy it. The remnant of that time will become the nation for God. He quotes another witness from the same prophet, that "Unless the Lord of hosts had left us a seed, we had been as Sodom and been made like unto Gomorrah." The judgment of the cities of the plain would be their judgment, except divine grace had made a difference.

5. But if there were no escape, except in God's mere mercy, from such an issue as to Israel, a plain reason can be given for the rejection of the many which was now taking place, although it was at that very time that Israel manifested, as we know, their zeal for the law, in a certain sense therefore, for righteousness. How strange a fact that while the Gentiles, largely men who had never followed after righteousness, who were mere sinners of the Gentiles, attained righteousness as believers in Christ, Israel, pursuing after the law of righteousness, did not attain to it; but why? Because it was by law that they sought it, in the way in which there was utter impossibility of ever finding what they sought. This has been shown us already, again and again. They rejected distinctly God's principle of faith, and thus they stumbled at the Stumbling Stone, — Christ in His grace come low enough to be stumbled over, in that humiliation which was the expression of His perfect grace, as well of the need which that grace was to meet. It was the very thing which in their condition became a stumbling block to them, and God had declared that this would be so. He was to place in Zion a "stone of stumbling and rock of offence." The fulness of God's love exhibited in Him could be no other to men filled with the Pharisaic self-righteousness which characterized the nation. They knew not their need and therefore the very goodness which ministered to that need — grace, was rejected because it was grace: the lower it had come to minister to men, the more ground had they in their thought for rejecting it.

Subdivision 2. (Rom. 10.)

The contrast between law and the faith of the gospel.

The contrast is now drawn between the law and the faith of the gospel. This might seem to have been sufficiently discussed; but the law is so thoroughly according to man's mind, that it is hard indeed to divorce one from it. After all the treatment which is given to it in this epistle we shall find, in that to the Galatians, how the soul even that has learned to rejoice in the grace of the gospel may still go back to what is the entire opposite of this, and we shall have to take up again the question of this opposition there, though from a different point of view to that which we have at present. Yet the very word "salvation," in the sense in which the gospel has made us to know it, is not found in connection with the law; which, at best, puts it on the wicked man to save himself, and that by turning from his wickedness and doing what is lawful and right, a thing which all his past has proved impracticable.

1. Here it is for the salvation of Israel that the apostle longs and prays. He testifies that they have a zeal for God, a thing which reminds us of the terrible fact that there is a way which seemeth right to a man, where yet the end may be the ways of death. This is a thing which men would gladly forget. The open ways of death are many enough, and every one recognizes that men do not get to heaven by drunkenness or violence; but that there should be a way seeming right to a man and in following which, therefore, he may be perfectly sincere, yet proving in result to be the way of death, this is indeed a startling matter to face. Let all consider, therefore, that the "broad way which leadeth to destruction, and many they are which go in at it," is not of necessity a way of open wickedness; on the contrary, while sinful self is indeed and necessarily against God, yet righteous self is a more universal and a worse antagonist. The publicans and sinners followed Christ. The Pharisees and religious people could not believe in Him. The apostle reminds us here that the whole effort of the heart characteristically in Israel was to establish their own righteousness, and thus the righteousness of God was ignored. The effort proves that men have not measured themselves in the presence of God. Christ is now proclaimed for righteousness "to every one that believeth," and that is the opposite of law. The law says: "He that doeth"; the gospel says: "He that heareth." "Christ is the end of the law," replacing and setting it aside, and bringing in a totally contrastive principle.

2. The contrast with living by doing is plain. That is not faith, nor is it salvation. For the righteousness of faith, the apostle quotes, however, in what many seem a very strange fashion, Moses too. He puts into his words clearly what is not in Moses; and the language of Deuteronomy the thirtieth, which he uses, unquestionably speaks of the law itself. "This commandment which I command thee this day" could be nothing else but this. It was of this commandment that Moses says: "It is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off; it is not in heaven, that thou shouldst say, Who shall go up for us to heaven to bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it; neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldst say, Who shall go over the sea for it and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it; but the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it." Yet, in principle at least, the apostle seems to find the gospel in this. Can it be implied, where not expressed? The beginning of the chapter shows that Moses has been speaking of the time when the predicted blessing and the curse shall have been alike fulfilled, and when, scattered in every land, Israel will return in heart to what was then commanded them. This explains the words "not in the heavens." The law had been given them in the first place from heaven, God speaking to them thence; and again, "not beyond the sea" refers to their scattered condition far away from their land, and yet with the word in their hands, and now through grace in their hearts also, for through grace it is. When they return in heart to God at that time, God will have compassion on them. They will be no more able to keep the impossible terms of the law than they ever have been, and if God takes them up at the end of their wanderings, it can only be in grace after all, although by that grace itself the law is now written in their hearts. This reminds us at once of the new covenant, for the terms of the new covenant are: "I will write My laws in their hearts"; yet how different is this "I will write" from the legal compact, "thou shalt do" so and so! Thus the light dawns on us. The apostle really makes explicit what is implicit in Moses, words; but then again, for this, Christ must come in. With Moses that is yet a secret thing which at least does not come into the passage quoted, but the apostle puts it in as, in fact, indispensable. There could be no grace apart from Christ. There could be no salvation apart from grace, and we are familiar with the new covenant as that which, of necessity, must have Christ for its fulfilment. When once we see this, we need have no difficulty about what is said here; and for us "Who shall ascend into heaven, and who shall descend to the abyss?" can only refer to Him. It seems strange at first sight that he should put it, "Say ye not in thy heart, who shall ascend into heaven," and for the purpose named; who ever did say that? No one, assuredly, ever thought of bringing Christ from heaven, as no one ever thought of raising Him from the dead. These are things outside of the range of man's natural expectation, much more of any accomplishment on his part; but this is, nevertheless, what was absolutely needed, and thus the hopelessness of any effort on man's part is confessed at once. If we cannot ask, even, Who shall do this? this after all is what has secured salvation for us and nothing else could secure it. Thank God, it is an accomplished thing; and therefore still more, no one could need to ask the question. Only the word of it remains, the report which awakens faith and of which faith lays hold. There is simply the word in the mouth and the heart, a word of confession for the mouth, and of faith for the heart. The apostle does not hesitate to put these together. He does not think of the possibility of a faith without confession. He does not own such a thing to be faith. "Faith if it have not works, is dead, being alone." It is, of course, the basis of all, necessarily. One must believe that God has raised Christ from the dead or there will be no confession of Him as the Lord of all, and the apostle joins confession with salvation surely, as looking on to that time when Christ will confess in His turn those who have confessed Him upon earth. That is the time when salvation will be complete. The calling on Him as to which he quotes from Joel, in the same way as Peter at Pentecost, necessarily implies this. "Whosoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved." Notice how fully the deity of Christ is recognized here, for "the Lord" in Joel is Jehovah; and notice, too, that by the words of Joel himself the Gentile cannot be excluded. If it be "whosoever believes" and "whosoever confesses," the Gentile, of necessity, may come in here upon the same footing as Israelites themselves.

3. Here then is the gospel. To fulfil its purpose, it must be published, sent out. Here is the wide-spread mission call of Christianity, and of such a call the law knew nothing. It had a special priesthood, but no recognized ministry outside the bounds of Israel itself. That special priesthood proved, in fact, that those who were outwardly nigh were still, as to the mass, far off, and the priesthood themselves, as we know, could not really draw near to God. How little, therefore, was there for a gospel to the world! The exclusive position of Israel, of which Pharisaism boasted so much, was, in fact, the confession that the time was not yet come for the proper revelation of God. God was not yet in the light, the way into the holiest was not manifested. When this takes place, immediately the question is raised which the apostle puts in this epistle: "Is He the God of the Jews only? is He not also of the Gentiles?" Could He possibly reveal Himself, and yet hide that revelation from any of His creatures? On the contrary, it must now everywhere be pressed that God has drawn near to man, and the claim for answer must he pressed along with it. There is still an obedience requisite, an obedience of faith, without which there can be no blessing; and this comes nearer home to every man than any call under the law could possibly do; for let a man hear the law as he might, it was not the man that heard, but the man that did, that was accepted. Now, on the other hand, if a man hears, truly hears, he is accepted at once, and thus the question of obedience to such a call is urged at once. There is no reservation of it to a possible future, when he shall have fulfilled impracticable conditions.

4. The apostle goes on now to Israel's rejection. The call had been given her. The apostle quotes for this the words of the nineteenth psalm. The voice of the heavens in creation, of which it speaks, is that which corresponds to the world-wide call, now that the heavens are indeed speaking; but the prophets had foretold what, in fact, has now taken place. God had said that He would anger Israel by a foolish nation, that is, by an idolatrous one, for this is the thought of "foolish" constantly in the Old Testament. "The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God," or, at any rate, has wandered from the right One. Thus Israel's rejection was not only a present fact, but a fact that had been long before announced. If there was a remnant at all, it was a remnant according to the election of grace.

Subdivision 3. (Rom. 11.)

How Israel's portion will be made good to them.

We are now to see how Israel's portion is yet to be made good to them. We have seen already, that, in fact, the promises of God must be fulfilled. They are not, if we think of those to Abraham, conditioned upon any response on man's part. God alone is the Speaker in them, and as the apostle tells us in the next epistle (Galatians) the law which was 430 years after could not be added, as a condition to what God had already unconditionally declared. Israel's portion is then, yet to be made good to them; but this involves another thing. If the special place and privileges of the nation are to be restored, the church subsists only by the breaking down of these very distinctions. In it there is neither Jew nor Gentile, but it is composed of both, united by one Spirit in the body of Christ. Thus, then, the Church must have passed away from the earth before Israel's promises can be fulfilled. The two could not exist together at the same time, and so it is stated in this chapter; as concerning the gospel, with regard to that, Israel, although always beloved for the fathers' sakes, is yet treated nationally as an enemy, and it is not, therefore, by the gospel as it goes out at present, that Israel as a whole can be brought back to God.

1. The apostle dwells first of all upon the fact of this present election of grace as declaring God's unchanged favor towards them. "God," he says, "hath not cast off His people whom He foreknew." That foreknowledge embraced, assuredly, all the history of the people of His choice. He at least could not be disappointed, nor could the evil in them work change in Him. He could certainly never be deceived. The heart of man, which man indeed is incompetent to fathom, He Himself claims to know perfectly. If there is a remnant preserved among them at all, it is an election of grace, and therefore independent of works, as the apostle says here, — of works of any kind. Grace, he adds, becomes grace no longer if works are mingled with it. Through all their history, even at the time of most complete national apostasy, still, as he reminds us here, there was ever a remnant. Elias, even, could make intercession to God, alas, against Israel. "Lord," he says, "they have killed Thy prophets and digged down Thine altars, and I am left alone, and they seek my life"; but it was a mistake in every way. God had still reserved to Himself, as He says, 7,000 men who had not bowed the knee to the image of Baal. That was His work, and therefore no power of the enemy could overthrow it. The remnant in Israel is, according to the prophet, the sap of the tree, which, though the tree be cut down, shows nevertheless that there is life in it. If there were no sap, there would be no life; but as long, therefore, as there is a remnant according to the election of grace, Israel still in that sense lives before God.

2. Blindness in part, however, has happened to them. That which Israel sought for, they have not obtained. We have already seen that the most zealous seekers were apparently those farthest from fulfilling the conditions of successful search. "The election hath obtained it," says the apostle, "and the rest were blinded." They have fallen under the judicial sentence of God, as again their prophets witnessed. God had given them such eyes as did not see, and such ears as did not hear.

3. They had stumbled confessedly over the Stumbling Stone. They had not eyes for Christ. They saw "no beauty in Him, that they should desire Him." They had stumbled, but not that they might utterly fall, as is plain from the fact that the salvation of the Gentiles was in order to provoke them to jealousy. God still then was expecting from them what His own grace alone could produce. But then, if such consequences and blessings were the result of their fall, would not their fulness, when it should take place, be for still greater blessing to men at large? If their casting away nationally resulted in the message of reconciliation going out to the world, will not their being received back again be life from the dead? This, as we know, in fact, has been abundantly promised. There is no blessing for the earth apart from the blessing of Israel. There could be no fulfilment of the prophecies of that time of the earth's blessing without Israel being in the centre of it, as every picture shows Of course, if, for Israel in the prophet we are content to read the Church, then everything will be changed indeed, but God's word, read in the simplicity of its ample statement, cannot possibly allow of this.

4. The present mercy to the Gentiles is, however, (and that of necessity,) the testing of these also. The witness of what man is must surely go on throughout the ages as man himself goes through them. Solemn it is to realize this in the case of Christianity, with all its fulness of blessing. Men are willing enough to forget what Scripture, however, so thoroughly assures us of. In Paul's day, the mystery of iniquity was at work; and this was to go on to its end in an apostasy out of which the man of sin, to be destroyed at the coming of Christ Himself, will arise. Grace indeed reigns in the gospel; but if we argue that this means that it is to conquer the world, this is directly denied by Scripture itself. "Let favor (or grace) be shown to the wicked," says Isaiah, "yet will he not learn uprightness." "When Thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness." It is that which we find in Judges with regard to Israel, the King must come. Nothing will do but the coming of the King; and this not because of the power of the enemy simply, for the power of God is with His people and there can be no failure there, but because of the wickedness and failure of God's people themselves.

The apostle in the type of the olive ignores all that is distinctive of Christianity and speaks of the Gentiles as simply grafted into the place of Israel's broken off branches. These parables from nature are never pictures of grace in its fulness. In the tree, we have ever considered the responsibility for fruit; so with the vine, whether we look back to the prophet's application of this to Israel herself, or in the Lord's application of it to Christian profession now. The vine above all, perhaps, speaks of the necessity of fruit; it is of no use except for fruit; but here we find that there are branches also which are broken off, and in the Old Testament prophet, the vine itself is laid waste and trampled down.

The fig-tree planted in the vineyard now desolate as such, refers to the remnant returned from Babylon in Ezra's and Nehemiah's time; but here again the Lord takes up that figure, in order to show God's expectation of fruit from it, and how, when Christ Himself came, there was still none. Sentence was ready to go forth: "Cut it down, why cumbereth it the ground?" Still His own intercession causes it to be spared for a while yet. It is digged about and dunged; and now, if it will bring forth fruit, well; but, as we know, this was fulfilled when the Spirit of God came down amongst men at Pentecost, and still there was no answer from the people of that day.

The olive again speaks naturally of that in which the Spirit is found, for the oil, as we know, is the type of the Spirit; but the same element of responsibility is found in it. What is looked for may not be there in fact. The branches are broken off for lack of a faith which they never had, and one may partake of the fatness of the olive-tree and yet not have this. The Spirit's work, in a sense, is implied, but not, as we see, of necessity, any inward work. If the apostle speaks of the lump being holy as the firstfruit was, he is referring to Abraham as set apart to God, and Israel had the same setting apart, but it was not necessarily more than external. The branches and the root are similar.

The root again was Abraham, and it is clear that in Abraham you have, in fact, the first separation to God out of the world that history furnishes. The nations had now gone off into idolatry, gone fully away from God, although we might find exceptionally a Melchisedec amongst them. Out of that general corruption, God separates Abraham to Himself, and thus begins a new principle upon the earth. Israel manifest still God's principle, however little they realize the spiritual character of it in His thought; however little they might be indeed separate from the mass of the nations round about them.

God acting indeed in His grace in this way has made Israel to be, as it were, the very tree itself into which the Gentiles have now been grafted. Here the New Testament speaks with the Old. As the vessel of the Spirit, who can deny Israel's special place? Paul himself, the very apostle of the Gentiles, was, nevertheless, not a Gentile, as he puts it here, in the sense in which he is speaking. The Gentile is a wild graft, which, therefore, if grafted into the olive is "contrary to nature." It is, as we know, contrary to nature to graft that which is wild upon the good. Faith is required now, and the branches are broken off, therefore, because they do not answer to this. They are not competent to meet the claim which Christianity makes upon them, and they are broken off from their own olive-tree. Thus, if God be pleased to graft Israel back again, we need not be surprised. The Gentile cannot possibly claim, according to this, to have any necessary right in it, much less to be the whole thing, as he is apt to claim. Israel is only blinded in part until the fulness of the Gentiles is come in.

5. There is a limit to the present blinding; there is a limit to the time of blinding altogether. When, in God's mind, the complete number of the Gentiles is brought in, Israel will, as a whole, be saved; not, as the apostle says here, by the gospel, but by the Deliverer coming, not now out of Bethlehem, as once He came, to be rejected; but out of Zion. He does not come as the Babe born to the nation any more, but as the King and Conqueror, and then it is when "Every eye" sees Him. "They also who pierced Him" shall see him, and the outburst of confession on the part of the people will be the beginning of their national blessing. Enemies indeed they now are, that is, treated by God as enemies; which does not, of course, refer simply to the enmity in their heart, but that God treats them for what they are, enemies, as to the gospel, — while it goes out, though still the gifts and calling of God abide for them unchangeable.

For us there is a solemn consideration here. How fully that which is characteristically Gentile Christianity has come in the minds of the vast number to be considered the whole thing, scarcely needs to be insisted on. Israel are to be saved, no doubt, but simply by the extension of the blessings of the gospel to them. Christians are that spiritual Israel, which is to bud and blossom, and fill the face of the earth with fruit. Thus the Gentiles have become, in spite of the apostle's warning against it, "wise in their own conceits." They have indeed thought that they bore the root, rather than the root them, and ignored the conditional footing upon which we, in common with Israel, as the professing people of God, stand. But the apostle brings it out fully here. "Behold, then," he says, "the goodness and severity of God: upon those that fell, severity, but toward thee goodness, if thou continue in His goodness, otherwise thou also shalt be cut off." Now have we — could we venture to say we have — continued in God's goodness? Who will say so? Why then do we hear so much of revival, and the need of revival, except because of the constant tendency to decline? But is it a tendency only? What does the very Reformation, which we rejoice over so much, bear witness as to the general condition of Christendom at the time in which this took place? What was that of the Romanism out of which the Protestant churches through the mercy of God emerged? Out of Rome, what could we say of the Greek and eastern churches, which God allowed to be smitten with the rod of Mohammedanism for their idolatrous abominations? To come closer home, what shall we say of the condition of the Protestant churches themselves since God broke the papal chain, and set them free? What of Unitarianism, Rationalism, and the hundreds of sects and heresies, which are the unanswerable reproach and witness against them? What are we sliding into now, which allows Romanism today to boast herself, however foolishly and falsely, as being the preserver of Scripture? Alas, we have not continued in God's goodness; and thus the sentence of excision is clearly upon us, "thou also shalt be cut off."

Thus when, according to Isaiah, the light shall arise again upon Israel, it will not be merely to add new splendor to a day already bathing with its brightness the nations of the earth, but on the contrary, as he — most unaccountably according to the dreams men are indulging in — most plainly says, when "darkness shall cover the earth, gross darkness the nations" (Isa. 60:1-3). The Gentile church is become apostate, as Paul elsewhere shows (2 Thess. 2:3-12), the true saints having been removed to heaven. How important to realize the times in which we are, and what is before us, that we do not go with the mass in the smooth ways in which they are prophesying to themselves peace, but walk in separation to God from all that is bringing in the end in judgment!

6. But the victory over sin is thus, after all, God's alone. Israel's unbelief has been the occasion of His mercy to the Gentiles in this very way; through the impossibility of any claim on their part any more to the privileges that were theirs, they become objects of mercy merely. They had refused God's mercy when it went out to the Gentiles. They are to be blessed finally as themselves mere Gentiles, having no claim beyond that. Thus, they are brought upon the common ground in which alone blessing can be found for any man. God could not bless them in self-righteousness it is clear; and He must in all His ways show that man throughout is a debtor to mercy alone. This is the occasion for the apostle's adoring recognition of the "riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God." The plan is clearly His; man could never have thought it out in this way. Naturally, he would never put himself in the position in which, nevertheless, divine grace finds him. He has not even "known the mind of the Lord," much less "been His counselor." "Of God and through God and to God are all things, to whom be glory for ever!"