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Having proved it by argument, he now proves by
example, and such example as must have greater weight with the
Jews than any other.
That justification is by faith:
That it is free for the gentiles.
1: That our father Abraham hath found - Acceptance with God.
According to the flesh - That is, by works.
2: The meaning is, If Abraham had been justified by
works, he would have had room to glory. But he had not room
to glory. Therefore he was not justified by works.
3: Abraham believed God - That promise of God
concerning the numerousness of his seed, (Ge 15:5,7); but
especially the promise concerning Christ, (Ge 12:3), through
whom all nations should be blessed. And it was imputed to
him for righteousness - God accepted him as if he had been
altogether righteous. (Ge 15:6).
4: Now to him that worketh - All that the law
requires, the reward is no favour, but an absolute debt.
These two examples are selected and applied with the utmost
judgment and propriety. Abraham was the most illustrious
pattern of piety among the Jewish patriarchs. David was the
most eminent of their kings. If then neither of these was
justified by his own obedience, if they both obtained
acceptance with God, not as upright beings who might claim it,
but as sinful creatures who must implore it, the consequence
is glaring It is such as must strike every attentive
understanding, and must affect every individual person.
5: But to him that worketh not - It being impossible
he should without faith. But believeth, his faith is
imputed to him for righteousness - Therefore God's affirming
of Abraham, that faith was imputed to him for righteousness,
plainly shows that he worked not; or, in other words, that he
was not justified by works, but by faith only. Hence we see
plainly how groundless that opinion is, that holiness or
sanctification is previous to our justification. For the sinner,
being first convinced of his sin and danger by the Spirit of God,
stands trembling before the awful tribunal of divine justice ;
and has nothing to plead, but his own guilt, and the merits of
a Mediator. Christ here interposes; justice is satisfied; the
sin is remitted, and pardon is applied to the soul, by a divine
faith wrought by the Holy Ghost, who then begins the great work
of inward sanctification. Thus God justifies the ungodly, and yet
remains just, and true to all his attributes! But let none
hence presume to "continue in sin;" for to the impenitent, God
"is a consuming fire." On him that justifieth the ungodly
- If a man could possibly be made holy before he was justified,
it would entirely set his justification aside; seeing he could
not, in the very nature of the thing, be justified if he were
not, at that very time, ungodly.
6: So David also - David is fitly introduced after
Abraham, because be also received and delivered down the
promise. Affirmeth - A man is justified by faith alone,
and not by works. Without works - That is, without regard
to any former good works supposed to have been done by him.
7: Happy are they whose sins are covered - With the
veil of divine mercy. If there be indeed such a thing as
happiness on earth, it is the portion of that man whose
iniquities are forgiven, and who enjoys the manifestation of
that pardon. Well may he endure all the afflictions of life
with cheerfulness, and look upon death with comfort. O let us
not contend against it, but earnestly pray that this happiness
may be ours! (Ps 32:1,2).
9: This happiness - Mentioned by Abraham and David.
On the circumcision - Those that are circumcised only.
Faith was imputed to Abraham for righteousness - This is
fully consistent with our being justified, that is, pardoned
and accepted by God upon our believing, for the sake of what
Christ hath done and suffered. For though this, and this
alone, be the meritorious cause of our acceptance with God,
yet faith may be said to be "imputed to us for righteousness,"
as it is the sole condition of our acceptance. We may observe
here, forgiveness, not imputing sin, and imputing
righteousness, are all one.
10: Not in circumcision - Not after he was circumcised; for he
was justified before Ishmael was born, (Ge 15:1-21); but he was
not circumcised till Ishmael was thirteen years old, (Ge 17:25).
11: And - After he was justified. He received the
sign of circumcision - Circumcision, which was a sign or token
of his being in covenant with God. A seal - An assurance on
God's part, that he accounted him righteous, upon his believing,
before he was circumcised. Who believe in uncircumcision
- That is, though they are not circumcised.
12: And the father of the circumcision - Of those who
are circumcised, and believe as Abraham did. To those who
believe not, Abraham is not a father, neither are they his seed.
13: The promise, that he should be the heir of the world
- Is the same as that he should be "the father of all nations,"
namely, of those in all nations who receive the blessing.
The whole world was promised to him and them conjointly.
Christ is the heir of the world, and of all things; and so are all
Abraham's seed, all that believe in him with the faith of Abraham
14: If they only who are of the law - Who have kept the
whole law. Are heirs, faith is made void - No blessing being
to be obtained by it; and so the promise is of no effect.
15: Because the law - Considered apart from that
grace, which though it was in fact mingled with it, yet is no
part of the legal dispensation, is so difficult, and we so
weak and sinful, that, instead of bringing us a blessing, it
only worketh wrath; it becomes to us an occasion of wrath,
and exposes us to punishment as transgressors. Where there
is no law in force, there can be no transgression of it.
16: Therefore it - The blessing. Is of faith, that it
might be of grace - That it might appear to flow from the free
love of God, and that the promise might be firm, sure, and
effectual, to all the spiritual seed of Abraham; not only
Jews, but gentiles also, if they follow his faith.
17: Before God - Though before men nothing of this appeared,
those nations being then unborn. As quickening the dead - The dead
are not dead to him and even the things that are not, are before God.
And calling the things that are not - Summoning them to rise into
being, and appear before him. The seed of Abraham did not then exist;
yet God said, "So shall thy seed be." A man can say to his servant
actually existing, Do this; and he doeth it: but God saith to the light,
while it does not exist, Go forth; and it goeth.(Ge 17:5).
18-21: The Apostle shows the power and excellence of that
faith to which he ascribes justification. Who against hope
- Against all probability, believed and hoped in the promise. The
same thing is apprehended both by faith and hope; by faith, as a
thing which God has spoken; by hope, as a good thing which God has
promised to us. So shall thy seed be - Both natural and spiritual,
as the stars of heaven for multitude.(Ge 15:5).
23: On his account only - To do personal honour to him.
24: But on ours also - To establish us in seeking
justification by faith, and not by works; and to afford a full
answer to those who say that, " to be justified by works means
only, by Judaism; to be justified by faith means, by embracing
Christianity, that is, the system of doctrines so called."
Sure it is that Abraham could not in this sense be justified
either by faith or by works; and equally sure that David
(taking the words thus) was justified by works, and not by
faith. Who raised up Jesus from the dead - As he did in a
manner both Abraham and Sarah. If we believe on him who
raised up Jesus - God the Father therefore is the proper
object of justifying faith. It is observable, that St. Paul
here, in speaking both of our faith and of the faith of Abraham,
puts a part for the whole. And he mentions that part, with
regard to Abraham, which would naturally affect the Jews most.
25: Who was delivered - To death. For our offences
- As an atonement for them. And raised for our justification
- To empower us to receive that atonement by faith.