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Romans 1

 

 

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Verse 1

Romans 1:1

I. The fact that a man like Paul, brought up as he was with such a brain and such a heart, turned the wrong way at first, should be capable of burning with such enthusiasm for a man of whose history he knew very little that was real or true until he saw Him in heavenly glory, that after that he should live to be the rejoicing slave of Jesus Christ,—is it a wonder that such a fact should weigh with me ten times more than the denial of the highest intellect of this world who gives me, by the very terms that he uses, the conviction that he knows nothing about what I believe? He talks as if he did, but he knows nothing about it. St. Paul knew the Lord Christ; and therefore, heart and soul, mind, body, and brain, he belonged to Jesus Christ, even as His born slave.

II. Let us try to understand what is meant by a slavery which is a liberty. There is no liberty but in doing right. There is no freedom but in living out of the deeps of our nature—not out of the surface. We are the born slaves of Christ. But then, He is liberty Himself, and all His desire is that we should be such noble, true, right creatures that we never can possibly do or think a thing that shall bind even a thread round our spirits and make us feel as if we were tied anywhere. He wants us to be free—not as the winds, not to be free as the man who owns no law, but to be free by being law, by being right, by being truth. St. Paul spent his whole life, all his thoughts, all his energies, simply to obey his Lord and Master, and so he was the one free man—not the only free man: there were some more amongst the apostles; and by his preaching here and there, there started up free men, or, at least, men who were beginning to grow free by beginning to be the slaves of Christ.

G. Macdonald, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxvi., p. 108.


References: Romans 1:1.—G. Brooks, Five Hundred Outlines, p. 254; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. i., p. 75; H. E. Lewis, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxi., p. 220. Romans 1:1-4.—A. M. Fairbairn, The City of God, p. 215. Romans 1:1-7.—Ibid., pp. 41-9; Expositor, 1st series, vol. ix., p. 105; vol. xi., pp. 309, 458; Homilist, 3rd series, vol. vi., p. 108; J. Vaughan, Sermons, 6th series, p. 37; W. B. Pope, Sermons, p. 175; W. J. Knox-Little, The Mystery of the Passion, p. 123. Romans 1:2.—Fletcher, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. vi., p. 1. Romans 1:2-5.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 253. Romans 1:3, Romans 1:4.—Expositor, 1st series, vol. x., p. 149.


Verse 7

Romans 1:7

I. There is a saintship which lies in the eternal appointment of God, which is the root and beginning of all. There is a saintship in the having been deliberately and designedly set apart by others as a holy vessel, which is independent of your own will. There is a saintship in your own voluntary surrender of yourself at different times to God, which is the responsible saintship. There is a saintship in the secret leadings and mouldings and teachings of the Holy Spirit, which is real and actual saintship. There is a saintship which lies in a holy, self-denying life, the copy of Jesus, which is apparent and active saintship. And there is a saintship in perfection being still beyond you, not reached nor yet conceived—that satisfying likeness in which one day you shall awake, capable of God's presence, your whole body, soul, and spirit concentrated to one object, in one harmonious serving, and that is the saintship of hope, the design of your redemption, the end of your creation.

II. There are many to whom it is a very small attraction to be what is commonly meant by a "religious person,"—a name which often conveys, if not narrowness and severity, yet certainly something very moderate and almost quite negative. Do not be a "religious person"; be a saint, be an eminent servant of God; determine that you will be a great Christian. The higher the mark, the easier it is to some minds to reach it; and the reason why some simply do nothing is because they have not yet conceived great things. Do not be content with commonplaces; do not be like Christians about you. Throw your ambition into a channel worthy of the capabilities of which you are conscious. Leave beaten tracks and conventional standards, and the trite, ordinary ways of so-called Christians: be a saint.

J. Vaughan, Sermons, vol. xx., p. 17.


References: Romans 1:7.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. ix., p. 210; Ibid., Morning by Morning, p. 187. Romans 1:8-15.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. i., p. 91. Romans 1:11, Romans 1:12.—J. S. Pearsall, Christian World Pulpit, vol. v., p. 184; vol. vi., p. 198.


Verse 14

Romans 1:14

I. The principle underlying these words is that personal possession of any peculiar privilege is of the nature of a trust, and involves the obligation that the privilege shall be used by the individual, not for his own pleasure or profit merely, but for the welfare of those who are not similarly blessed. What I have that another has not is to be used by me, not for my own aggrandisement, but for the good of that other as well as for my own. The greatness of exceptional endowment, of whatever sort it may be, carries with it an obligation to similar greatness of service. The highest of all, by virtue of his very elevation, is to be the servant of all. The power of the strong is—shall I say?—divinely mortgaged in the interests of the weak; the sufferer whom I have the means of relieving has a God-given claim upon me for that relief; and the ignorant, whom I am able to instruct, is by God entitled to that instruction at my hands. He who has is in debt to him who has not. This is clearly the true interpretation of such a parable as that of the good Samaritan, and indeed it is the true and proper outcome of the gospel itself.

II. And this principle, thus introduced by the gospel, furnishes that which is needed to meet the perils of our modern civilisation. The tendency of the times is to increase the separation between different classes in the community. The gospel, far from blotting out all distinctions in society, as the Communist would do, makes the very privileges which mark the distinction between a higher class and a lower the basis of obligation, so that the one is the debtor of the other, and the obligation increases with the increase of the privilege. In this regard it is a solemn thing to be the possessor of a special blessing; for, while it is a boon, it always brings a responsibility, and makes its receiver a debtor to others who are less fortunate than himself. That is the Christian principle; and when men generally accept and act upon it the millennium shall have begun.

W. M. Taylor, Contrary Winds, p. 186.


This text raises a question on each of three points, which in mercantile phraseology would be designated the Business, the Debt, and the Composition.

I. The business: the nature, sphere, and extent of the trade in which Paul's talents were laid out and his capital invested. Paul was a diligent and energetic man. Had he been a merchant, the keenest art in all the exchange could not have overreached him. He embarked all in one business, and then pushed it to the uttermost. He did not neglect the necessary and lawful affairs of this life, but his treasure was in heaven and his heart followed it.

II. The debt: how, with whom, and to what extent he had become involved. He was diligent in his business, and yet was not able to pay his way. Paul owed all that he possessed and himself besides to Christ His Redeemer. But he could not directly pay any part of his debt: a man's goodness cannot reach to God. The Lord to whom he owes all has transferred his claim to the poor, and Paul is bound to honour it. Paul cannot reach the treasury of heaven to pay his instalments there; Paul's great Creditor, therefore, makes the debt payable on earth; offices are open everywhere to receive it. Wherever there is a creature of the same flesh and blood with ourselves in want, spiritual or temporal, or both combined, there a legal claim is presented to the disciples of Christ; and if they repudiate, they dishonour their Lord.

III. The composition: in what manner and to what extent the insolvent proposed to pay. Let it be carefully observed here at the outset that the most devoted life of a saved man is not offered as an adequate return to the Saviour. As well might he purchase his pardon at first from the Judge as repay the Redeemer for it afterwards. He pays, not in the spirit of bondage, but in the spirit of grateful love; not that he looks to a time when the debt will be paid off, but that he delights in the act of paying it. Having announced his principle, the Apostle plunged at once into its practical details—Romans 1:15, "So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also."

W. Arnot, Roots and Fruits, p. 370.


The Adaptation of the Gospel to Civilised and Uncivilised Races..

Grant that the Christian revelation is true, and you cannot well oppose its diffusion; acknowledge that there is one God, and that He is revealed to mankind in Jesus Christ, and you cannot allege that it is unnecessary or unwise to make Him known throughout the world. And it will be found that this gospel can take hold of men of all grades of civilisation, from the very lowest to the very highest, because it meets the moral nature and wants of all men, speaks to the conscience and tells how men are lost and how they may be saved.

I. On that conviction acted that illustrious missionary who, though born a Hebrew of the Hebrews and educated in all the pride and prejudice of a Pharisee, once he had perceived the knowledge of Christ and caught the spirit of His world-endearing love, threw himself with an ardour at once generous and sagacious into the ministry of reconciliation, and made his appeal without respect of persons or races, to the Jew and the Greek, to the barbarian, to the Scythian, to the bond and to the free. Is not this for our admonition today? Ought not the Church of God to turn the same countenance of goodwill upon all nations and on all classes in a nation without respect to persons?

II. Perhaps the Church at home has become a little sickly through over-much self-consciousness, and is like one who grows weak and somewhat peevish by living, so to speak, too much indoors. Let the Church, as represented by her vigorous sons and loving daughters, go forth into the open air on the great areas of the world, and a new glow of health will come upon her cheek and a new pulse of strength into all her veins, and she will have a sweeter temper and a clearer voice and a firmer grasp than ever. In the wisdom of God the thoughts and ways of men are slowly but surely being shaped to glorious ends. Presentiment of better things on earth sweeps in with every force that stirs our souls. At such times surely the Church of God should arise and put on strength!

D. Fraser, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xvii., p. 305.


References: Romans 1:14.—Homilist, 3rd series, vol. vii., p. 280; W. P. Lockhart, Ibid., vol. xxx., p. 214; Preacher's Monthly, vol. x., p. 11; R. W. Church, Human Life, p. 193; C. S. Robinson, Sermons on Neglected Texts, p. 80. Romans 1:14, Romans 1:15.—C. Symes, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxvii., p. 363; J. Culross, Ibid., vol. xxix., p. 289. Romans 1:14-16.—Ibid., p. 395; J. Edmunds, Sermons in a Village Church, p. 247; H. W. Beecher, Forty-eight Sermons, vol. i., p. 181. Romans 1:15.—J. Irons, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. vii., p. 217. Romans 1:15, Romans 1:16.—J. W. Burn, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxviii., p. 195; H. P. Hughes, Ibid., vol. xxxii., p. 273.


Verse 16

Romans 1:16

I. St. Paul rests the glory and the power of the gospel on its influence on every one who believeth: that is, on its persuasion of and acceptance by the heart and mind of each individual man. You see what great results such an admission brings in its train. At once the individual responsibility of man assumes a sacred and inviolable character. If it be so, all attempts to coerce and subjugate men's consciences in the matter of religious belief are not only as we know futile and vain, but are sins against that liberty of reception of His gospel which God has made our common inheritance. The acceptance of the gospel, and of all that belongs to the gospel, must be free and unforced, the resignation of the heart, with its desires and affections, to God.

II. Let us remember that not St. Paul only, nor every Christian minister only, but every Christian man and woman among us, is set for the declaration and promulgation of the gospel. Some are called upon to preach its truths; all to proclaim their power by the example of a holy life. The gospel of Christ is still the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth. This is the reason why we are not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: not ashamed, though the track of the Church has been marked out not with peace but with the sword; not ashamed, though two-thirds of this fair world still lie in outer darkness; because we find that in the midst of all this the gospel has not lost one atom of its life-giving power, that wherever a soul lays hold on the Redeemer by faith, whether in the corrupt Church of Rome, or in the Reformed Church of England, or in any of the endless varieties of religious opinion and communion, or apart from all visible companies of Christians, there enters a new life unto God, a change into the Lord's image, a glorious progress in holiness here, tending to perfection hereafter.

H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. ii., p. 176.


Note:—

I. Some grounds for sympathising with the Apostle's statement. (1) We are not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, because it vindicates the abandonment of our crucified Lord by God. The death of Jesus is seen to be at once a sublime satisfaction and an illustrious vindication of the justice of God. (2) We are not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, because it reveals the love of God. (3) We are not ashamed of the doctrines of the gospel, for they vindicate the justice and they glorify the love of God. We are not ashamed of them, because they bear the stamp and have the ring of heavenly wisdom.

II. Experience has vindicated the Apostle's reason. "It is the power of God unto salvation." The testimony of individuals in this matter is endorsed and sustained by the general testimony of history.

W. J. Woods, Christian World Pulpit, vol. x., p. 211.


I. In Paul's day the world was grown very weary of words which had in them no power at all, or, if power, at least not power to save. Weary of words which promised life, but had no power to give it; brain-spun speculations about God and man which made nothing clear, which had no influence whatever over the bad passions of the individual, which brought no hope to the poor or the slave; in these Greek theories there was no gospel of power unto salvation. Weary too of words which had behind them the terrific and sometimes brutal strength of Roman legions, but used it not to elevate subject races, but only to bind the yoke firmer on the degenerate peoples.

II. In the midst of all this St. Paul carried what he knew to be a Divine message of help—God's own miraculous word, charged with a loftier wisdom than that of Greece, backed by a mightier authority than that of Rome, and instinct with spiritual life and everlasting salvation for men of every land. It was the revelation of God's righteousness in His Son, and of God's life by His Spirit.

III. The power which resides in a word, or which operates through a word, requires one, and no more than one, condition for its operation—it must be believed. Faith is no exceptional demand on the gospel's part. It is the condition of all power which comes by word, whether it be a word that teaches or a word that commands. Salvation must come by faith, because faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. It is therefore to him only who believes its message, but to every one who does believe it, that the gospel proves to be God's power unto salvation. Faith on the part of the hearer is that which must liberate the Divine might, which resides in the word ready to operate. Before you call the gospel weak, ask how you have received it. The faith which has to be exercised about any word varies with the nature of the word. This word from God is spiritual, and it asks not an intellectual but a spiritual faith, a moral submission, a religious surrender of the whole being to the influence of the truth told and the authority of the Person speaking. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation—only you must do it the justice to believe it.

J. Oswald Dykes, The Gospel according to St. Paul, p. 1.


The Power of God in the Gospel.

I. The first element of the power of the gospel which we meet with in the most complete treatise which inspired men have delivered to us on the subject is the gospel doctrine of sin. The sense of sin is among the most real and deep of human experiences. Men were groaning in spirit over the question, when the gospel offered its solution and cast a flood of light upon the nature and the genesis of sin. The Bible declares what man's heart has ever felt to be a truth, that sin is the independent self-originated act of the free will of the creature in opposition to the known mind and will of God. It declares also what man feels in his heart to be true, and has struggled in vain to realise, that sin does not fully belong to man, though it is in him and is his own work. Through the gospel sin was felt and known in its dread reality as it had never been known before; but men learned, too, that it was as essentially weaker than righteousness, as flesh is weaker than spirit, as Satan is weaker than Christ. They learnt that it might be conquered, that it ought to be conquered, and they believed that it would be conquered.

II. The second element of the power of the gospel lies in the atonement offered for the sins of the world, which it proclaims. Man seeks to know God as He is; and man only rests and hopes when he sees that not a promise only, but the nature, the name of God is on his side. The name of God was manifest in Christ and wrought redemption. All the attributes of the Divine character are here seen in their essence—the radiant colours blended in one white beam of love. And this is the glory of the gospel, this is the power of that salvation which is by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

III. The third element of the power of the gospel is the doctrine of the incarnation. The world whose air the incarnate God had breathed, whose paths He had trodden, whose load He had borne, whose form He had put on and carried up with Him visibly to celestial zones, could not be a dying world, could not be a devil's world; it must live to be a Divine world and a kingdom of heaven.

IV. The gospel was a power unto salvation, because it opened heaven to man's spirit, and brought down the power of the world to come to govern his will and purify his heart.

J. Baldwin Brown, The Divine Life in Man, p. 92.


References: Romans 1:16.—Sermons for Boys and Girls, p. 86; Homilist, new series, vol. i., p. 529; Church of England Pulpit, vol. xviii., p. 61; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iii., p. 159; T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. ii., p. 54; H. P. Liddon, Church of England Pulpit, vol. iii., p. 297; S. W. Winter, Christian World Pulpit, vol. ii., p. 200; T. Gasquoine, Ibid., vol. iv., p. 364; H. W. Beecher, Ibid., vol. viii., p. 267; W. Woods, Ibid., vol. i., p. 211; R. W. Dale, Ibid., vol. xxix., p. 305; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 96; H. P. Liddon, University Sermons, 2nd series, p. 242; J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 10th series, p. 272; Bishop Simpson, Sermons, p. 97; Saturday Evening, pp. 22-43.


Verse 16-17

Romans 1:16-17

Consider:—

I. The condition to which man has reduced himself by transgression, which makes "the power of God unto salvation" the pressing and constant need of his soul. Power is of God, because power is life, and life is of God. If power be gone, God only can renew it. Man is manifestly godlike in the serene composure of his being; he knows the struggles to live up to it, yet falls back into the gloom of the nether abyss. It is a sight of unspeakable piteousness. It would be an agony to angels, it would be an agony to Christ if His mighty arm were not nigh with salvation.

II. What evidence upon this point the pagan systems supply. I believe that, regarded in their very highest aspect—that is, in the light of their aspirings and strivings—they are solemn witnesses to this want of spiritual power, by their very efforts to supply it, and to generate that force which can come forth from God alone. It is very easy to use the word idol as a word of scorn; but it is not so easy to define clearly what it means, and to explain the place which it occupies in history. The world's idolatries are the nurses of the most grinding tyranny and the most disgusting sensuality. This is their universal character; to this they inevitably incline. But if any man supposes that idolatries were invented for the express purpose of promoting sensuality and tyranny, by giving them a heavenly sanction, he places himself at a point of view from which it is simply impossible that he can understand humanity and the gospel. The Gentile idolatries were the power of man, striving at first in the true direction, though in sinful, guilty ignorance of the true God, who is "not far from any one of us," but mastered to the end, like all that is born of the will of the flesh, by corrupting elements, and made thereby ministers of widespread desolations and death. The pagan was suffered to feel after God, because God was preparing to reveal Himself. The world was suffered to grope in its darkness, for already the gates of the East were opening, and the flush of the rising daystar began to glow over the world.

J. Baldwin Brown, The Divine Life in Man, p. 70.


The Essential Nature of Salvation.

I. There is no safety but in soundness, and wherever there is soundness there must be ultimate safety. These two principles are comprehended in the original sense of the words, both in Greek and Latin, which are rendered by the one word salvation. But I believe that in the view of sound philosophy, as well as in etymology, the meaning of health-wholeness is the fundamental one, and that we shall get into much mischief, in spiritual things at any rate, if we look at the matter in any other way. He who would save man must heal him: in other words, he must re-quicken that vital power which man lost at the Fall, the re-quickening of which will be regeneration and salvation.

II. Salvation is a deliverance—an escape from death and hell. Salvation is the possession of a complete and imperishable bliss. But there is that in it which underlies both these conditions, and through which alone they can be completely realised; and that is the gradual unfolding of the Divine life in the soul—the recovery by the soul of that vital force which in its rudiment man lost in Eden, and which in its maturity man regains in Christ. "The just shall live by faith." That is the basis on which the doctrinal structure rests. Life was lost in the Fall. Life is recovered in Christ; to live in Christ is to be saved. To know Him, to be capable of knowing His mind, and sympathising with His heart, and delighting in His work throughout eternity, is to be blessed in all the boundless blessedness of heaven. But everything depends on our regarding faith, not as a dead condition which any other term might as well supply, but as a vital act; just as vital a relation to the spiritual being as the appropriation and assimilation of the bread which perishes is to the life of the body in this present world. We live by the bread which perishes, as to the body; we live by Christ, the bread of life, as to the spirit. The sense of the body is the organ by which the outward bread is appropriated for its sustenance; faith is the corresponding organ by which, in the inner man, Christ is received with the nourishment of the soul.

J. Baldwin Brown, The Divine Life in Man, p. 122.


References: Romans 1:16, Romans 1:17.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. i., p. 161; H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiii., p. 364.


Verse 17

Romans 1:17 (R.V.)

I. The most characteristic and weighty expression in this verse is of course God's righteousness, the revelation of which makes the gospel to be a saving power. The Pauline use of the word righteousness is this: righteousness is the condition of any man's being justified, vindicated in law or acquitted of blame by his righteous Judge. And the characteristic of the gospel— its joy and glory—lies here, that it has revealed how that condition of our justification has been reached. By its disclosure of that for the trustful acceptance of mankind, it becomes a message with power unto salvation.

II. We are now in a position to see in what sense this righteousness revealed in the gospel is God's. It is God's in its inception; for He it was who in the beginning, when we were yet sinners, sent forth His Son. It is God's in its achievement; for He it was—the Son of the Father—who, in the fulness of time, made many righteous by His own obedience. It is God's in its revelation; for He it was—the Holy Spirit—who comforts us by His teaching, who first through the apostles of our Lord discovered it to all nations for the obedience of faith.

III. God's righteousness of, or out of, faith. The relation of God's righteousness is thus expressed by its very name, on both sides—toward God and toward man. As respects God, it is His, in a sense, opposed to its being mine; His as its Author, Originator, meritorious Achiever, and proper Proprietor. The simple personal possessive marks His relation to it; it is God's. But as respects my relation to it—it comes to me, stands me in stead, is reckoned to me for my acquittal "by faith," in consequence of my believing and trusting in Him. Just because this righteousness is another's, it can only be made available for me by my relying upon that other and accepting it as a gratuitous present from His kindness. Because it is God's, it comes to me out of faith; and it is out of faith, that it may be by grace.

J. Oswald Dykes, The Gospel according to St. Paul, p. 13.


References: Romans 1:17.—G. Ireland, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiv., p. 222; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iii., p. 567; G. Matheson, Moments on the Mount, p. 83. Romans 1:18.—Homilist, vol. vi., p. 157; H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xii., p. 381; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iii., p. 561. Romans 1:18-21.—Bennett, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. ii., p. 325.


Verses 18-32

Romans 1:18-32

The Natural History of Paganism.

I. St. Paul's first proposition is, that from the first the heathen knew enough of God from His works to render them without excuse for not worshipping Him.

II. Secondly, the Apostle declares that the heathen have culpably repressed and hindered from its just influence the truth which they did know respecting God. He traces polytheistic and idolatrous worship to its root. (1) Its first origin he finds in a refusal to walk honestly by such light as nature afforded. For this primary step in the very old and very fatal path of religious declension men could excuse themselves under no plea of ignorance. (2) The next step followed surely. That truth about God's real nature and properties, which men would not strive fairly to express in their worship, became obscured. Vanity and errors entered into human reasonings on religion. "Men became vain in their reasonings, and their senseless heart was darkened." (3) The third step downward was practical folly in religion. Nature worship involved symbol worship. Symbol worship rapidly degenerated into sheer idol worship.

III. It is in this deplorable and criminal perversion of the truth, this religious apostasy, that Paul finds a key to the personal and social vices of heathendom. When the human heart shut out the self-manifestation of the true God, refused to know Him, and worshipped base creatures in His room, it cut itself off by its own act from the source of moral light and moral strength. A bad and false religion must breed a bad and false character. It ought never to be forgotten that heathenism is not simply a misfortune in the world for which the bulk of men are to be pitied but not blamed. It is a crime—a huge, next to world-wide, age-long crime, with its roots in a deep hatred of God, and bearing a prolific crop of utterly inexcusable and hideous vices. To prove this is the end for which the passage is introduced by St. Paul.

J. Oswald Dykes, The Gospel according to St. Paul, p. 25.


References: Romans 1:19.—Church of England Pulpit, vol. xix., p. 303; G. Dawson, Sermons on Disputed Points, p. 49; F. W. Farrar, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiii., p. 289. Romans 1:20.—G. Salmon, Non-Miraculous Christianity, pp. 74, 94; R. S. Candlish, The Fatherhood of God, p. 1. Romans 1:20, Romans 1:21.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxx., No. 1763. Romans 1:21.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. i., p. 20; H. W. Beecher, Catholic Sermons, vol. ii., p. 97. Romans 1:21-25.—Ibid., vol. i., p. 297.


Verse 25

Romans 1:25

Nature Worship.

Consider whether our religion or our irreligion is so free from the idolatrous element as we generally suppose, and if not what are the appearances which bear the most resemblance to the false religion of the ancient world.

I. Though the impious among ourselves no longer pray to stocks and stones, or beasts and birds, or moon and stars, there is still a strong taint of idolatry perceptible in our religion, science, literature, business—nay, our very language. Yes, I say our language. Can it be reverence, religious awe, that prompts the suppression of what would seem the most indispensable of all words—the incommunicable name of God? This explanation is precluded by the levity with which men often make that venerable name the theme of ribald jests and the burden of blasphemous imprecation. No, the name seems to be shunned because it means too much, suggests too much, concedes too much.

II. Not only is the grand and simple name of God exchanged for a descriptive title, such as Supreme Being, or an abstract term, the Deity, but still more readily and frequently is God supplanted by a goddess, and her name is Nature. This form of idolatry has all the aid that Art can render to Nature. The idolater of Nature cannot but be an idolater of Art, and here the coincidence with heathenism is not one of principle only, but of outward form. The high art of the ancients was a part of their religion. It was not an idle tickling of the sense or fancy. In the perfection of their imitation and the beauty of their original creations they did honour to the god of their idolatry, not indirectly, as the author of their skill, but most directly, as its only object. As long as man retains the sensibilities which God has given him and yet remains unwilling to retain God in his thoughts, the voice of Nature will be louder than the voice of God. If God is not in the fire or the wind or the earthquake, these will nevertheless sweep the multitude before them, and the still small voice of revelation will be heard only by a chosen few. When certain causes now at work have had their full effect, the worshipper of God will again be like Elijah on Mount Carmel, while the vast mixed multitude are worshippers of Nature.

J. A. Alexander, The Gospel of Jesus Christ, p. 61.


References: Romans 1:26-29.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. ii., p. 34. Romans 1:28.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. ix., p. 346. Romans 1:32.—Expositor, 1st series, vol. ix., p. 213. 1—Ibid., vol. iii., p. 1. Romans 2:1.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 491. Romans 2:2-4.—Ibid., vol. iii., p. 67.



 


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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Romans 1:4". "Sermon Bible Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/sbc/romans-1.html.

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