Ver. 1. Called to be an apostle,† or a called apostle. That is, not only having the name of an apostle, but having his call to this high function, and his mission from God.
--- Separated unto the gospel of God. He means that he was separated from others, and appointed by the Holy Ghost to preach the gospel, as we read Acts xiii. 2. when the Holy Ghost to those of the Church at Antioch, said, Separate me Saul and Barnabas, for the work unto which I have taken them. Wi.
[†] V. 1. Vocatus, klhtoV ApostoloV. Also v. 6. and 7. kletoi.
EPISTLE OF S. PAUL, THE APOSTLE,
TO THE ROMANS.
After the Gospels, which contain the history of Christ, and the Acts of the Apostles, which contain the history of the infant Church, we have the Epistles of the Apostles. Of these fourteen have been penned on particular occasions, and addressed to particular persons, by S. Paul; the others of S. James, S. Peter, S. John, and S. Jude, are called Catholic Epistles, because they are addressed to all Christians in general, if we except the two latter short epistles of S. John.
--- The epistles of S. Paul contain admirable advice, and explain fully several tenets of Christianity: but an humble and teachable mind and heart are essentially requisite to draw good from this inexhaustible source. If we prepare our minds by prayer, and go to these sacred oracles with proper dispositions, as to Jesus Christ himself, not preferring our own weak judgment to that of the Catholic Church divinely inspired, and which he has commanded us to hear, and which he has promised to lead in all truth unto the end of the world, we shall improve both our mind and heart by a frequent and pious perusal. We shall learn there that faith is essentially necessary to please God; that this faith is but one, as God is but one; and that faith which shews itself not by good works, is dead. Hence, when S. Paul speaks of works that are incapable of justifying us, he speaks not of the works of moral righteousness, but of the ceremonial works of the Mosaic law, on which the Jews laid such great stress as necessary to salvation.
--- S. Peter (in his 2nd Ep. c. iii.) assures us that there were some in his time, as there are found some now in our days, who misconstrue S. Paul's epistles, as if he required no good works any more after baptism than before baptism, and maintaining that faith alone would justify and save a man. Hence the other apostles wrote their epistles, as S. Austin remarks in these words; "therefore because this opinion, that faith only was necessary to salvation, was started, the other apostolical epistles do most pointedly refute it, forcibly contending that faith without works profiteth nothing." Indeed S. Paul himself, in his first Epistle to the Corinthians, (C. xiii. 2.) positively asserts: if I should have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
--- This epistle, like most of the following, is divided into two parts: the first treats of points of doctrine, and extends to the eleventh chapter inclusively; the second treats of morality, and is contained in the last five chapters: but to be able to understand the former, and to practise the latter, humble prayer and a firm adherence to the Catholic Church, which S. Paul (1 Tim. c. iii.) styles, the pillar and ground of truth, are undoubtedly necessary. Nor should we ever forget what S. Peter affirms, that in S. Paul's epistles there are some things hard to be understood, which the unlearned and the unstable wrest, as they do also the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. S. Peter, Epis. ii. c. iii. v. 16. A.
--- S. Paul had not been at Rome when he wrote this epistle, which was in the year fifty-seven or fifty-eight, when he was preparing to go to Jerusalem with the charitable contributions and alms, collected in Achaia and Macedonia, for the benefit and relief of the poor Christians in Judea, and at Jerusalem; and after he had preached in almost all places from Jerusalem even to Illyris, Illyrium, or Illyricum. See this Ep. c. xv. It was written in Greek. It is not the first epistle in order of time, though placed first, either because of the dignity of the chief Christian Church, or of its sublime contents.
--- The apostle's chief design was not only to unite all the new Christian converts, whether they had been Gentiles or Jews, in the same faith, but also to bring them to an union in charity, love, and peace; to put an end to those disputes and contentions among them, which were particularly occasioned by those zealous Jewish converts, who were for obliging all Christians to the observance of the Mosaic precepts and ceremonies. They who had been Jews, boasted that they were the elect people of God, preferred before all other nations, to whom he had given his written law, precepts, and ceremonies by Moses, to whom he had sent his prophets, and had performed so many miracles in their favour, while the Gentiles were left in their ignorance and idolatry. The Gentiles, now converted, were apt to brag of the learning of their great philosophers, and that sciences had flourished among them: they reproached the Jews with the disobedience of their forefathers to God, and the laws he had given them; that they had frequently returned to idolatry; that they had persecuted and put to death the prophets, and even their Messias, the true Son of God. S. Paul shews that neither the Jew nor the Gentile had reason to boast, but to humble themselves under the hand of God, the author of their salvation. He puts the Jews in mind, that they could not expect to be justified and saved merely by the ceremonies and works of their law, though good in themselves; that the Gentiles, as well as they, were now called by the pure mercy of God: that they were all to be saved by believing in Christ, and complying with his doctrine; that sanctification and salvation can only be had by the Christian faith. He does not mean by faith only, as it is one particular virtue, different from charity, hope, and other Christian virtues; but he means by faith, the Christian religion, and worship, taken in opposition to the law of Moses and to the moral virtues of heathens. The design of the Epistle to the Galatians is much the same. From the 12th chapter he exhorts them to the practice of Christian virtues. Wi.
Ver. 2. Which he had promised before, &c. That is, God before, in the Scriptures, promised the blessings, which are now come by the preaching of the gospel, and that they should come by his Son. Wi.
Ver. 3. Who was made to him of the seed of David, according to the flesh. The sense is, that God promised, that he who was his true and only Son from eternity, should also become his son, as man; that the same son should be man, as well as God, when the word was made flesh, or when that divine person should be united to our human nature. Thus the same person, who was his only begotten Son from eternity, being made man, and of the seed of David, by his incarnation, was still his Son, both as God, and also as man. Wi.
--- The Greek text has not the particle ei, (to him) but only tou genomenou ek spermatoV Dauid. But S. Irenæus, (lib. iii. ch. 18.) S. Ambrose, S. Jerom read, Qui factus est ei. And also S. Aug. in his unfinished exposition of the epistle to the Romans; though before in his book against Faustus, (lib. xi. ch. 14.) he reads it otherwise. Calmet.
Ver. 4. Who was predestined† the Son of God. The learned bishop of Meaux, Bossuet, in his second Pastoral Instruction, in which he condemned the French translation of Mons. Simon, (p. 127.) takes notice, that according to S. Paul, and the constant doctrine of S. Aug. and S. Thomas, Christ as man, or the human nature of Christ united to his divine person, was predestinated without any precedent merits, by a free and liberal predestination of God's goodness. Wi.
--- Christ, as man, was predestinated to be the Son of God; and declared to be so (as the apostle here signifies) first by power, that is, by his working stupendous miracles; secondly, by the spirit of sanctification, that is, by his infinite sanctity; thirdly, by his resurrection, or raising himself from the dead. Ch.
[†] V. 4. Qui prædestinatus est. S. Chrys. om. a. p. 7. Ed. Sau. ti oun estin orisJentoV; deicqentoV, apofanqentoV.
Ver. 5. By whom, i.e. by this same Jesus Christ, God and man, we, I and the rest of the apostles, have received this grace and apostleship, this mission and commission from him, of preaching his gospel, and teaching his doctrine.
--- For obedience to the faith in all nations; that is, to bring all nations to the obedience and profession of his new law and doctrine. Wi.
Ver. 6. Among whom are you also the called of Jesus. That is, you also are a part of those, who by his mercy, are called to this faith and belief in him. All beginning from those words in the third verse, who was made to him, &c. till the end of the sixth verse, are to be taken as within a parenthesis, which is not unusual in the style of S. Paul. Then he goes on after this long parenthesis. Wi.
Ver. 7. To all that are at Rome . . . called to be saints. That is, who not only are named saints, but who by such a call from God, are to be sanctified by his grace, and to become holy, or saints. Wi.
Ver. 8. In the whole world. That is, to all, or almost all the Roman empire. Wi.
Ver. 9. God is my witness. I call God to witness. It is an oath. Wi.
Ver. 14. I am a debtor. That is, I am bound to preach the word of God to all. Wi.
--- By Greeks, in this place, are understood the Romans also, and by Barbarians, all other people who were neither Greeks nor Romans. The Greeks called all barbarians, who did not speak the Greek language, even the Latins themselves. But after the Roman became masters of the world, they were excepted, through policy, from the number of barbarians, and particularly after they began to cultivate the science of the Greeks.
Græcia victa ferum victorem cepit, et artes
Intulit agresti Latio.
--- S. Paul says, that he is a debtor both to Greeks and barbarians, to the wise, the philosophers, those who pass for sages amongst the pagans, and to the simple, ignorant, unlettered class of mankind: not that he had received any thing at their hands, but because it was his duty, in quality of apostle, to address himself to the whole world, and preach to the great and to the small, to the learned and the unlearned. Calmet.
Ver. 15. S. Paul was even anxious to go and deliver the word to the Romans. Hence Mat. Polus, in his reflections on this verse, puts the following words into the mouth of the Apostle: Lucifuga non sum: ostendi id Antiochiæ, Athenis, Ephesi et Corinthi: paratus sum & in illa splendidissima urbe Roma ostendere.
Ver. 16. For it is the power of God unto salvation to every one; that is, it brings powerful helps to all, both Gentiles and Jews, in order to their salvation.
--- To the Jew first, inasmuch as the gospel is to be first preached to the Jews. Wi.
--- The promises of salvation were first made to the Jews. Jesus Christ preached to the Jews only, and forbad his disciples, during his life-time, to preach to any other nation. And after his resurrection, when they had full powers to preach every where, they did not turn to the Gentiles, till the Jews had refused to hear them. A miracle was necessary to determine S. Peter to communicate the gospel to the uncircumcised; and S. Paul, in every place, first addressed himself to the Jew, and then to the Gentile. The apostle here sweetly endeavours, in an indirect manner, to silence the presumption of the Romans, who seemed to raise themselves above the Jews, and believed they had merited the grace of vocation to the faith. Calmet.
Ver. 17. For the justice of God. He does not here mean that justice, by which God is just in himself, but that justice, or sanctification, which he communicates to men, and by which they are justified and sanctified.
--- From faith to faith. That is, by faith, and an increase in faith, inasmuch as, by increasing in faith, we advance in virtues; as it is written, (Hab. ii. 4.) the just man liveth by faith; including the love of God, hope, and other virtues. Wi.
Ver. 18. For the wrath of God is revealed, &c. He begins to speak of the heathens, and of the wicked world, whose sins God punisheth from time to time with visible chastisements of plagues, famines, wars, &c. and that because they detain the truth of God in injustice, or in iniquity, that is, because they have not honoured God, even according to the knowledge which he has given them of him, especially their philosophers. Wi.
Ver. 19-20. That which is known of God. Or may be easily known of God, is manifest in them. The light of reason demonstrates to them the existence of one God, the maker and preserver of all things. This is made known to them from the creation of the world, or from the creatures in the world: the Creator may be discovered by the creatures, and as S. Chrys. here says, every Scythian, every barbarian, may come to the knowledge of God by the wonderful harmony† of all things, which proclaims the existence of God louder than any trumpet: but having known him, they did not glorify him; they acted contrary to their knowledge, abandoning themselves to idolatry, and the vain worship of many gods, and to all manner of vices and abominations against the light of reason. Wi.
[†] V. 20. Chrys. hom. ii. p. 20. thV pantwn armoniaV salpiggoV, lamproteron bowshV.
Ver. 24. Wherefore God gave them† up, &c. That is, as S. Chrys. says, permitted them, in punishment of their wilful blindness, to fall into the foulest, most shameful, and unnatural sins of uncleanness here described. Wi.
[†] V. 24. to de paredwken, entauqa eiasen esti.
Ver. 26. God delivered them up. Not by being author of their sins, but by withdrawing his grace, and so permitting them, in punishment of their pride, to fall into those shameful sins. Ch.
Ver. 27. Receiving in themselves the recompense . . . due to their error. That is, were justly punished for their wilful blindness and error, by which they had worshipped and adored creatures, instead of the Creator, idols instead of the one true God. Wi.
Ver. 29. Being filled with all iniquity. He passeth to many other sins and crimes of the heathens. Wi.
Ver. 30. Hateful† to God. The Greek may also signify, haters of God. Wi.
--- QeostugeiV means either haters of God, or hated by God. Menochius.
--- Disobedient to parents. The Greek literally signifies, Not listening to the advice of their parents; who rise up against them, and refuse to obey. Calmet.
[†] V. 30. Deo odibiles. qeostugeiV.
Ver. 31. Dissolute, rude† in their manners, and behaviour. Some, from the Greek, understand breakers of their word; but this would be the same as without fidelity, which we find afterwards in the same verse. Wi.
[†] V. 31. asunqetouV. See 2 Tim. iii. 3. aspondouV, sine fœdere.
Ver. 32. This passage in the present Greek versions is rather different from the Vulgate: but the text of the Vulgate is conformable to the most ancient Greek manuscripts, of which some are more than twelve hundred years old. OitineV to dikaiwma tou qeou epignonteV ouk enohsan oti oi ta toiauta prassonteV axioi Qanatou eisin, ou monon de oi poiounteV auta, alla kai oi suneudokounteV toiV prassousin. Vide Var. Lect. Mill. in hunc locum et Prolegom. 41. 42.