Charles Simeon Commentary - Romans 9:1 - 9:4

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Charles Simeon Commentary - Romans 9:1 - 9:4


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DISCOURSE: 1882

THE PRIVILEGES OF JEWS AND CHRISTIANS

Rom_9:1-4. I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, that I hare great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises.

IT is generally thought an office of love to conceal from persons any truths, the recital of which will afford them pain: but true love will rather stimulate us to declare such truths as are necessary to be known, though it will incline us to declare them with the greatest tenderness and circumspection. An admirable pattern presents itself before us in the text. The Apostle was about to enter on a subject most offensive to the Jews, but a subject that ought in no wise to be concealed from them, namely, the determination of God to cast off their nation, and to engraft the Gentiles on their stock. But, as it would be thought that he was actuated only by a spirit of revenge, he declares to them, in the most solemn manner, and appeals to God for the truth of it, that so far from wishing their hurt, he was affected with the deepest sorrow on their account; and that there was nothing he would not do or suffer, if it might but be the means of saving them from the impending ruin.

His enumeration of the privileges which they abused, and his pathetic lamentation over them, may well lead us to consider,

I.       The exalted privileges enjoyed by true Israelites—

The Jews, as a nation, were favoured beyond all the nations upon earth—

[God honoured them with an adoption into his family, he regarded them as his children [Note: Exo_4:22-23. Jer_31:9-10.], and acted towards them as a father [Note: Deu_32:6; Deu_32:10; Deu_32:13-14.]. He vouchsafed to them a symbol of his presence: the ark, and the shechinah, or bright cloud, upon it, were visible tokens of his presence, and were regarded as the “principal glory” of that distinguished people [Note: 1Sa_4:21-22. Psa_80:1.]. He “gave” them also from heaven a revelation of his will: “the” moral “Jaw” he promulged in the form of “a covenant,” and wrote with his own finger on two tables of stone [Note: The covenant was but one: but it is spoken of in the plural number, either because it was given on two tables, or because it was repeatedly published in different forms.]; the judicial law he formed as a code, according to which he himself, and all the magistrates under him, were to govern them; and the ceremonial law he instituted for “the service” of his temple, that they might worship him in a becoming manner [Note: Because the sacred oracles were so great a blessing, (Deu_4:7-8. Rom_3:1-2.) the Apostle speaks of them in three different views.]. To all these he added “a promise” of his rest, and a continued enjoyment of it, unless they should provoke him by their iniquities to deprive them of it [Note: Deu_30:15-20.].]

But their privileges were only a shadow of those enjoyed by true Israelites—

[As, under the Jewish dispensation, “all were not Israel who where of Israel [Note: Rom_9:6.],” so, under the Gospel, “they, who are Christ’s, are the true seed of Abraham, and heirs according to the promise [Note: Gal_3:29.].” Now to those who are “Israelites indeed” belong those infinitely rich blessings, which, in a figure, were enjoyed by the carnal Jews. They are really the sons of God, as soon as ever they believe in Christ [Note: Joh_1:12. 1Jn_3:1-2. Eph_2:19.], and have a spirit of “adoption” given them whereby they cry, Abba, Father [Note: Rom_8:14-15.]. They have God, not merely residing in a bright cloud, but dwelling in their own hearts [Note: 1Co_3:16.], and displaying to them his “glory” in the face of Jesus [Note: 2Co_4:6.]. To them is revealed that “covenant,” which is “ordered in all things and sure [Note: 2Sa_23:5.],” together with the whole of their duty both to God and man; so that, by adhering to his directions, they are sure to prove both duteous citizens, and accepted worshippers. Lastly, they have also exceeding great and precious “promises,” comprehending every thing that is good for body and for soul, in time and in eternity [Note: 1Ti_4:8.].]

But, by how much the more exalted our condition under the Gospel is, by so much the more may we see,

II.      The disposition we should manifest towards those who despise these privileges—

The expressions used by the Apostle admit of different interpretations [Note: Some consider him as saying that he was willing to be excommunicated from the church of God, and to he treated by them, even as he was by his enemies: and others, as saying, that he was willing to suffer for them ð ô ï × ñ é ó ô ï , after the example of Christ. But if we take ç ÷ ü ì ç í in the past tense, instead of obliging the Apostle to say, å ÷ ï ß ì ç í í , and if we comprehend the words ç ÷ ü ì ç í ã ñ á ô ò Ý ã í Ü è å ì á å í á é ð ô ï × ñ é ó ô ï in a parenthesis, the sense will be far more clear, and all the difficulties that occur on the other construction will be avoided. The sense will then be, I am sorry (for I myself was once in their very condition, and wished to have nothing to do with Christ, which, in fact, was to be accursed from Christ, as much as any of them now do) fur my brethren, &c. Compare Gal_4:12. in the Greek, “Be ye as I am, for I was as ye are.” The same idea is more fully expressed Act_26:9-11. According to this interpretation, the Apostle’s words are a plain and obvious reason for his excessive grief: for, having been in their situation, and knowing from bitter experience the evil of it, he could never think of them without the keenest sensations of sorrow and compassion. If the strength of the expression, “I wished myself accursed from Christ,” appear to militate against this interpretation, we observe, that the Apostle puts the effect for the cause, that is, the ultimate effect of his aversion to Christ for the aversion itself. A similar mode of expression repeatedly occurs in Scripture. See Isa_28:15; Isa_30:10. See also Act_13:46 and Rev_2:24. where the depths of Satan import what those depths were in reality, and not what the people themselves called them.]. But, in whatever sense they be taken, they certainly import that,

1.       We should be deeply concerned about their state—

[There were various things which grieved and wounded the Apostle’s mind, yea, that occasioned him great heaviness, and continual pangs, like those of a woman in her travail [Note: ä ý í ç , compare Gal_4:19.]: he was much affected, not only with the numbers of those that were rejecting his message, but with the peculiar advantages they had for knowing the truth, the strong obligations which their very profession, as God’s Israel, laid them under to receive it, and the aggravated guilt under which they must speedily and eternally perish. All these reasons are incomparably stronger as applied to those, who while they call themselves Christians, are unmindful of the privileges they enjoy. Who can think of the many thousands that bear the Christian name, who yet never draw nigh to God with filial affection, never behold the light of his countenance, never lay hold on his covenant of grace, never stay themselves in truth upon his promised mercy; who, I say, can think of these, and not wish that his “head were a fountain of tears to run down for them night and day [Note: Jer_9:1.]?” If one soul be of such value, that the whole world can never compensate for the loss of it, how shocking is the thought of millions of souls perishing under such an accumulated load of guilt! Surely no heaviness can be too great, no anguish too abiding, when we are surrounded with such objects, objects despising their own mercies, and “treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath.”]

2.       We should account nothing too much to do or suffer for their salvation—

[When God threatened to destroy the whole Jewish nation, and offered to raise up from Moses a nation in their stead, Moses begged, that he himself might be blotted out of the list of God’s visible church, rather than that tremendous threatening should be executed [Note: Exo_32:32.]. And certainly the Apostle Paul, whose labours and sufferings for the good of his fellow-creatures were unparalleled [Note: 2Co_11:23-27.], would gladly have submitted to any temporal calamity, if it might but operate for the salvation of Israel. And who, that considers what Jesus has done for the salvation of men, does not see the reasonableness of such a disposition? Who does not condemn himself for his want of love to his fellow-immortals, and his want of zeal in their service? If we condemn the world for their supineness, methinks the people of God have yet more occasion to blush for their own: for, what the world do, they do ignorantly; but they, who are taught of God, can see the state of those around them, and yet too often look upon them, either with cold indifference, or inactive pity. But let every Christian cultivate a better spirit; nor ever be satisfied, till he can appeal to God, and say, “I would endure all things for the elect’s sake, that they may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory [Note: 2Ti_2:10.].”]

Infer—

1.       How far are they from a Christian spirit, who not only use no means for the salvation of others, but oppose and thwart them that do!

[If a faithful servant of God exert himself for the good of mankind, how many will cry out against him as officious and fanatical, ostentatious and uncharitable! Who, among the Prophets, or Apostles, or who, even in the present day, has ever shewn, in the smallest degree, the disposition manifested in the text, without exposing himself to much calumny and contempt? But let the opposers of vital godliness and holy zeal, compare themselves with the Apostle, and ask, whether they breathe any thing of his spirit? And let them no longer persist in fighting against God, and destroying their fellow-creatures; but rather turn unto God, that they themselves may be partakers of his proffered mercy.]

2.       How earnest should every Christian be in seeking his own salvation!

[If we ought to be deeply concerned about the souls of others, and to be willing either to do or suffer any thing, in order to promote their welfare, how much more should we lay to heart our own state, and exercise self-denial for the good of our own souls! If we duly estimated the privileges which God has given us, if we considered the happiness to which an improvement of those privileges would lead, and the misery that will infallibly result from the neglect of them, we should engage with incomparably greater zeal in the work of our salvation; we should make it our meat and drink to do God’s will; nor would life with all its joys, or death with all its terrors, be suffered to divert us from the prosecution of our purpose.]