on Romans 11 :36
For of him, etc. - This is so far from being the case, for εξ αυτου, of him, as the original designer and author; and δι' αυτου, By him, as the prime and efficient cause; and εις αυτον, To him, as the ultimate end for the manifestation of his eternal glory and goodness, are all things in universal nature, through the whole compass of time and eternity.
The Emperor Marcus Antoninus (εις ἑαυτον, lib. iv.) has a saying very much like this of St. Paul, which it is very probable he borrowed from this epistle to the Romans. Speaking of nature, whom he addresses as God, he says, Ω φυσις εκ σου παντα, εν σοι παντα, εις σε παντα; O, Nature! Of thee are all things; In thee are all things; To thee are all things. Several of the Gentile philosophers had expressions of the same import, as may be seen in Wetstein's quotations.
To whom be glory - And let him have the praise of all his works, from the hearts and mouths of all his intelligent creatures, for ever - throughout all the generations of men. Amen - so be it! Let this be established for ever!
I. The apostle considers the designs of God inscrutable, and his mode of governing the world incomprehensible. His designs, schemes, and ends are all infinite, and consequently unfathomable. It is impossible to account for the dispensations either of his justice or mercy. He does things under both these characters which far surpass the comprehension of men. But though his dispensations are a great deep, yet they are never self-contradictory: though they far surpass our reason, yet they never contradict reason; nor are they ever opposite to those ideas which God has implanted in man, of goodness, justice, mercy, and truth. But it is worthy of remark, that we can more easily account for the dispensations of his justice than we can for the dispensations of his mercy. We can every where see ten thousand reasons why he should display his justice; but scarcely can we find one reason why he should display his mercy. And yet, these displays of mercy for which we can scarcely find a reason, are infinitely greater and more numerous than his displays of justice, for which the reasons are, in a vast variety of cases, as obvious as they are multiplied. The sacrifice of Christ is certainly an infinite reason why God should extend, as he does, his mercy to all men; but Jesus Christ is the gift of God's love: who can account for the love that gave him to redeem a fallen world? The Jews have fallen under the displeasure of Divine justice: why they should be objects of this displeasure is at once seen in their ingratitude, disobedience, unbelief, and rebellion. But a most especial providence has watched over them, and preserved them in all their dispersions for 1700 years: who can account for this? Again, these very persons have a most positive promise of a future deliverance, both great and glorious: why should this be? The Gentile world was long left without a Divine revelation, while the Jews enjoyed one: who can account for this? The Jews are now cast out of favor, in a certain sense, and the reasons of it are sufficiently obvious; and the Gentiles, without any apparent reason, are taken into favor. In all these things his judgments are unsearchable, and his ways past finding out!
II. Once more: Let it be remarked that, although God is every where promising and bestowing the greatest and most ennobling privileges, together with an eternal and ineffable glory, for which we can give no reason but his own endless goodness, through the death of his Son; yet, in no case does he remove those privileges, nor exclude from this glory, but where the reasons are most obvious to the meanest capacity.
III. This epistle has been thought by some to afford proofs that God, by an eternal decree, had predestinated to eternal perdition millions of millions of human souls before they had any existence, except in his own purpose, and for no other reason but his sovereign pleasure! But such a decree can be no more found in this book, than such a disposition in the mind of Him who is the perfection, as he is the model, of wisdom, goodness, justice, mercy, and truth. May God save the reader from profaning his name, by suppositions at once so monstrous and absurd!
on Romans 11 :36
For of him - εξ αὐτοῦ ex autou; compare 1 Corinthians 1:30; 1 Corinthians 8:6. This expression doubtless means that he is the original source and fountain of all blessings. He is the Creator of all, the rich "fountain from which all streams of existence take their rise. The design of this verse is to show that no creature has any claim on God. Jews and Gentiles must alike receive salvation on the ground of his mercy. So far from having a claim on God, the apostle here affirms that all things have come from him, and therefore all must be derived to us. Nothing has been produced by chance, or haphazard; nothing by created skill or might. All has been formed by God; and therefore he has a right to dispose of all.
And through him - δἰ αὐτοῦ di autou.) That is, by his immediate operating agency. The former expression, "of him," affirmed that he was the original source of all things; this declares that all are by him, or through him, as their immediate cause. It is not merely by his plan or purpose; it is by his agency, by the direct exertion of his power in their creation and bestowment. By his power they are still directed and controlled. Human agency, therefore, could not lay him under any obligation. He does not need the aid of man; and he did not call in that aid in the creation and government of the world. He is the independent Creator and Lord, and on him none can have a claim.
To him - εἰς αὐτὸν eis autos. This expression denotes the final cause, the reason or end for which all things were formed. It is to promote his honor and glory. It is to manifest his praise, or to give a proper putting forth of the glorious attributes of God; that the exceeding greatness, and goodness, and grandeur of his character might be evinced. It is not to promote his happiness, for he was eternally happy; not to add anything to him, for he is infinite; but that he might act as God, and have the honor and praise that is due to God. As this was the design of all things, so it followed that the bestowment of his favors must be in accordance with this in such a way as to promote his glory; and not so as to consult the feelings or views of either Jews or Gentiles.
All things - The universe; the creation, or still more particularly, the things of which the apostle is discoursing. He does not affirm that he is the author of sin or of sinful thoughts; not that he creates evil, or that evil is designed to promote his glory. The apostle is not discoursing of these, but of his method of bestowing his favors; and he says that these are to be conferred in such a way as to promote his honor, and to declare the praise of hint who is the original source, the creator, and the proprietor of all things.
To whom be glory - This ascription of praise is the appropriate close of the argumentative part of the Epistle, as well as appropriate to the train of remarks into which the apostle had fallen. It expresses his hearty amen in concurrence with this view; the deep desire of a pious man that all might be to God's glory and honor. He had not merely come to it by reasoning, but it was the sincere desire of his soul that it might be so. The Christian does not merely admit this doctrine; he is not merely driven to it by argument, but it finds a hearty response in his bosom. He rejoices in it; and sincerely desires that all may be to the honor of God. Sinners are often compelled by argument to admit it, but they do not love it. They would rejoice were it otherwise, and be glad if they were permitted rather to seek their own glory than that of the living God.
Glory - Praise, honor.
Forever - Not merely amid transitory events now, but ever onward to eternity. This will be the case. There never will be a time when the affairs of the universe shall not be conducted with reference to the glory of God. That honor and glory shall shine brighter and brighter, and all worlds shall be perfectly adapted to show his praise, and to evince his greatness, goodness, power, and love forever and ever. Thus, let it be, is the language of everyone that truly loves him.
This closes the argumentative part of the Epistle. From the close of this chapter we may make the following observations.
1. God is infinitely wise, and just, and good. This is seen in all his plans and doings, and especially in the glorious plan of saving people.
2. It becomes man to be humble. He can see but few of the reasons of the doings of an infinite God. He is not qualified to sit in judgment on his plans. He is not suited to arraign him. There is nothing more absurd than for a man to contend with God, or to find fault with his plans; and yet there is nothing more common. Man speaks, and thinks, and reasons on the great things pertaining to the divine mind and plan, as if he were qualified to counsel the being of infinite wisdom, and to arraign at the bar of his own reason the being of infinite goodness.
3. It is our duty to be submissive to God. His plans may often require him to cross the path of our pleasures, or to remove some of our enjoyments. He tries us by requiring us to put confidence in him where we cannot see the reason of his doings, and to believe that he is qualified for universal empire. In all such cases it is our duty to submit to his will. He is seeking a grander and nobler object than our private good. He is seeking the welfare of a vast universe; and he best knows in what way that can be promoted.
4. God is the creator and proprietor of all things. It would be possible to prove this from his works. But his word unequivocally asserts it. He has formed, and he upholds, and he directs all things for his glory. He who formed all has a right to all. He who is the source of life has the right to direct it, or to withdraw the gift. He on whom all depend has a right to homage and praise.
5. He has formed a universe that is eminently adapted to declare his glory. It evinces infinite power in its creation; and it is suited to fill the mind with ever-growing wonder and gladness in its contemplation. The sacred writers were filled with rapture when they contemplated it; and all the discoveries of astronomy, and geology, and science in general, in modern times, are suited to carry forward the wonder, and fill the lips with new expressions of praise. The universe is vast and grand enough to occupy the thoughts forever. How little do we know of the wonders of his creation, even pertaining to this little world; to our own bodies and souls; to the earth, the ocean, the beast and the reptile, the bird and the insect; how much less of that amazing view of worlds and systems which modern astronomy has opened to our view, the vast starry frame which the eye can penetrate for millions and millions of miles, and where it finds world piled on world, and system rising above system, in wonderful order and grandeur, and where the utmost power of the telescore can as yet find no bounds.
6. Equally true is this in his moral government. The system is such as to excite our wonder and praise. The creation and control of free, and active, and mighty minds is as wonderful as the creation and control of matter, even the vast masses of the planetary systems. Creation is filled with minds. God has peopled the worlds with conscious, free, and active intelligences. The wonderful wisdom by which he controls them; the amazing moral power by which he guards and binds them to himself, by which he restrains and awes the rebellious; and the complete subjection by which he will bring all yet at his feet, is as much replete with wonder as the wisdom and skill by which he framed the heavens. To govern mind requires more wisdom and skill than to govern matter. To control angels and human beings evinces more glory than to roll the streams or the ocean, or than to propel and guide the planets. And especially is this true of the plan of salvation. That wondrous scheme is adapted to call forth eternal, praise, and to show forever the wisdom and mercy of God. Without such a plan, we cannot see how the Divinity could be fully manifested; with that, we see God as God, vast, grand, mighty, infinite; but still seeking to do good, and having power to enter any vast mass of iniquity, and to diffuse purity and peace over the face of an alienated and dying world.
on Romans 11 :36
11:36 Of him - As the Creator. Through him - As the Preserver. To him - As the ultimate end, are all things. To him be the glory of his riches, wisdom, knowledge. Amen - A concluding word, in which the affection of the apostle, when it is come to the height, shuts up all.