on Romans 2 :4
Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness - Wilt thou render of none effect that marked benevolence of God towards thee which has given so many superior advantages, and that forbearance which has tolerated thy many miscarriages, and that long-suffering which, after repeated provocations, still continues to bear with thee?
Not knowing - Αγνοων, not acknowledging that this goodness of God, which has so long manifested itself in forbearance and long-suffering, leadeth thee to repentance - was designed to accomplish this blessed end; which thy want of consideration and acknowledgment has rendered, hitherto, ineffectual. This was a maxim among the Jews themselves; for, in Synopsis Sohar, it is said: - The holy blessed God delays his anger against the wicked, to the end that they may repent and be converted.
on Romans 2 :4
Or despisest - This word properly means to contemn, or to treat with neglect. It does not mean here that they professedly treated God's goodness with neglect or contempt; but that they perverted and abused it; they did not make a proper use of it; they did not regard it as suited to lead them to repentance; but they derived a practical impression, that because God had not come forth in judgment and cut them off, but had continued to follow them with blessings, that therefore he did not regard them as sinners, or they inferred that they were innocent and safe. This argument the Jews were accustomed to use (compare Luke 13:1-5; John 9:2); and thus sinners still continue to abuse the goodness and mercy of God.
The riches of his goodness - This is a Hebrew mode of speaking, for "his rich goodness," that is, for his abundant or great goodness. Riches denote superfluity, or what abounds, or which exceeds a man's present desires; and hence, the word in the New Testament is used to denote abundance; or what is very great and valuable; see the note at Romans 9:23; compare Romans 11:12, Romans 11:33; 2 Corinthians 8:2; Ephesians 1:7, Ephesians 1:18; Ephesians 3:8, Ephesians 3:16; Colossians 1:27; Ephesians 2:4. The word is used here to qualify each of the words which follow it, his rich goodness, and forbearance, and long-suffering.
Goodness - Kindness, benignity.
Forbearance - ἀνοχῆς anochēs. Literally, his holding-in or restraining his indignation; or forbearing to manifest his displeasure against sin.
Long-suffering - This word denotes his slowness to anger; or his suffering them to commit sins long without punishing them. It does not differ essentially from forbearance. This is shown by his not coming forth, at the moment that sin is committed, to punish it. He might do it justly, but he spares people from day to day, and year to year, to give them opportunity to repent, and be saved. The way in which people despise or abuse the goodness of God is to infer that He does not intend to punish sin; that they may do it safely; and instead of turning from it, to go on in committing it more constantly, as if they were safe. "Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil," Ecclesiastes 8:11. The same thing was true in the time of Peter; 2 Peter 3:3-4. And the same thing is true of wicked people in every age; nor is there a more decisive proof of the wickedness of the human heart, than this disposition to abuse the goodness of God, and because he shows kindness and forbearance, to take occasion to plunge deeper into sin, to forget his mercy, and to provoke him to anger.
Not knowing - Not considering. The word used here, ἀγνοῶν agnoōn, means not merely to be ignorant of, but it denotes such a degree of inattention as to result in ignorance. Compare Hosea 2:8. In this sense it denotes a voluntary, and therefore a criminal ignorance.
Leadeth thee ... - Or the tendency, the design of the goodness of God is to induce people to repent of their sins, and not to lead them to deeper and more aggravated iniquity. The same sentiment is expressed in 2 Peter 3:9, "The Lord is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." See also Isaiah 30:18, "And therefore will the Lord wait, that he may be gracious unto you;" Hosea 5:15; Ezekiel 18:23, Ezekiel 18:32.
Repentance - Change of mind, and purpose, and life. The word here evidently means, not merely sorrow, but a forsaking of sin, and turning from it. The tendency of God's goodness and forbearance to lead people to repentance, is manifest in the following ways.
(1) it shows the evil of transgression when it is seen to be committed against so kind and merciful a Being.
(2) it is suited to melt and soften the heart. Judgments often harden the sinner's heart, and make him obstinate. But if while he does evil God is as constantly doing him good; if the patience of God is seen from year to year, while the man is rebellious, it is adapted to melt and subdue the heart.
(3) the great mercy of God in this often appears to people to be overwhelming; and so it would to all, if they saw it as it is. God bears with people from childhood to youth; from youth to manhood; from manhood to old age; often while they violate every law, contemn his mercy, profane his name, and disgrace their species; and still, notwithstanding all this, his anger is turned away, and the sinner lives, and "riots in the beneficence of God." If there is anything that can affect the heart of man, it is this; and when he is brought to see it, and contemplate it, it rushes over the soul and overwhelms it with bitter sorrow.
(4) the mercy and forbearance of God are constant. The manifestations of his goodness come in every form; in the sun, and light, and air; in the rain, the stream, the dew-drop; in food, and raiment, and home; in friends, and liberty, and protection; in health, and peace; and in the gospel of Christ, and the offers of life; and in all these ways God is appealing to his creatures each moment. and setting before them the evils of ingratitude, and beseeching them to turn and live.
And from this passage, we cannot but remark,
(1) That the most effectual preaching is what sets before people most of the goodness of God.
on Romans 2 :4
2:4 Or despisest thou - Dost thou go farther still, - from hoping to escape his wrath, to the abuse of his love?. The riches - The abundance. Of his goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering - Seeing thou both hast sinned, dost sin, and wilt sin. All these are afterwards comprised in the single word goodness. Leadeth thee - That is, is designed of God to lead or encourage thee to it.