on Romans 9 :33
As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion - Christ, the Messiah, is become a stone of stumbling to them: and thus what is written in the prophecy of Isaiah is verified in their case, Isaiah 8:14; Isaiah 28:16 : Behold, I lay in Sion, i.e. I shall bring in my Messiah; but he shall be a widely different person from him whom the Jews expect; for, whereas they expect the Messiah to be a mighty secular prince, and to set up a secular kingdom, he shall appear a man of sorrows and acquainted with griefs; and redeem mankind, not by his sword or secular power, but by his humiliation, passion, and death. Therefore they will be offended at him and reject him, and think it would be reproachful to trust in such a person for salvation.
And whosoever believeth on him - But so far shall any be from confusion or disappointment who believes in Christ; that on the contrary, every genuine believer shall find salvation - the remission of sins here, and eternal glory hereafter. See the notes on Romans 1:16, and Romans 1:17 (note), and Dr. Taylor's paraphrase and notes.
1. On the subject of vicarious punishment, or rather the case of one becoming an anathema or sacrifice for the public good, in illustration of Romans 9:3, I shall make no apology for the following extracts, taken from an author whose learning is vast, and whose piety is unblemished.
"When mankind lost sight of a beneficent Creator, the God of purity, and consecrated altars to the sun, the moon, the stars; to demons; and to hero gods, under the names of Moloch, Ashtaroth and Baalim; these objects of their worship led them to the most horrid acts of cruelty, and to every species of obscenity; even their sons and their daughters they burnt in the fire to their gods, more especially in seasons of distress. Such was the conduct of the king of Moab; for, when he was besieged in his capital, and expected he should fall into the hands of his enemies, he took his eldest son, who should have reigned in his stead, and offered him for a burnt offering on the wall.
With these facts thus related from the Scriptures, all accounts, ancient and modern, exactly correspond. Homer, who it must be recollected wrote more than nine hundred years before the Christian era, although he describes chiefly the common sacrifices of quadrupeds, yet gives one account of human victims. But in succeeding generations, when it was conceived that one great and most malignant spirit was the proper object of their fear, or that subordinate provincial gods, equally malignant, nesciaque humanis precibus mansuescere corda, disposed of all things in our world, men bound their own species to the altar, and in circumstances of national distress presented such as they valued most, either their children or themselves. Herodotus informs us that, when the army of Xerxes came to the Strymon, the magi offered a sacrifice of white horses to that river. On his arrival at the Scamander, the king ascended the citadel of Priam; and having surveyed it, he ordered a thousand oxen to be sacrificed to the Trojan Minerva. But on other occasions he chose human victims; for we are informed that, when, having passed the Strymon, he reached the nine ways, he buried alive nine young men and as many virgins, natives of the country. In this he followed the example of his wife, for she commanded fourteen Persian children, of illustrious birth, to be offered in that manner to the deity who reigns beneath the earth. Thus, in the infancy of Rome we see Curtius, for the salvation of his country, devoting himself to the infernal gods, when, as it appears, an earthquake occasioned a deep and extensive chasm in the forum, and the augurs had declared that the portentous opening would never close until what contributed most to the strength and power of the Romans should be cast into it; but that by such a sacrifice they would obtain immortality for their republic. When all men were at a loss how to understand this oracle, M. Curtius, armed as for battle, presented himself in the forum, and explained it thus: 'What is more valuable to Rome than her courage and her arms?' So saying, he urged forward his impetuous steed, and buried himself in the abyss. His grateful countrymen admired his fortitude, and attributed the increasing splendor of their state to the sacrifice he made. Animated by this example, Decius, in the war between Rome and Latium, having solemnly offered himself as an expiatory sacrifice, rushed single into the thickest ranks of the astonished Latins, that by his death he might appease the anger of the gods, transfer their indignation to the enemy, and secure the victory to Rome. Conspectus ab utroque acie aliquanto augustior humano visu, sicut Caelo missus, piaculum omnis deorum irae, qui pestem ab suis aversam in hostes ferret.
Here we see distinctly marked the notion of vicarious suffering, and the opinion that the punishment of guilt may be transferred from the guilty to the innocent. The gods call for sacrifice - the victim bleeds - atonement is made - and the wrath of the infernal powers falls in its full force upon the enemy. Thus, while Themistocles at Salamine was offering sacrifice, three captives, the sons of Sandance, and nephews to Xerxes, all distinguished for their beauty, elegantly dressed and decked, as became their birth, with ornaments of gold, being brought on board his galley, the augur, Euphrantides, observing at the very instant a bright flame ascending from the altar, whilst one was sneezing on the right, which he regarded as a propitious omen, he seized the hand of Themistocles, and commanded that they should all be sacrificed to Bacchus, (ωμηστῃ Διονυσῳ - cruel and relentless Bacchus! Homer has the same expression), predicting, on this occasion, safety and conquests to the Greeks. Immediately the multitude with united voices called on the god, and led the captive princes to the altar, and compelled Themistocles to sacrifice them.
So when Aeneas was to perform the last kind office for his friend Pallas, he sacrificed (besides numerous oxen, sheep, and swine) eight captives to the infernal gods. In this he followed the example of Achilles, who had caused twelve Trojans of high birth to bleed by the sacerdotal knife, over the ashes of his friend Patroclus.
A hundred feet in length, a hundred wide,
The glowing structure spreads on every side,
High on the top the manly course they lay,
And well-fed sheep and sable oxen slay;
Achilles covered with their fat the dead,
And the piled victims round the body spread;
Then jars of honey and of fragrant oil
on Romans 9 :33
As it is written - see Isaiah 8:14; Isaiah 28:16. The quotation here is made up of both these passages, and contains the substance of both; compare also Psalm 118:22; 1 Peter 2:6.
Behold I lay in Sion - Mount Sion was the hill or eminence in Jerusalem, over-against Mount Moriah, on which the temple was built. On this was the palace of David, and this was the residence of the court; 1 Chronicles 11:5-8. Hence, the whole city was often called by that name; Psalm 48:12; Psalm 69:35; Psalm 87:2. Hence, also it came to signify the capital, the glory of the people of God, the place of solemnities; and hence, also the church itself; Psalm 2:6; Psalm 51:18; Psalm 102:13; Psalm 137:3; Isaiah 1:27; Isaiah 52:1; Isaiah 59:20, etc. In this place it means the church. God will place or establish in the midst of that church.
A stumblingstone and rock of offence - Something over which people shall fall; see the note at Matthew 5:29. This is by Paul referred to the Messiah. He is called rock of stumbling, not because it was the design of sending him that people should fall, but because such would be the result. The application of the term "rock" to the Messiah is derived from the custom of building, as he is the "cornerstone" or the "immovable foundation" on which the church is to be built. It is not on human merits, but by the righteousness of the Saviour, that the church is to be reared; see 1 Peter 2:4," I lay in Sion "a chief cornerstone;" Psalm 118:22, "The stone which the builders rejected, is become the head stone of the corner;" Ephesians 2:20, "Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone." This rock, designed as a corner stone to the church, became, by the wickedness of the Jews, the block over which they fall into ruin; 1 Peter 2:8.
Shall not be ashamed - This is taken substantially from the Septuagint translation of Isaiah 28:16, though with some variation. The Hebrew is, "shall not make haste," as it is in our English version. This is the literal meaning of the Hebrew word; but it means also "to be afraid;" as one who makes haste often is; to be agitated with fear or fright; and hence, it has a signification nearly similar to that of shame. It expresses the substance of the same thing, namely, "failure of obtaining expected success and happiness." The meaning here is, that the man who believes shall not be agitated, or thrown into commotion, by fear of want or success: shall not be disappointed in his hopes; and, of course, he shall never be ashamed that he became a Christian. They who do not believe in Christ shall be agitated, fall, and sink into eternal shame and contempt. Daniel 12:2. They who do believe shall be confident; shall not be deceived, but shall obtain the object of their desires. It is clear that Paul regarded the passage in Isaiah as referring to the Messiah. The same also is the case with the other sacred writers who have quoted it; 1 Peter 2:5-8; see also Matthew 21:42; Luke 20:17-18; Luke 2:34. The ancient Targum of Jonathan translates the passage, Isaiah 28:16, "Lo, I will place in Zion a king, a king strong, mighty and terrible;" referring doubtless to the Messiah. Other Jewish writings also show that this interpretation was formerly given by the Jews to the passage in Isaiah.
In view of this argument of the apostle, we may remark,
(1) That God is a sovereign, and has a right to dispose of people as he pleases.
(2) the doctrine of election was manifest in the case of the Jews as an established principle of the divine government, and is therefore true.
(3) it argues great lack of proper feeling to be opposed to this doctrine. It is saving, in other words, that we have not confidence in God; or that we do not believe that he is qualified to direct the affairs of his own universe as well as we.
(4) the doctrine of election is a doctrine which is not arbitrary; but which will yet be seen to be wise, just, and good. It is the source of all the blessings that any mortals enjoy; and in the case before us, it can be seen to be benevolent as well as just. It is better that God should cast off a part of the small nation of the Jews, and extend these blessings to the Gentiles, than that they should always have been confined to Jews. The world is better for it, and more good has come out of it.
(5) the fact that the gospel has been extended to all nations, is proof that it is from heaven. To a Jew there was no motive to attempt to break down all the existing institutions of his nation, and make the blessings of religion common to all nations, unless he knew that the gospel system was true. Yet the apostles were Jews; educated with all the prejudices of the Jewish people.
(6) the interests of Christians are safe. They shall not be ashamed or disappointed. God will keep them, and bring them to his kingdom.
(7) people still are offended at the cross of Christ. They contemn and despise him. He is to them as a root out of dry ground, and they reject him, and fall into ruin. This is the cause why sinners perish; and this only. Thus, as the ancient Jews brought ruin on themselves and their country, so do sinners bring condemnation and woe on their souls. And as the ancient despisers and crucifiers of the Lord Jesus perished, so will all those who work iniquity and despise him now.
on Romans 9 :33
9:33 As it is written - Foretold by their own prophet. Behold, I lay in Sion - I exhibit in my church, what, though it is in truth the only sure foundation of happiness, yet will be in fact a stumblingstone and rock of offence - An occasion of ruin to many, through their obstinate unbelief. Isa 8:14; Isa 28:16